Africa This Week: April 3, 2023

April 3, 2023

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

A beach in Libreville, capital of Gabon. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Manuel Dohmen (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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.

Global Voices (March 31, 2023): Zimbabwe’s information war on digital platforms threatens free expression

Kudzai Chimhangwa, The Africa Report (March 29, 2023): Zimbabwe: Opposition takes electoral commission to court over flawed boundaries report

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

Gabon is due to hold a presidential election in August 2023. Although the country does hold multi-candidate elections, the Bongo family has been in power for over 50 years. The regime remains repressive. But the ruling family has faced challenges in recent years. In 2018, President Ali Bongo Ondimba (who succeeded his father in 2009) had a stroke, and in January 2019, military officers attempted a coup.

Despite the Bongo family’s power, election results have been close in recent years. In the last presidential election in 2016, Bongo was declared the winner with 49.8 percent of the vote, compared to 48.2 percent for opposition leader Jean Ping.

Jeanne le Bihan, The Africa Report (April 3, 2023): Will Gabon’s presidential election be decided in one round?

Placide Ondo, World Politics Review (March 30, 2023): In Gabon, the Bongo Family Is the State

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)

RFI (April 3, 2023): Paul Kagame re-elected as chairman of Rwanda’s ruling party

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.

David I. Klein, Jewish Telegraphic Agency (March 31, 2023): Law that would bar Congo’s only Jewish politician from presidency is under consideration again

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.

Diadie Ba, Reuters (March 30, 2023): Senegal opposition politician handed light sentence, still viable for presidency

Andrei Popoviciu, Al Jazeera (March 30, 2023): Senegal opposition leader trial kickstarts rocky election season

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.

Reuters (April 2, 2023): South Africa’s main opposition leader Steenhuisen wins another term

Lizeka Tandwa, Mail and Guardian (April 1, 2023): DA is preparing for unrest should ANC lose power in 2024

Richard Cookson, Bloomberg (March 29, 2023): South Africa Is on the Road to Becoming a Failed State

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. 

Waakhe Wudu, Reuters (March 30, 2023): South Sudan president appoints own defence minister, breaching peace deal

International Crisis Group (March 29, 2023): It’s Time to Start Talking About Elections in South Sudan

Sudan General Elections: 2025 (proposed)

The Africa Report (April 3, 2023): Sudan: How battle for control is blocking transition process

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.

Index on Censorship (March 31, 2023): Destroyed ballot boxes, arrests, assaults – Nigeria reels from latest elections: Violence around Nigeria’s elections was aimed at voters and at journalists. The country’s media professionals are still shaken

Voice of America (March 28, 2023): Civil Society Groups Protest in Nigeria Over Election Outcome

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.”

Al Jazeera (April 3, 2023): Kenya drops charges against opposition lawmakers over protests

Paul Richardson, Bloomberg (April 2, 2023): Kenyan Opposition Suspends Protests, Agrees to Talks on Demands

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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