Africa This Week: March 13, 2023

March 13, 2023

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

A view of Lagos, Nigeria. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Nupo Deyon Daniel (CC0 1.0)

Upcoming Africa Elections

Nigeria Local and Gubernatorial Elections: March 18, 2023 (postponed from March 11, and following general elections on February 25)

Nigeria held general elections on February 25. Bola Tinuba from the governing “sort of left” All Progressives Congress Party (APC) won the presidency, defeating Atiku Abubakar from the main opposition “sort of right” People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi from the Labour Party, as well as a number of other candidates (incumbent Muhammadu Buhari was term-limited and unable to run for re-election). However, both Obi and Atiku are challenging the results.

In past years, PDP and APC got the vast majority of the vote share in presidential elections, but Obi won 25 percent, and won a majority in Lagos, Nigeria’s state.

A number of states were supposed to hold gubernatorial elections on March 11, but these elections were postponed by a week due to the security situation (election delays at short notice are quite common in Nigeria). 

Ben Ezeamalu, The Africa Report (March 13, 2023): Nigeria: Tinubu’s defeat in Lagos rattles ruling party ahead of governorship election

Nduka Orjinmo, BBC (March 9, 2023): Nigeria election 2023: Heartbroken Peter Obi supporters target Lagos

Nimi Princewill, CNN (March 9, 2023): Nigeria delays governorship elections amid disputed presidential vote

Max Siollun, Foreign Policy (March 8, 2023): Bola Tinubu’s Pyrrhic Victory: Nigeria’s new president will immediately face pressures from within his party, the opposition, and the majority of voters who didn’t back him

Ambassador Mark A. Green  & Ambassador Johnnie Carson, Wilson Center (March 8, 2023): The Pursuit of Democracy: The Importance of Nigeria’s Elections

Mauritania Legislative and Local Elections: May 13, 2023

Mohamed al-Bakkai, Anadolu Agency (March 13, 2023): Mauritanian president dissolves parliament ahead of elections

Zimbabwe General Elections: July 2023 (due)

Zimbabwe is due to hold general elections in July 2023. They will be the second since the 2017 coup that led to the fall of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s longtime dictator, who left a legacy of gross economic mismanagement and political repression. Democracy continues to face many challenges in Zimbabwe, and the current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, governs in an authoritarian, repressive manner.

Gibbs Dube, Voice of America (March 13, 2023): Huge Turnout as Zimbabweans Register to Vote in 2023 General Elections

Farai Shawn Matiashe, The Africa Report (March 13, 2023): Zimbabwe: Crackdown on politically conscious musicians

Human Rights Watch (March 10, 2023): Zimbabwe: Police Shut Down Popular Musician’s Show

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.

Kristof Titeca, Lawfare (March 12, 2023): Is the Democratic Republic of Congo Considering a Pivot to Russia?

Patrick Ilunga, The East African (March 10, 2023): UN delegates to assess security situation in east DR Congo

RFI (March 7, 2023 – in French): DRC: the opposition is indignant at the remarks of Félix Tshisekedi on a possible delay of the elections

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. 

AFP (March 10, 2023): Senegal civil liberties under pressure as polls approach

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. 

Daily Maverick (March 8, 2023): For South Africans wanting change there’s a lesson in the outcome of Nigeria’s election

Joseph Cotterill, Financial Times (March 7, 2023): South Africa GDP shrinks 1.3% after power cuts strangle economy

South Sudan Elections: December 2024 (proposed)

South Sudan plans to hold elections in December 2024, after multiple delays, the first since independence in 2011. Salva Kiir had been president of the semi-autonomous region while it was still part of Sudan, and he remained in office following independence. Following the country’s civil war, which took place from 2013 to 2020, Kiir entered into a power-sharing agreement with Riek Machar, who had commanded the opposition forces during the civil war. However, there are frequent disputes between Kiir and Machar. 

The legislature’s mandate expired in 2015 (it had been elected in 2010, before independence), and has been extended several times. 

The East African (March 12, 2023): Kiir, Machar put S. Sudan on edge as political rows escalate

Reuters (March 10, 2023): South Sudan president holds ‘frank deliberations’ with vice president

Namibia Presidential and Legislative Elections: November 2024 (due)

Namibia is due to hold presidential and legislative elections in November 2024. President Hage Geingob, who was elected in 2014 and re-elected in 2019, is term-limited and thus can’t run again. 

Namibia is a free, stable democracy, but since independence from South Africa in 1990, Namibian politics have been dominated by the socialist Swapo, an independence movement-turned-political party. 

Swapo took a series of hit in the last few sets of elections, losing control of the city council in the capital, Windhoek, and other cities in 2020.

Africanews (March 13, 2023): Namibia: President names Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah woman successor

The Namibian (March 11, 2023): Nandi-Ndaitwah is Swapo’s sole presidential candidate — Geingob

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.”

Reuters (March 10, 2023): Mali junta postpones constitutional referendum scheduled for March 19

Past 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.

Moki Edwin Kindzeka, Voice of America (March 10, 2023): Cameroon Says Rebel Attacks Intensify to Disrupt March 12 Senate Elections

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 18, 2023 (postponed from March 11)

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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