Africa This Week: March 27, 2023

March 27, 2023

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

A lion in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Laura (cardamom) (CC BY 2.0)

Upcoming Africa 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.

Privilege Musvanhiri, DW (March 27, 2023): Zimbabwe: Young voters register for elections

Gibbs Dube, Voice of America (March 27, 2023): Ministers, Veteran MPs Bite The Dust in Zanu PF Primary Elections

Voice of America (March 27, 2023 – video): Zanu PF Members Fuming Over Irregularities in Party Primary Elections

Michelle Gavin, Council on Foreign Relations (March 21, 2023): Zimbabwe Limps Toward 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.

Stanis Bujakera and Sonia Rolley, Reuters (March 23, 2023): Congo President Tshisekedi brings in former VP Bemba in reshuffle ahead of election

Romain Gras, The Africa Report (March 22, 2023): Is the upcoming DRC presidential election being played out in Washington?

The Diplomat (March 20, 2023): China Sends Military Drones to DRC Amid Fears of Regional War: The DRC has purchased Chinese attack drones, raising concerns about China’s role in exacerbating the DRC-Rwanda conflict.

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. 

Miles Parks, NPR (March 26, 2023): In Senegal, the government is cracking down on human rights

Africanews (March 23, 2023): Senegal: President Sall demands measures to stop unrest

Rwanda Parliamentary Elections: August 2023 (due), followed by presidential election due in 2024 (parliamentary elections could be delayed to the same time as the presidential election)

Reuters (March 25, 2023): Rwanda plans constitutional change to hold presidential and parliamentary polls together

The Guardian (March 25, 2023): Hotel Rwanda’s Paul Rusesabagina released from prison: Ex-hotelier whose actions saved lives during 1994 genocide has sentence for terrorism charges commuted

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.

Antony Sguazzin, Bloomberg (March 27, 2023): Support for South Africa’s Populist Opposition Has Plunged, 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. 

Sudan Tribune (March 21, 2023): No more extension of transitional government: Kiir

Chad General Elections: October 2024 (additional delays possible due to coup situation)

Chad held a presidential election on April 11, 2021. President Idriss Déby, who seized power in a rebellion in 1990, won a sixth term. However, on April 20, 2021, he was killed by rebels while fighting on the front lines. His son, 37-year-old General Mahamat Déby, declared himself interim leader, backed by the military. He dissolved parliament and promised elections within 18 months, by December 2022. However, it is unclear when the elections will actually happen.

Although the country holds elections, there has never been a change in power by a free or fair vote, and elections are riven by lengthy delays, violence, and fraud.

Chadian politics are taking place in the context of instability and insecurity throughout the Sahel region, which could increase as France winds down Operation Barkhane, its counterterrorism operation in the region. Russian mercenaries are stepping in to fill the void and plunder the region’s resources, leading to higher levels of violence.

RFI (March 26, 2023): Chad’s president signs pardon for 380 rebels sentenced to life in prison

Reuters (March 21, 2023): Chad sentences 441 rebels to life in prison over ex-president Deby’s death

Somalia Presidential Election: 2026 (due – delays possible)

Somalia finally held its long-delayed presidential election on May 15, 2022. Former president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who served from 2012 to 2017 before losing re-election, was elected, defeating incumbent Mohamed “Farmaajo.”

The Horn of Africa country does not hold direct elections, but rather holds indirect elections in a clan-based system. Although the idea of holding direct elections had been floated for 2022, ultimately the clan-based system remained in place. But discussions to transition to a one-person-one-vote system continue.

AFP (March 22, 2023): Somalia to hold elections by universal suffrage, president says

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.

The Independent Uganda (March 28, 2023): Opposition wants end to Uganda’s ‘winner takes all’ elections

Charlie Mitchell, Times of London (March 24, 2023): Yoweri Musevini’s son-in-law insists he will be Uganda’s president: Odrek Rwabwogo is emerging as a challenger to General Muhoozi Kainerugaba

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.

Joel Olatunde Agoi, AFP (March 21, 2023): Nigeria’s ruling party wins majority of states in local election

Camillus Eboh, Reuters (March 21, 2023): Nigeria’s Obi, Atiku challenge presidential election results

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.

Africanews with AFP (March 24, 2023): Cameroon: Biya’s party wins all Senate seats

Kenya General Elections: August 9, 2022

Evelyne Musambi at AP notes: “More than a dozen civil society groups have in a joint statement expressed concern over police declaring Monday’s protests illegal and urged authorities to uphold people’s constitutional right to peaceful demonstrations.”

Evelyne Musambi, AP (March 27, 2023): Anti-government protests in Kenya hit Nairobi for 2nd week

David Herbling, The Diplomat (March 27, 2023): Kenya Protests Intensify as Opposition Leader Defies Government

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.

Bonface Witaba, Global Voices (March 28, 2023): Tanzania’s President Suluhu’s attendance at opposition’s event signals the start of cordial relations

Niger Presidential Elections: December 27, 2020 and February 21, 2021 (runoff)

Niger presidential elections in December 2020/February 2021 amid security threats and violence. Mohamed Bazoum from the ruling party won the presidential vote. Despite that, the historic election facilitated Niger’s first peaceful transfer of power from one elected president to another.

Jean-Loup Samaan at The National notes: “Almost two years after elections and a successful political transition saw Mr Bazoum assume the presidency, his steady leadership has encouraged the West to put most of its bets in the region on Niger.” 

Other countries of the Sahel – including Mali, Burkina Faso, and Chad – have been riven by coups and political instability. Simultaneously, those countries have deepened ties with Russia, in some cases hosting Wagner Group troops. However, Niger is not immune to similar issues, having previously experienced coups and stopping one shortly after the 2021 elections. 

Jean-Loup Samaan, The National UAE (March 24, 2023): Will Niger get stuck on the Russia-West seesaw in the Sahel?

Democracy and Geopolitics

AFP (March 27, 2023): US to open democracy summit as Russia, China launch diplomatic offensive

Akayla Gardner, Bloomberg (March 24, 2023): US Fights for Influence in Africa Where China, Russia Loom Large

Tiseke Kasambala, Daily Maverick (March 22, 2023): Summit for Democracy is an opportunity to restore African citizens’ trust

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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