Africa This Week: April 17, 2023

April 17, 2023

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

The Congo River at Maluku, a municipality in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo credit: WikimediaVberger (public domain)

Upcoming Africa Elections

Central African Republic Local Elections: July 16, 2023 (delays likely)

The Central African Republic (CAR) had planned to hold local elections in September 2022, but they have been delayed. If held, these will be the first local elections since 1988, and they follow presidential and partial legislative elections that took place on December 27, 2020 in the midst of a worsening security situation. Rebels disrupted voting in some areas, so consequently, those constituencies held the first round of their legislative elections on March 14, 2021. In addition, some of the constituencies that did vote on December 27 held runoff elections for their legislators.

These elections took place in the context of a humanitarian crisis and a crisis of governanceSectarian clashes have been taking place since 2013. Moreover, Russia has ramped up its political and military involvement in exchange for mining rights.

RFI (July 14, 2023 – in French): Central African Republic: New uncertainties on the holding of the local elections

Liberia Presidential and Legislative Elections: October 10, 2023

Liberia’s last elections, in 2017, brought the first peaceful transition of power since 1944, but the country still faces some challenges as it seeks to consolidate democracy. President George Weah, a former football player, won the last presidential election in 2017 and plans to run for another term.

Katarina Hoije and Festus Poquie, Bloomberg (April 18, 2023): Liberia Opposition Banks on Soaring Food Prices to Unseat Weah

Robtel Neajai Bailey and Oscar Bloh, African Arguments (April 15, 2023): Is Liberia heading towards an electoral crisis?

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.

Patrick Ilunga, The East African (April 16, 2023): DR Congo’s countdown to election day a hot potato

AFP (April 14, 2023): DR Congo Election Candidates Launch Joint Campaign Ahead Of Vote

Teresa Nogueira Pinto, GIS (April 12, 2023): Is the Third Congo War approaching?

Cote d’Ivoire Local Elections: 2023 (proposed), followed by General Elections: 2025

Côte d’Ivoire’s president has proposed holding local elections early, in 2023. The country just completed a major election cycle that began in turbulent fashion when incumbent president Alasanne Ouattara sought and won a controversial third term. The opposition boycotted the presidential election. Protests followed, as well as arrests of opposition members.

However, during the 2021 parliamentary elections, the situation calmed down a bit. Following discussions and the release of some opposition figures, the opposition participated in the legislative elections. 

Former president Laurent Gbagbo casts a long shadow over Cote d’Ivoire politics. He had been tried by the International Criminal Court following violence surrounding his refusal to accept his loss of the 2010 election. Gbagbo was ultimately acquitted, but an appeal against the acquittal kept him in Belgium until this year. He has now returned home.

Côte d’Ivoire is one of the largest economies in West Africa. It is the world’s biggest producer of cocoa and cashew nuts, and a net exporter of oil. However, since 1999, political struggles and two civil wars have created instability, and the political climate remains tense.

Sadia Mandjo, France24 (April 12, 2023): Ivory Coast: Are personal freedoms on the decline ahead of local 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.

Africanews and AFP (April 17, 2023): Opponents form coalition in Senegal against Macky Sall’s of third term

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.

Bloomberg (April 18, 2023): Independents can now run in South Africa’s elections

Sudan General Elections: 2025 (proposed)

Mersiha Gadzo and Usaid Siddiqui, Al Jazeera (April 17, 2023): Latest Sudan updates: More than 180 people killed, UN envoy says

Mike Cohen and Simon Marks, Bloomberg (April 17, 2023): These Are the Key Foreign Power Brokers in the Sudan Conflict

Reuters (April 16, 2023): Sudan’s army pounds paramilitary bases with air strikes in power struggle

Bloomberg (April 16, 2023): Here’s What’s Behind the Fighting in Sudan and What It Means

Republic of the Congo Presidential Election: March 2026 (due)

The Republic of the Congo holds its next presidential election in 2026. Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has been president almost continuously since 1979 and rules with an iron fist, was most recently re-elected in 2021. Elections have not been free or fair.

AFP (April 14, 2023): Congo parties form alliance for next election: The “Alliance for Democratic Change in 2026,” unveiled on Thursday, brings together three parties that have grassroots support but no legislative seats

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.

Chris Kwaja, U.S. Institute of Peace (April 13, 2023): After Nigeria’s Elections: Nurturing the Seeds of Better Democracy: A presidential vote that deepened mistrust also signals Nigerians’ insistence on change.

Ope Adetayo, Al Jazeera (April 13, 2023): Obi voters in Nigeria cry fraud, struggle to keep hope alive

Reuters (April 11, 2023): Nigeria’s ruling party seeks dismissal of Obi’s election challenge

Kenya General Elections: August 9, 2022

Reuters (April 16, 2023): Kenya’s President Ruto asks opposition to give talks a chance

Evelyne Musambi, AP (April 13, 2023): Kenya opposition to resume anti-government protests

Abdirashid Diriye Kalmoy, Modern Diplomacy (April 10, 2023): The Politics of Maandamano: Understanding Kenya’s Cost of Living Demonstrations

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

Guinea-Bissau Snap Legislative Elections: June 4, 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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