September 27, 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.

Sankore Madrasah, an ancient center of learning in Timbuktu, Mali. Mali’s political future hangs in the balance as elections due after two coups could be postponed and Russian mercenaries could descend on the country. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Anne and David (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Upcoming Africa Elections

Ethiopia Partial Elections: September 30, 2021

Ethiopia held general elections on June 21, 2021, after several postponements. These elections took place in the context of increasing ethnic violence that has reached crisis levels. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, previously a reformer (he even won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2019) but most recently an authoritarian, won in a landslide. Polling couldn’t happen in several areas due to the ongoing conflict, so make-up votes are due to take place this fall. Nonetheless, Abiy has enough seats to form a new government regardless of the results of the September elections.

The Reporter Ethiopia (September 25, 2021): Learning from shortcomings of upcoming elections

Leah Abraham, African Arguments (September 24, 2021): The Rise and Rise of Fascism in Ethiopia

Sebastien Roblin, National Interest (September 23, 2021): How Chinese Ballistic Missiles and Iranian Drones Popped Up In Ethiopia’s Civil War in Tigray

Bileh Jelan, Addis Stndard (September 21, 2021): Breaking: More opposition parties pull out of upcoming elections in Somali region

Somalia, Puntland Direct Local Elections: October 25, 2021 and Indirect Presidential Election: February 8, 2022 (tentative – 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 this has been pushed to February 8, 2022. Additional delays are possible.

Meanwhile, the self-declared autonomous state of Puntland plans to hold its first-ever direct local elections on October 25. More

Horn Diplomat (September 27, 2021): Somalia’s international partners visit Puntland for Discussions on Local and Federal Elections

BBC (September 26, 2021): Somalia: Seven killed in suicide attack near presidential palace

Miriam Berger, Washington Post (September 23, 2021): For three decades, no films were publicly screened in Somalia. Until now.

Omar S. Mahmood and Abdihakim Ainte, Foreign Policy (September 22, 2021): Could Somalia Be the Next Afghanistan? A similar rapid collapse of state institutions awaits if Somali elites and Western governments don’t alter their approach.

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

Gersende Rambourg and Susan Njanji, AFP (September 27, 2021): Local vote to challenge dominance of South Africa’s ANC

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

Abe Daramy, BBC (September 25, 2021): Gambia’s Jammeh pact bombshell: Treachery or reconciliation?

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

Mawunyo Hermann Boko, Jeune Afrique (September 23, 2021 – in French): Senegal: between young people and politicians, an insurmountable gap

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.

AFP (September 26, 2021): Mali elections could be postponed, prime minister tells AFP

Joseph Siegle and Daniel Eizenga, Africa Center for Strategic Studies (September 23, 2021): Russia’s Wagner Play Undermines the Transition in Mali

Chris Olaoluwa Ogunmodede, World Politics Review (September 23, 2021): The Wagner Group Is the Last Thing Mali Needs

Corinne Dufka, Human Rights Watch (September 22, 2021): Another Political Detention in Mali

AFP (September 21, 2021): France’s defence minister warns Mali against hiring Russian ‘mercenary’ firm

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

Estelle Mauisson, The Africa Report (September 23, 202): Angola: The battle between Lourenço and Costa Júnior is just beginning

South Sudan Elections: December 2022 (planned)

South Sudan plans to hold elections in December 2022, 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. The legislature’s mandate expired in 2015 (it had been elected in 2010, before independence), and has been extended several times. Additional election delays are possible.

Mantsadi Sepheka, AllAfrica (September 27, 2021): South Sudan: Elections Won’t End in ‘Miraculously’ Having Democracy, South Sudan Needs a Vision

Chad Elections: By December 2022 (tentative, post-coup)

Chad held a presidential election on April 11, 2021. President Idriss Déby, seized power in a rebellion in 1990, won a sixth term. However, on April 20, he was killed by rebels.

Although the country holds elections, there has never been a change in power by a free or fair vote. Long-delayed long-delayed parliamentary elections had been set for October 24, 2021 and local elections for April 2022. Originally due in 2015, the legislative elections have been delayed multiple times. However, Deby’s death could lead to further delays – the military has said it plans to rule the country for 18 months. More

Reuters (September 25, 2021): Chad plans to double army size to deal with security challenges

Al Jazeera (September 24, 2021): Chad’s military ruler Mahamat Deby names transitional parliament: The so-called National Transitional Council ‘will act as a national assembly of transition’ ahead of elections, statement says.

Eswatini Parliamentary Elections: August 2023 (due)

Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, is an absolute monarchy. The country does hold parliamentary elections, but the parliament does not actually have much power, and the elections are tightly controlled, without much choice for voters.

On June 20, 2021, a series of protests calling for democratic reform began. Protests continue.

Pariesa Young, France24 (September 27, 2021): Students walk out of classes in Eswatini’s ongoing pro-democracy movement

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.

Helen Reid, Reuters (September 14, 2021): EXCLUSIVE Congo in talks with China’s Huayou to end dispute over cobalt mine

Jevans Nyabiage, South China Morning Post (September 25, 2021): China, the US and a Twitter tit-for-tat over Congo cobalt contracts

IANS (September 24, 2021): China’s investment in Africa: Several countries cancel contracts on exploitative, unfair deals

Sudan General Elections: By 2024 (due)

Sudan plans to hold general elections by 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.

Michelle Gavin, Council on Foreign Relations (September 27, 2021): Thwarted Coup Signals Dangerous Times for Sudan’s Transition

Agencies/Times of Israel (September 26, 2021): Chief of Sudan’s ruling body pledges reforms to army following attempted coup: General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan says armed forces are committed to holding elections in 2023, ending the transitional period

Declan Walsh, New York Times (September 21, 2021): Sudan Leaders Say They Thwarted Coup Attempt by Loyalists of Former Dictator

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 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

Saliou Samb, Reuters (September 27, 2021): Guinea junta bars its members from running in next elections

David Zounmenou, ISS Today (September 24, 2021): Can coups be removed from Guinea’s political culture?

Laurent Lozano and Mouctar Bah, AFP (September 24, 2021): In Guinea opposition bastion, hopes for a brighter future

The Africa Report (September 22, 2021): Guinea: Can Doumbouya lead the country in a peaceful transition?

Ovigwe Eguegu, The Diplomat (September 21, 2021): Does Guinea’s Coup Matter to China?

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.

Larry Madowo, CNN (September 25, 2021): Zambia’s Hakainde Hichilema ran for president five times and lost. Now he’s basking in glow of historic win

Somaliland Parliamentary and Local Elections: May 31, 2021

Somaliland held its long-overdue parliamentary and local elections on May 31, 2021. The two main opposition parties, Waddani and UCID, together won more seats in parliament than the governing Kulmiye party. Waddani and UCID will team up to choose a parliament speaker and on local councils (where they also won). Somaliland is a presidential system, so there’s no PM. President Muse Bihi Abdi from Kulmiye remains head of state. But it is significant for democracy that the opposition won the “midterms.”

Somaliland has de facto but not internationally-recognized independence from Somalia, and has a much more developed democracy, with direct elections. More

Andres Schipani, Financial Times (September 27, 2021): Somaliland battles for recognition after 30 years’ fending for itself: Despite stable elections and a functional state, self-declared nation struggles to win global acceptance

Abdulkadir Khalif, The East African (September 24, 2021): Somalia: Somaliland Protests Against Election of Representatives to Somalia Senate

Benin Presidential Election: April 11, 2021

Benin held a presidential election on April 11, 2021. Incumbent Patrice Talon won a second term after largely keeping the opposition off the ballot. Previously a model democracy in the region,  Benin has seen democratic decline since Talon’s election in 2016. More

Africanews/AFP (September 22, 2021): Benin President meets rival and predecessor Boni Yayi

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 

Jack Losh, BBC (September 22, 2021): Central African Republic war: No-go zones and Russian meddling

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

By Takudzwa Hillary Chiwanza, The African Exponent (September 26, 2021): Here is How Didier Drogba’s Influence Ended Civil War In Ivory Coast: Didier Drogba is a name that resonates with millions of football fans across the world

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. However, arrests of opposition figures continue. More

Abdul Halim, The Africa Report (September 22, 2021): Tanzania: ‘Freeman Mbowe’s case has been unfair since day one’ says leading human rights activist

Hadija Jumanne and James Magai, The Citizen Tanzania (September 21, 2021): Witness ‘stunned’ to hear about Mbowe’s charges

Cameroon Municipal, Legislative, and Regional Elections: February 9, 2020 (delayed from October 2019)

Cameroon holds elections, but President Paul Biya, at age 85 the oldest ruler in Africa, 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.

Franck Foute, The Africa Report (September 27, 2021): Cameroon: What will President Paul Biya’s regime do with its opponents?

Human Rights Watch (September 22, 2021): Cameroon: Repression Marks Crackdown Anniversary

Mozambique Presidential, Legislative, and Provincial Elections: October 15, 2019

Mozambique held elections in October 2019 amid several crises, including political violence, natural disasters, and an Islamist insurgency.

Baz Ratner and Shafiek Tassiem, Reuters (September 25, 2021): Mozambicans return to uncertain future after Islamists pushed back

Sérgio Chichava and Henry Tugendhat, War on the Rocks (September 23, 2021): Al-Shabaab and Chinese trade practices in Mozambique

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.

Most recently, Paul Rusesabagina, who saved many lives during the genocide and subsequently was depicted in the film Hotel Rwanda, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on charges that critics decried as politically motivated.

The Economist (September 27, 2021): How does Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s president, get away with it? Even as evidence of the brutality and thuggishness of his rule mounts up, the West continues to support him

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.

Human Rights Watch (September 27, 2021): Rwanda: Round Ups-Linked to Commonwealth Meeting

Regional Analysis

Joseph Siegle, Africa Center for Strategic Studies (September 24, 2021): Russia in Africa: Undermining Democracy through Elite Capture

Chrispin Mwakideu, DW (September 24, 2021): UN General Assembly: Africa’s leaders push for unity

Tamara White, Brookings Institution (September 23, 2021): Figure of the week: Internet freedom in sub-Saharan Africa declines

Karoli Ssemogerere, Daily Monitor Uganda (September 23, 2021): How presidential transitions will map African destiny

Africa Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

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

Cabo Verde Presidential Election: October 17, 2021

Somalia, Direct Local Elections in Puntland: October 25, 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 23, 2021

Somalia Indirect Presidential and Legislative Elections: February 8, 2022 (Tentative, following numerous delays – additional delays possible)

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

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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