Africa This Week: September 20, 2021

September 20, 2021

A weekly review 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.


Mosque on Bundung Highway in Serekunda, Gambia’s economic hub. Gambia’s December presidential election has been shaken up by the announcement that President Adama Barrow has formed an alliance with former dictator Yahya Jammeh. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Jongleur100 (public domain)

Upcoming Africa Elections

Somalia Indirect Presidential Election: October 10, 2021 (preceded by indirect legislative elections)

Somalia does not hold direct elections, but rather holds indirect elections in a clan-based system. Currently, an indirect presidential election is planned for October 10, delayed from February 8, 2021. 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 believed 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. The parties reached a deal to hold the elections on October 10, 2021, but as is usually the case with Somalia, the date could change. More

Al Jazeera (September 18, 2021): UNSC urges Somalia’s feuding leaders to settle dispute: Fifteen-member body calls on government leaders to give top priority to holding long-delayed national elections this year.

Rachel Chason and Omar Faruk, Washington Post (September 18, 2021): How an intelligence officer’s disappearance in Somalia has ripped the government apart

Reuters (September 16, 2021): Somalia’s president suspends PM’s power to hire and fire officials

South Africa Local Elections: October 27, 2021

South Africa will hold local elections on October 27, 2021, although some have called for delays due to COVID-19. Voters will elect councils for all municipalities in each of the country’s nine provinces. These are taking place in the context of unrest following the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma for corruption. More

Mogomotsi Magome, September 20, 2021): South African court OKs new deadline for election candidates

Joseph Cotterill, Financial Times (September 20, 2021): South Africa moves closer to basic income in wake of civil unrest

Lynsey Chutel, New York Times (September 17, 2021): South African Court Rejects Former President’s Plea to Overturn Prison Sentence: The arrest of Jacob Zuma set off days of violent unrest and exposed deep rifts in his party, the African National Congress. But some hailed it as a victory for democracy.

Keith Gottschalk, The Conversation (September 14, 2021): Marriages of inconvenience: the fraught politics of coalitions in South Africa

Nigeria, Anambra State Gubernatorial Election: November 6, 2021, followed by several state elections in 2022, and general elections in 2023

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, holds general elections in February 2023, but some states are due to hold elections before that, including Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest city and economic hub.

In addition, potential 2023 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 Election

Olufunmilola Olukomaiya, PM News Nigeria (September 15, 2021): Yiaga Africa to deploy 548 observers for Anambra guber poll

General Elections

Samson Itodo, Sahara Reporters (September 20, 2021): Convergence, Divergence, and Dilemmas: An Analysis of Nigeria’s Electoral Bill 2021

BBC (September 15, 2021 – in Pidgin): Goodluck Jonathan join APC? PDP clear ex-President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan defection rumour

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.

In a shock move, Barrow announced an alliance with Jammeh ahead of December’s election. More

Sally Jeng, RFI (September 19, 2021): Gambia Election 2021: Jammeh’s victims worried about ruling party alliance

Achraf Tijani, The Africa Report (September 16, 2021): Gambia: Will Jammeh help Adama Barrow secure a second term?

Emil Touray, AFP (September 14, 2021): Anger as Gambian president allies with ex-dictator’s party

Senegal Local Elections: January 31, 2022

Senegal has set local elections – originally due in June 2019 but delayed several times – for January 31, 2022. Meanwhile, legislative elections are due in July 2022. More

Mehdi Ba, Jeune Afrique (September 14, 2021 – in French): Senegal: Has the opposition committed hara-kiri?

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

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. However, the situation remains fluid.

Daphné Benoit, AFP (September 20, 2021): French Defence Minister in Mali Amid Russian ‘Mercenary’ Tensions

RFE/RL (September 19, 2021): Mali’s Junta Dismisses Warnings Not To Hire Russia’s Vagner ‘Mercenaries’

Al Jazeera (September 14, 2021): France warns Mali against Russian Wagner mercenary deal: Deal could push relations between France and Mali to breaking point, and underscore growing Russia influence in region.

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.

Victor Abuso, The Africa Report (September 17, 2021): Kenya: Can the new IEBC conduct free and fair elections in August 2022?

Angola Legislative Elections: August 2022 (due) and Local Elections: Overdue, no date set

Angola, which has never held free elections, and has been ruled by the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), a former armed group, since independence in 1976, is due to hold legislative elections in August 2022. In addition, the country is overdue to hold its first-ever local elections. These elections have already been delayed multiple times (most recently in September 2020), and no date has been set. Meanwhile, COVID-19 provides an excuse for additional delays. In short, it is unclear when – or whether – the local elections will actually happen. More

Albano Agostinho Troco, The Conversation (September 17, 2021): Angola’s president has little to show for his promise of a break with the authoritarian past

Reuters (September 15, 2021): Angola’s ex-leader Dos Santos back home after 30-month exile -ANGOP

Osvaldo Silva, Al Bawaba (September 14, 2021): State Abuse of Human Rights Rife in Angola

Democratic Republic of the Congo General Elections: December 2023 (due)

The DRC is due to hold general elections in 2023. The 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.

Reuters (September 16, 2021): Police beat journalist, fire tear gas during Congo election protest

Sudan General Elections: 2024 (due)

Sudan plans to hold general elections in 2024, the culmination of a five-year transition to democracy that began with the July 2019 removal of dictator Omar al-Bashir following several months of protests. Al-Bashir was removed in a military coup, and a junta ruled briefly, but entered into an agreement with the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), a wide-ranging coalition of opposition groups, to transition the country to democracy. However, numerous challenges remain.

Simon Marks, Bloomberg (September 15, 2021): Surging Violence in Sudan Regions Casts Pall on Democracy Hopes

Guinea Elections: TBD, following coup

On September 5, 2021, Guinea’s president, Alpha Condé, fell in a military coup. Guinea’s political future remains uncertain, but regional and international bodies, as well as Guinean civil society and political groups, have urged elections.

Condé was re-elected in October 2020 amid violence. He sought and won a controversial third term, and for the third time, faced off against opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo. Both candidates claimed they won, but election officials declared Condé the winner. However, Diallo is challenged the results, alleging fraud and prompting street protests leading to at least 10 deaths. The government arrested a number of opposition members following the election. More

AFP (September 19, 2021): Guinea’s junta rules out exile for ousted president as opposition activists return to Conakry

Al Jazeera (September 16, 2021): ECOWAS resorts to sanctions over Guinea and Mali coups

Ekow Dontoh and Baudelaire Mieu, Bloomberg (September 16, 2021): West African Leaders Call for Guinea Elections in Six Months

Boubacar Diallo and Krista Larson, AP (September 16, 2021): Military junta opens talks over Guinea’s future post-coup

Jeffrey Smith and Jonathan Moakes, Foreign Policy (September 14, 2021): Guinea’s Military Coup Was Both Predictable and Avoidable

Past Africa Elections

Zambia General Elections: August 12, 2021

Zambia held August 12, 2021 following a hotly-contested campaign between President Edgar Lungu and Hakainde Hichilema, the main opposition leader, who narrowly lost to Lungu in 2016. Ultimately, Hichilema won the presidential election in a landslide, restoring hope in Zambia’s democracy.

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. Similarly, this year, despite concerns about violence and the larger pre-election environment – as well as a social media shutdown on election day – observers judged the polls credible. Lungu initially took a page from Donald Trump’s playbook and alleged fraud, but ultimately conceded defeat. Hichilema’s liberal United Party for National Development (UPND) also won a majority in the parliamentary election.

Sishuwa Sishuwa, African Arguments (September 17, 2021): Should Zambia’s new president fire all his predecessor’s appointees?

Côte d’Ivoire Parliamentary Elections: March 6, 2021 and Presidential Election: October 31, 2020

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 has now returned home. More

The Conversation (September 15, 2021): Gbagbo returns to politics. What it means for Côte d’Ivoire

Rwanda Local Elections: 2021 (due – date not set)

Rwanda is due to hold local elections in 2021. Since the 1994 genocide, Rwanda has been stable but authoritarian. Opposition figures are frequently imprisoned and sometimes killed or disappeared.

Abdi Latif Dahir, New York Times (September 20, 2021): From Hero of ‘Hotel Rwanda,’ to Dissident, to 25-Year Prison Sentence: The trial of Paul Rusesabagina, whose story was portrayed in the Oscar-nominated movie, was denounced by human rights advocates as a “show trial” intended to silence critics of Rwanda’s president.

Africa Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

Sao Tome and Principe Presidential Runoff: September 5, 2021 (Proposed – twice delayed, from August 8 and August 29)

Ethiopia Partial Elections: September 30, 2021 (Following delays)

Somalia Indirect Presidential and Legislative Elections: October 10, 2021 (Tentative)

Cabo Verde Presidential Election: October 17, 2021

South Africa Local 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 31, 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)

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