Africa This Week: March 6, 2023

March 6, 2023

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

The National Mosque in Abuja, Nigeria. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Mark Fischer (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Upcoming Africa Elections

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.

Crispin Kayla, Reuters (March 6, 2023): Congolese Tutsis describe violent campaign to stop them voting

Patrick Ilunga, The East African (March 5, 2023): Is Tshisekedi really keen on holding polls this December?

Michael J Kavanagh, Bloomberg (March 4, 2023): Congo President Tells Macron Conflict in East May Delay Election

Reuters (March 2, 2023): Some Congolese protest and question motives of Macron visit

Valerie Leroux, AFP (February 28, 2023): France’s Macron Kicks Off Four-nation Tour Of Africa

Sudan General Elections: 2023 (tentative, following coup – delays possible)

Sudan plans to hold general elections in 2023, the culmination of a transition to democracy that began with the July 2019 removal of dictator Omar al-Bashir following several months of protests. Al-Bashir was removed in a military coup, and a junta ruled briefly, but entered into an agreement with a coalition of opposition groups to transition the country to democracy, which has been rocky, to say the least.

However, another coup in October 2021 returned Sudan to military rule and produced a standstill. In 2022, the military signed yet another deal with political groups, but many stakeholders have rejected the deal. The road ahead remains unclear.

The Africa Report (March 3, 2023): Sudan’s strongmen vie for power amid election uncertainty

Senegal Presidential Election: February 2024 (due)

Long considered a stable democracy, backsliding has been taking place under President Macky Sall, who has been accused of prosecuting his political opponents on politically-motivated charges (Freedom House downgraded the country from Free to Partly Free in 2020). 

Consequently, Senegal saw violent protests in March 2021 following rape charges against former opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, and further protests in November 2021. Some are concerned that Sall could attempt to seek an unconstitutional third term

A series of oil and gas discoveries starting in 2014 have set Senegal up to become a player in energy production. Sall is a former oil executive and thus has focused on beginning production. 

Jean Sovon, Global Voices (March 6, 2023): Arm-wrestling match in Senegal: President Macky Sall and opponent Ousmane Sonko go head-to-head in the presidential elections

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. Moreover, power cuts have been bad lately, with people experiencing up to 12 hours a day without electricity, prompting President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare a national disaster.

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. 

Bhargav Acharya and Carien du Plessis, Reuters (March 6, 2023): South Africa’s Ramaphosa adds electricity minister, allies ahead of 2024 election

Ghana Presidential and Parliamentary Elections: December 7, 2024

Ghana holds presidential and parliamentary elections on December 7, 2024. Often cited as a success story for democratic transition, Ghana’s two main political parties, the center-right New Patriotic Party (NPP) and center-left National Democratic Congress (NDC), have alternated stints in power since Ghana began holding multiparty elections. NPP’s Nana Akufo-Addo won re-election in 2020, but NDC’s John Mahama challenged the results. Mahama plans to run again in 2024. Akufo-Addo is term-limited and therefore the NPP will hold a primary to chose its candidate.

Kent Mensah, Voice of America (March 2, 2023): Former Ghana Leader Mahama Launches 2024 Campaign

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.

Chinedu Asadu, AP (March 6, 2023): Protests against Nigeria’s election results intensify

Voice of America (March 6, 2023): US Ambassador to Nigeria Urges Patience with Election Challenges

Camillus Eboh, Reuters (March 6, 2023): Nigeria’s Atiku, supporters march to protest presidential election results

Nduka Orjinmo, BBC (March 4, 2023): Can Nigeria’s election result be overturned?

AFP (March 2, 2023): Nigeria presidential election drama heads to the courts

Nimi Princewill, Bethlehem Feleke,and Larry Madowo, CNN, (March 2, 2023): Peter Obi vows to challenge Nigerian election result: ‘We won and we will prove it’

Mohammed Momoh, The East African (March 2, 2023): Nigerian troops killed 133 extremists over election period

Tanzania General Elections: October 28, 2020

Tanzania’s ruling party, Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), has been in power since independence, and has won every election since multiparty elections began in the 90s. The country took an authoritarian turn under John Magufuli, who was elected president in 2015. 

However, following Magufuli’s death in 2021, the new president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, has opened up the political space. She lifted a ban on opposition rallies and secured the release of Freedman Mbowe, leader of the main opposition Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema). In addition, Chadema’s vice chair, Tundu Lissu, has returned from exile. There is hope that Tanzania will continue to move toward greater freedom and democracy.

Africanews with AFP (March 2, 2023): Opposition figure returns from exile in Tanzania

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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