March 20, 2023
A weekly review of news and analysis of elections in Africa, usually posted on Mondays and occasionally updated throughout the week.
Lagos House, the official residence of the governor of Lagos State in Nigeria. Nigeria held gubernatorial elections on March 18. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Kaizen Photography (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Upcoming Africa Elections
Rwanda Parliamentary Elections: September 2023 (due), followed by presidential election due in 2024
Berna Namata, The East African (March 20, 2023): Paul Kagame sets pace for 2024 race as ruling party puts house in order
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.
RFI (March 19, 2023 – in French): Elections in the DRC: opposition figure Franck Diongo calls for an anti-Tshisekedi “front”
Michelle Gavin, Council on Foreign Relations (March 14, 2023): An Ever More Precarious Situation in DRC
AFP (March 14, 2023): Diplomatic push sparks little hope for ending DR Congo insurgency
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.
Annika Hammerschlag, Voice of America (March 16, 2023): Protests in Senegal Turn Violent as Opposition Leader Heads to Court
Al Jazeera (March 15, 2023): Thousands of Senegal opposition supporters begin 3-day protest
Katarina Hoije and Momar Niang, Bloomberg (March 14, 2023): President Sall Is Risking Senegal Stability as Gas Boom Nears, Rival Says
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.
AP (March 20, 2023): Protesters in South Africa call on President Cyril Ramaphosa to resign
Joseph Cotterill, Financial Times (March 20, 2023): South African military deployed to prevent planned national shutdown: Country’s radical opposition struggles to muster large numbers after calling for a day of protest
Paul Richardson, Bloomberg (March 15, 2023): Outages Fuel Voter Antipathy to South Africa’s ANC, Poll Shows
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.
Edith M. Lederer, AP (March 15, 2023): UN: South Sudan must halt fighting, move faster to elections
Sudan General Elections: 2025 (proposed)
Ismaeel Naar, The National UAE (March 20, 2023): Sudan army leaders and pro-democracy forces agree on transitional government
Reuters (March 18, 2023): Analysis: Sudan paramilitary leader jostles for role ahead of civilian handover
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.”
Kester Kenn Klomegah, Modern Diplomacy (March 14, 2023): Mali Snubs ECOWAS and African Union Over Steps to Return to Democratic Elected Government
Uganda Presidential and Legislative Elections: January 2026 (due)
Uganda las held presidential and legislative elections in January 2021. President Yoweri Museveni has held power since 1986, but this time faced possibly his biggest challenge yet in the form of 37-year-old pop star Bobi Wine. Following the elections, the government launched a brutal crackdown on the opposition.
Reuters (March 16, 2023): Son of Uganda’s president says to stand for leadership in 2026
Past 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.
In the gubernatorial elections, which took place a week late (election delays at short notice are not infrequent in Nigeria), PDP and APC remained dominant. Although Obi’s supporters had hoped to win in Lagos, the incumbent APC governor won re-election.
Editorial Board, Washington Post (March 20, 2023): Nigeria points the way toward democracy in a region in which it is scarce
Macdonald Dzirutwe, Reuters (March 20, 2023): Nigeria’s two big parties dominate governorship elections
Joel Olatunde Agoi and Emmanuel Anule, AFP (March 20, 2023): Nigerian Ruling Party Keeps Powerful Lagos Post After Tense Local Polls
Timothy Obiezu, Voice of America (March 20, 2023): Authorities Brace for Unrest as Nigeria’s Gubernatorial Election Winners Announced
Ope Adetayo, Al Jazeera (March 18, 2023): The woman who could be Nigeria’s first elected female governor
Nosmot Gbadamosi, Foreign Policy (March 16, 2023): Nigeria’s Kingmakers Are Still in Control: Divisive politics and historical power structures helped Bola Tinubu win
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.
Ngala Killian Chimtom, Crux (March 17, 2023): Cameroon priest said clergy targeted by security forces during recent election
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 (March 15, 2023): Djibouti says expelled rights defenders lack ‘neutrality’: The main opposition parties in the tightly controlled Horn of Africa nation refused to participate in the legislative vote, denouncing the process to elect 65 MPs as a sham
Aggrey Mutambo, The East African (March 15, 2023): Djibouti deports FIDH human rights campaigner Deswaef
Kenya General Elections: August 9, 2022
Reuters (March 20, 2023): Kenyan police fire tear gas, arrest opposition figures at protest: The nationwide protests are against the rising cost of living in Kenya and the election victory of President William Ruto
Natasha Booty and Ferdinand Omondi (March 20, 2023): Kenya protests: Raila Odinga’s convoy tear-gassed in Nairobi
Angola General Elections: August 24, 2022
Peter Fabricius, Daily Maverick (March 19, 2023): Angolan opposition party Unita says it was robbed of victory in 2022 but will come back fighting even harder in 2027
Russia and China in Africa
Justin Ling, Foreign Policy (March 18, 2023): Russian Mercenaries Are Pushing France Out of Central Africa
Caitlin McFall, Fox News (March 14, 2023): Blinken travels to Africa as new report shows China, Russia eclipsing US arms sales to continent
Protests and Authoritarianism
Faustine Ngila, Quartz (March 20, 2023): Protests against government policies are roiling all four corners of Africa: Citizens of Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, and Tunisia hit the streets over economic woes and political strife
Africa Center for Strategic Studies (March 14, 2023): The Persistence of Cults of Personality in African Governance
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.
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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