Africa This Week: May 31, 2021

May 31, 2021

Your weekly roundup of news and analysis of elections in Africa, usually posted on Mondays and occasionally updated throughout the week. For a full electoral calendar and interactive map, click here.

The Berbera Port in Somaliland, located strategically on the Gulf of Aden. Somaliland is holding parliamentary and local elections on May 31. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Lakm00 (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Upcoming Africa Elections

Somaliland Parliamentary and Local Elections: May 31, 2021

Somaliland holds its long-overdue parliamentary and local elections for May 31, 2021. Somaliland has de facto but not internationally-recognized independence from Somalia, and has a much more developed democracy, with direct elections.

Somaliland also celebrates 30 years of de facto independence in May 2021. More

Harun Maruf and Khadar Mohamed Akule, Voice of America (May 31, 2021): Polls Open in Somaliland’s Local and Parliamentary Elections

Benedict Brook, New Zealand Herald (May 31, 2021): Independent but unrecognised nation of Somaliland heads to the polls

Peter Fabricius, Daily Maverick (May 30, 2021): Somaliland: The little country that could — if only the world would let it

Ethiopia General Elections: June 21, 2021

Ethiopia will hold general elections on June 21, 2021, after several postponements. These elections are taking place in the context of increasing ethnic violence that has reached crisis levels. More

Ronald Lwere Kato, Africanews (May 31, 2021): Why are protestors in Ethiopia and Mali waving Russian flags?

Rodney Muhumuza, AP (May 30, 2021): Ethiopians protest US sanctions over brutal Tigray war

Lynsey Addario and Rachel Hartigan, National Geographic (May 28, 2021): A grave humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Ethiopia. ‘I never saw hell before, but now I have.’

Maggie Fick, Reuters (May 28, 2021): In Abiy’s Ethiopia, press freedom flourished then fear returned

Antony Sguazzin, Bloomberg (May 28, 2021): Next Africa: Ethiopia’s Fall From Africa’s Darling to Pariah

Editorial Board, Financial Times (May 27, 2021): US is right to impose sanctions on Ethiopia: Abiy must stop the violence in Tigray and expel Eritrean troops as a first step

AFP (May 25, 2021): Five things to know about Ethiopia’s election

Somalia Indirect Presidential and Legislative Elections Election: By August 2021

Somalia was supposed to hold an indirect presidential election on February 8, 2021, following indirect parliamentary elections in December 2020. However, the elections have been delayed, and the term of President Mohamed “Farmaajo” has expired, leaving Somalia in a political and constitutional crisis. In April 2021, Farmaajo sought to extend his term for two years, but parliament voted to reject the extension.

While the United States and the EU threatened sanctions, some analysts believe that the delay could pave the way for direct elections. However, critics dismiss this idea as a ruse to justify Farmaajo’s extension of his term. On May 27, the parties reached a deal to hold indirect elections within 60 days, so it looks like they will take place this summer. More

UN News (May 29, 2021): UN Security Council welcomes Somali agreement on prompt and peaceful elections

Max Bearak, Washington Post (May 27, 2021): Somalia averts crisis as leaders agree to hold delayed elections within months

Zambia General Elections: August 12, 2021

Zambia has scheduled general elections for August 12, 2021. Zambia used to be a model democracy in the region, with regular, competitive elections and a vibrant civil society. However, under Edgar Lungu, elected in 2015 to complete the term of Michael Sata (who died in office), Zambia began to regress toward authoritarianism. The 2016 elections were  marred by political violence and allegations of vote-rigging but ultimately judged credible. However, there are fears that Lungu could try to rig the 2021 elections. More

Reuters (May 26, 2021): Zambian president bans campaign rallies to stem COVID-19 spread

Matthew Hill and Taonga Clifford Mitimingi, Bloomberg (May 26, 2021): Zambia Opposition Accuses President of Barring Election Campaign

South Africa Local Elections: October 27, 2021

South Africa will hold local elections on October 27, 2021. Voters will elect councils for all municipalities in each of the country’s nine provinces. More

Eunice Stoltz, Khaya Koko, and Lizeka Tandwa, Mail and Guardian (May 30, 2021): What does Covid-19 alert level 2 mean for elections, movement and gatherings

The Economist (May 30, 2021): An ex-president is on trial, but graft still blights South Africa

Nigeria, Anambra State Gubernatorial Election: November 6, 2021, followed by Presidential and Legislative Elections: February 23, 2023

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, holds elections in February 2023, but potential candidates have already begun jockeying for position. Since the return to civilian rule, vote-rigging and violence have plagued elections. While the 2015 polls – which handed the opposition its first-ever victory – were considered credible, international and Nigerian observers found that the 2019 polls fell short. The country is in the midst of several security crises.

Anambra State Election

Timothy Obiezu, Voice of America (May 31, 2021): Attacks on Election Offices in Nigeria Raise Concerns

Ronke Idowu, Channels TV (May 31, 2021): Despite Attacks In South-East, [Independent National Electoral Commission] Vows To Conduct Anambra Gov Election

Federal Elections

John Campbell and Robert I. Rotberg, Foreign Affairs (May 31, 2021): The Giant of Africa Is Failing: Only Nigeria Can Save Itself—but the United States Can Help

Nimi Princewill, Stephanie Busari and Amy Cassidy, CNN (May 31, 2021): More than 150 children are missing in latest Nigeria kidnapping raid

Gambia Presidential Election: December 4, 2021

Gambia is due to hold its first presidential election since it began its remarkable transition to democracy in 2016, when citizens removed dictator Yahya Jammeh – who had come to power in a coup and ruled for 22 years – peacefully, via the ballot box. In a surprising election result, opposition candidate Adama Barrow won the presidency with the backing of a coalition of seven opposition parties. However, the process of establishing democracy and recovering from Jammeh’s brutal dictatorship has not been easy.

Although Barrow had initially pledged to serve only one term, he plans to run for re-election, which has sparked controversy and protests. More

Sankulleh Gibril Janko, The Point (May 31, 2021): National voter registration commences, 1M Gambians expected to register

Mali Presidential and Legislative Elections: February 27, 2022 (following coup)

Mali has set presidential and legislative elections for February 27, 2022, following the August 2020 coup. In the coup, soldiers removed President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, dissolved parliament (which had just been elected in April, in elections marred by fraud and intimidation) and established a transitional government. Before that, there will be a constitutional referendum on October 31, 2021 and local and regional elections on December 26.

On May 25, Mali had another coup, but leaders have stated that the elections will remain on the calendar for 2022. Nonetheless, the situation remains fluid.

AFP (June 1, 2021): Ecowas suspends Mali over second coup in nine months

Maïa de la Baume, Politico (May 30, 2021): Macron: France will pull troops out if Mali slides into ‘radical islamism’: France has 5,000 troops in the region to counter jihadists

Reuters (May 30, 2021): West African bloc says Mali must stick to 2022 election promise

BBC News (May 25, 2021): Mali’s coup leader Assimi Goïta seizes power again

Carley Petesch, AP (May 25, 2021): Key events in Mali that led to a coup and rule by junta

Kenya General Elections: August 9, 2022

Kenya is due to hold general elections on August 9, 2022. The last elections, in August 2017, were disputed, and the presidential poll was re-run in October 2017. President Uhuru Kenyatta won re-election after opposition leader Raila Odinga encouraged his supporters to boycott the re-run. Kenyan politics is highly polarized with a strong ethnic component.

Peter Muiruri, The Guardian (May 27, 2021): Kenya’s high court overturns president’s bid to amend constitution: Judges rule that Uhuru Kenyatta, who claimed BBI plan was to end country’s cycle of post-election violence, overstepped his authority and can be sued

Past Africa Elections

Republic of the Congo Presidential Election: March 20, 2021

The Republic of the Congo (sometimes called Congo-Brazzaville) held a presidential election on March 20, 2021. Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has been president almost continuously since 1979 and rules with an iron fist, won re-election. Elections have not been free or fair. More

Paul Melly, BBC (May 30, 2021): Africa’s political dynasties: How presidents groom their sons for power

Laudes Martial Mbon, AFP (May 28, 2021): Congo’s Sassou Nguesso turns to inner circle for new government

Central African Republic Partial Legislative Elections and Runoffs: March 14, 2021

The Central African Republic (CAR) held presidential and partial legislative elections 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. More 

RFI (May 31, 2021): Provisional results of legislative elections in the Central African Republic: relative majority for the party in power

Sebastian Shukla, CNN (May 28, 2021): Russian mercenaries get the big-screen treatment. The reality behind the film is as murky as the plot

Côte d’Ivoire Parliamentary Elections: March 6, 2021 and Presidential Election: October 31, 2021

Côte d’Ivoire 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 March 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 cast a long shadow over the recent election cycle. 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 now plans to return home in June. More

Fraser Jackson, France24 (May 31, 2021 – video): Gbagbo plans to return to Ivory Coast on June 17 after ICC acquittal

Uganda General Elections: January 14, 2021

Uganda held presidential and legislative elections on January 14, 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. More

Liam Taylor and Derrick Wandera, African Arguments (May 25, 2021): Mass abductions in Uganda: What we know and don’t know

Tanzania General Elections: October 25, 2020

Tanzania held presidential and legislative elections on October 25, 2020 in the context of a crackdown on the opposition and growing authoritarianism. President John Magufuli, whose Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) has been in power since 1961, won a second term, but the opposition said the elections were neither free nor fair. Opposition figures have been arrested, assaulted, and murdered. 

However, in March 2021, Magufuli died of COVID-19, and then-vice president Samia Suluhu Hassan became the country’s first female president. Some have hoped that she would enact reforms geared toward restoring democracy. More

Alfred Zacharia, The Citizen Tanzania (May 31, 2021): New dawn for parties after five years in political oblivion

Democratic Republic of the Congo General Elections: December 30, 2019

The DRC’s December 2018 presidential and legislative elections, which took place after multiple delays, were mired in controversy and dispute. The election commission declared opposition leader Félix Tshisekedi the winner of the presidential poll, but the Catholic Church, which deployed 40,000 election observers and is a highly trusted institution in the country, said that their data indicated a victory for another opposition leader, Martin Fayulu.

When Kabila’s chosen successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, was polling too poorly for Kabila to credibly rig the election for him, Kabila cut a deal with Tshisekedi.

The legislative elections – also highly disputed – produced a majority for Kabila’s coalition. Major opposition figures Moïse Katumbi and Jean-Pierre Bemba were barred from the polls and spent the election cycle outside the country, but both have returned.

Romain Gras, Jeune Afrique (June 1, 2021 – in French): DRC: Félix Tshisekedi already campaigning for the 2023 presidential election

Kathryn Urban, Charged Affairs (May 26, 2021): Felix Tshisekedi’s Newly-Independent Agenda for the DRC: Modernizer or Strongman 2.0?

Regional Analysis

John Campbell and Nolan Quinn, Council on Foreign Relations (May 26, 2021): What’s Happening to Democracy in Africa?

Africa Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

Somaliland Parliamentary and Local Elections: May 31, 2021

Ethiopia General Elections: June 21, 2021

Mauritius Local Elections: June 2021 (due – delay likely)

Sao Tome and Principe Presidential Election: July 18, 2021

Zambia Presidential, Legislative, and Local Elections: August 12, 2021

Somalia Indirect Presidential and Legislative Elections: By August 2021 (due, following agreement)

Cabo Verde Presidential Election: October 17, 2021

South Africa Municipal Elections: October 27, 2021

Nigeria, Anambra State Gubernatorial Election: November 6, 2021

Gambia Presidential Election: December 4, 2021

Angola Local Elections: Overdue, might possibly happen in 2021

Senegal Local Elections: January 23, 2021

Mali Presidential and Legislative Elections: February 27, 2022 (following coup)

Gambia Parliamentary Elections: April 2022 (due)

Burkina Faso Local Elections: May 2022 (due)

Lesotho Parliamentary Elections: June 2022 (due)

Republic of Congo Legislative Elections: July 2022 (due)

Senegal Legislative Elections: July 2022 (due)

Kenya Presidential and Legislative Elections: August 9, 2022

Angola Legislative Elections: August 2022 (due)

Sao Tome and Principe Parliamentary Elections: October 2022 (due)

Equatorial Guinea Parliamentary Elections: November 2022 (due)

Sudan General Elections: Late 2022 (due)

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