Africa This Week: February 27, 2023

February 27, 2023

A weekly review of news and analysis of elections in Africa, usually posted on Mondays and occasionally updated throughout the week.

Olumo Rock in the ancient city of Abeokuta, Ogun State in southwestern Nigeria. Photo credit: Wikimedia/ABORISADEADETONA (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Upcoming Africa Elections

Cameroon Indirect Senate Elections (by members of local councils): March 12, 2023 (presidential election due in 2025)

Cameroon holds elections, but President Paul Biya has been in power since 1982, most recently winning re-election in 2018. Elections in the country, including the most recent, have been marred by accusations of ballot-stuffing and intimidation of the opposition. The opposition claims Maurice Kamto actually won the election, and opposition supports have staged a number of protests, which the government answered with a harsh crackdown and hundreds of arrests, including the arrest of Kamto himself.

Cameroon is in the midst of several other crises. Anglophone separatists seek to form a new country called Ambazonia. The government has accused them of terrorism. The crisis is currently deadlocked, with neither side willing to make concessions, leaving half a million people displaced.

Voice of America (February 21, 2023): Scores Killed in Cameroon’s Battles with Separatists Ahead of Senate Elections

Liberia Presidential and Legislative Elections: October 10, 2023

Liberia’s last elections, in 2017, brought the first peaceful transition of power since 1944, but the country still faces some challenges as it seeks to consolidate democracy. President George Weah, a former football player, won the last presidential election in 2017 and plans to run for another term.

Dounard Bondo, The Africa Report (February 22, 2023): Liberia: Key Weah ally withdraws support amid jostling for alliances

Democratic Republic of the Congo Presidential and Legislative Elections: December 20, 2023

The DRC’s last elections, in December 2018, took place after multiple delays and were mired in controversy and dispute. Nonetheless, they did produce the first peaceful transfer of power in the history of the country’s independence, with former opposition leader Félix Tshisekedi being declared the winner of the presidential poll (even though election observers from the highly-trusted Catholic Church said their data indicated a victory for another opposition leader, Martin Fayulu). 

The DRC faces numbers political and security crises, exacerbated by conflicts over massive mineral wealth. By some estimates, the country has untapped reserves worth $24 trillion, and with increased interest in electronic vehicles and other technologies that require rare earths, this has become a subject of increased interest internationally. 

Due to its size and central location, conflicts from neighboring countries spill over into the DRC. The horrific conflicts happening in the eastern part of the country send shockwaves through the entire region.

Reuters (February 27, 2023): Congo president says unrest in east could disrupt elections

UN News (February 23, 2023): DR Congo: Senior UN rights official calls on authorities to stop ‘appalling’ violence

AFP (February 22, 2023): Rights Group Slams Graft, Fraud And Torture In Republic Of Congo

Cote d’Ivoire Local Elections: 2023 (proposed), followed by General Elections: 2025

Côte d’Ivoire’s president has proposed holding local elections early, in 2023. The country just completed a major election cycle that began in turbulent fashion when incumbent president Alasanne Ouattara sought and won a controversial third term. The opposition boycotted the presidential election. Protests followed, as well as arrests of opposition members.

However, during the 2021 parliamentary elections, the situation calmed down a bit. Following discussions and the release of some opposition figures, the opposition participated in the legislative elections. 

Former president Laurent Gbagbo castsa long shadow over Cote d’Ivoire politics. He had been tried by the International Criminal Court following violence surrounding his refusal to accept his loss of the 2010 election. Gbagbo was ultimately acquitted, but an appeal against the acquittal kept him in Belgium until this year. He has now returned home.

Côte d’Ivoire is one of the largest economies in West Africa. It is the world’s biggest producer of cocoa and cashew nuts, and a net exporter of oil. However, since 1999, political struggles and two civil wars have created instability, and the political climate remains tense.

Jean Sovon, Global Voices (February 21, 2023): Can Angela Merkel’s receipt of the Houphouët-Boigny UNESCO prize contribute to the reconciliation process in Côte d’Ivoire?

South Africa General Elections: May 2024 (due)

South Africa’s ANC has won every election since the end of apartheid in 1994, but it had its worst result ever in 2019, winning less than 60 percent of the vote. While South Africa is a vibrant democracy, Freedom House notes: “…in recent years, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) has been accused of undermining state institutions to protect corrupt officials and preserve its power as its support base has begun to wane.” Corruption remains an issue.

Geopolitically, South Africa has strong ties to Russia and China as a member of the BRICS. The three countries are hosting a joint naval exercise, much to the consternation of Europe and the United States. 

Greg Mills, Daily Maverick (February 22, 2023): The dogs of war are back – but is Ramaphosa finally seeing the light on Wagner?

Mali Presidential and Legislative Elections: Delayed to December 2025

Mali had set presidential and legislative elections for February 27, 2022, following the August 2020 coup, but the interim government has proposed a delay to December 2025, sparking a backlash from neighboring countries and the international community.

In the coup, soldiers removed President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (who has since died at age 76, having been in poor health for years), dissolved parliament (which had just been elected in April, in elections marred by fraud and intimidation) and established a transitional government.

International Crisis Group notes: “Since the coup in May 2021, Mali’s authorities have developed closer relations with Russia, now the country’s preferred military partner. In parallel, they have distanced themselves from several Western and regional partners, notably France.”

Jean Sovon, Global Voices (February 26, 2023): Separatist armed groups’ fusion risks sharpening the political and security crisis in Mali

Josh Chiat, Stockhead (February 23, 2023): Africa’s first lithium mine on track as Leo Lithium eyes Mali DSO sales in 2023

Central African Republic Local Elections: TBD (Delayed – no specific date set)

The Central African Republic (CAR) had planned to hold local elections in September 2022, but they have been delayed. If held, these will be the first local elections since 1988, and they follow presidential and partial legislative elections that took place on December 27, 2020 in the midst of a worsening security situation. Rebels disrupted voting in some areas, so consequently, those constituencies held the first round of their legislative elections on March 14, 2021. In addition, some of the constituencies that did vote on December 27 held runoff elections for their legislators.

These elections took place in the context of a humanitarian crisis and a crisis of governanceSectarian clashes have been taking place since 2013. Moreover, Russia has ramped up its political and military involvement in exchange for mining rights.

UN News (February 21, 2023): Local elections chance to advance peace in Central African Republic: UN envoy

Past Africa Elections

Nigeria General Elections: February 25, 2023 (gubernatorial elections in March and November 2023)

Nigeria, the “Giant of Africa,” as Nigerians call the continent’s most populous country, has a history of military coups, and since the return to civilian rule, vote-rigging and violence have plagued elections. While the 2015 polls – which handed the opposition its first-ever victory – were considered credible, international and Nigerian observers found that the 2019 polls fell short, with low turnout, fraud, and violence. The country is in the midst of several security crises.

The presidential front-runners include the nominees of the two biggest parties: Bola Tinuba from the governing “sort of left” All Progressives Congress Party (APC) and Atiku Abubakar from the main opposition “sort of right” People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In addition, Peter Obi from the Labour Party has gathered momentum among younger voters and is seen as a possible contender. Somewhat ironically, his supporters call themselves “Obidients,” despite positioning themselves as an anti-establishment movement.

Nigeria is the second-biggest oil and gas producer in Africa, and also arguably has the biggest economy on the continent.

AFP (February 28, 2023): Nigeria ruling party candidate takes election lead, rivals claim fraud

The Commonwealth (February 27, 2023): Commonwealth observers say Nigeria’s 2023 elections ‘largely peaceful’ with room for improvement

International Republican Institute, February 27, 2023): Preliminary Statement of the Joint NDI/IRI International Observer Mission to Nigeria’s 2023 Presidential and Legislative Elections

Timothy Obiezu, Voice of America (February 27, 2023): Early Results in Nigeria’s Tight Polls Meet Resistance From Political Parties

Emmanuel Akinwotu, NPR (February 25, 2023): Nigerian election: votes are counted after bitterly fought election

Damon Wilson, Time (February 23, 2023): Why Nigeria’s Election Is a Key Test for Democracy in 2023

Michelle Gavin, Council on Foreign Relations (February 23, 2023): The Continental Implications of Nigeria’s Elections: The example of Nigeria’s consequential upcoming elections could shape politics across the continent

Eka Ikpe, The Conversation (February 23, 2023): Nigeria elections: the surprising influence of Afrobeats music on politics

David Pilling and Aanu Adeoye, Financial Times (February 22, 2023): Nigerian elections: How Peter Obi disrupted a two-horse race

Jordan Smith, African Arguments (February 22, 2023): Boko Haram and Nigeria’s elections: The candidates’ security pledges

H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Dr. K.Y. Amoako, Quartz (February 22, 2023): Where are Nigeria’s women in the upcoming elections?

Ambassador Mark A. Green, Wilson Center (February 21, 2023): Nigeria Has Hundreds of Languages and Ethnic Groups, and Critically Important Elections

Djibouti Legislative Elections: February 24, 2023

Djibouti is holding parliamentary elections, but they are widely considered unlikely to be free, fair, or credible. 

In the 2021 presidential election, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, who has been president since 1999, won a fifth term amid opposition boycotts and protests. Under Guelleh, Djibouti (which is strategically located on the Bab-el-Mandeb chokepoint) has been pivoting toward China, although the U.S. and other democracies continue to have military bases there.

AFP (February 24, 2023): Djibouti holds parliamentary vote branded as sham by opposition: Only two parties are contesting seats in the 65-member National Assembly in Friday’s election

Democracy and Geopolitics in Africa

Sylvie Corbet, AP (February 27, 2023): Macron: ‘New era’ in economic, military strategy in Africa

Darlene Superville, AP (February 24, 2023): Jill Biden voices kinship with Africans’ fight for democracy

Faustine Ngila, Quartz (February 24, 2023): Why Jill Biden is visiting Namibia and Kenya: First Lady Jill Biden’s visit is largely seen as part of the US’ reaction to China and Russia’s wooing of African countries

Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), (February 22, 2023): States in Southern Africa cracking down on free expression online

Joseph Siegle, Africa Center for Strategic Studies (February 22, 2023): Intervening to Undermine Democracy in Africa: Russia’s Playbook for Influence

Mohammed Momoh, The East African (February 21, 2023): Ecowas declines to lift sanctions on Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso

Africa Elections Coming Up in 2023

Seven countries in Africa are scheduled to elections that will determine who heads the government: Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Gabon, Liberia, Madagascar, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In addition, Sudan has talked about holding long-delays general elections in July, but additional delays are possible. 

Nigeria, Gubernatorial Elections in Most States: March 11, 2023

Cameroon Indirect Senate Elections (by members of local councils): March 12, 2023

Mauritania Legislative and Local Elections: May 13, 2023

Gambia Local Elections: May 13, 2023

Mauritania Legislative and Local Runoffs: May 18, 2023

Sierra Leone Presidential and Legislative Elections: June 24, 2023

Mali Local Elections: June 2023 (due – delays possible)

Zimbabwe General Elections: July 2023 (due)

Sudan General Elections: July 2023 (tentative – delays possible)

Gabon Presidential, Legislative, and Local Elections: August 2023 (due)

Eswatini Parliamentary and Local Elections: August 2023 (due)

Gabon Legislative Elections: September 2023 (due)

Liberia Presidential and Legislative Elections: October 10, 2023

Mozambique Local Elections: October 11, 2023

Nigeria, Gubernatorial Elections in Imo State, Kogi State, and Bayelsa State: November 11, 2023

Madagascar Presidential Election: October 2023 (due)

Mali Legislative Elections: October 2023 (due – delays possible)

Democratic Republic of the Congo Presidential and Legislative Elections: December 20, 2023

Togo Legislative and Regional Elections: December 2023 (due)

Côte d’Ivoire Local Elections (due in 2023)

Comoros Gubernatorial Elections (due in 2023)

Ghana Local Elections (due in 2023)

Guinea-Bissau Local Elections (due in 2023)

Guinea Local Elections (due in 2023 – delays possible to to coup situation)

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