Africa This Week: December 13, 2021

December 13, 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.

The Wassu Stone Circles in Niani district, Gambia. The Senegamiban stone circles comprise the largest concentration of stone circles anywhere in the world. Photo credit: Wikimedia/shaunamullally (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Upcoming Africa Elections

Senegal Local Elections: January 31, 2022, followed by legislative elections in 2022 and a presidential election in 2024

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. Long considered a stable democracy, some backsliding has been taking place under President Macky Sall, who has been accused of prosecuting his political opponents on politically-motivated charges. Consequently, Senegal saw violent protests in March 2021 following rape charges against former opposition leader Ousmane Sonko. Some are concerned that Sall could attempt to seek an unconstitutional third term, especially if his allies win another majority in the 2022 legislative elections.

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. More

Mawunyo Hermann Boko, Jeune Afrique (December 11, 2021 – in French): Senegal: post of prime minister officially re-established

Marc Perelman, France 24 (December 9, 2021 – in French, with video): Khalifa Sall, Senegalese opposition and former mayor of Dakar: “I will be a presidential candidate in 2024”

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. 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.

Mali’s location in the Sahel makes it a geopolitical hotspot, with rising Islamist insurgent activity and terrorism. Keita had close ties with France, and Mali remains part of Operation Barkhane, a French military counterterrorism operation. However, the interim governments have bolstered ties with Russia and have reached out to the Wagner Group, a mercenary outfit with close links to the Kremlin.

RFI (December 13, 2021): West African bloc ECOWAS warns of sanctions if Mali misses election deadline

AFP (December 12, 2021): Mali Leader Promises Election Timetable by Jan 31

Henry Foy, Financial Times (December 10, 2021): EU to impose sanctions against Russian mercenary group Wagner: Measures will include asset freezes and travel bans in response to activities in Syria, Ukraine and Africa

Marc Perelman and Franck Alexandre, France24 (December 7, 2021): Russian mercenaries in Mali would be ‘unacceptable’: French defence minister

Burkina Faso Local Elections: May 2022 (due)

Burkina Faso is due to hold local elections in May 2022. These follow presidential and parliamentary elections on November 22, 2020, in the context of a growing security crisis (in Burkina Faso in particular and in the broader Sahel region), as well as political uncertainty as the country’s democrats seek to consolidate the young, fragile democracy. President Roch Marc Christian Kabore won re-election. More

Anne Mimault, Reuters (December 13, 2021): As conflict stalks Burkina Faso borderlands, hunger spreads

Al Jazeera (December 11, 2021): Burkina Faso president names Lassina Zerbo as prime minister: The 58-year-old geophysicist is to take office amid rising popular discontent over deadly violence in the country.

AFP (December 8, 2021): Burkina Faso PM resigns following protests over jihadist violence

Henry Wilkins, Voice of America (December 3, 2021): Burkina Faso’s 1.3M Displaced People Increasingly Fall Victim to Terrorists

Henry Wilkins, Voice of America (November 29, 2021): Protesters, Angry at Insecurity, Call for Burkina Faso’s President to Resign

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.

Because of the crises in neighboring Ethiopia and Somalia, Kenya plays an important role in the region. In addition, Kenya has been an important partner to the United States and other countries on counterterrorism.

AFP (December 11, 2021): Raila Odinga: Kenya’s diehard presidential hopeful

Al Jazeera (December 10, 2021): Kenyan opposition leader Odinga announces fifth bid for president

Aaron Erlich, The Conversation (December 6, 2021): Vote buying is a big problem in Kenya. How to curb it before the 2022 elections

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

Al Jazeera (December 11, 2021): Angola ruling party backs President Joao Lourenco for second term: MPLA leader, who succeeded Jose Eduardo dos Santos as president in 2017, will contest next year’s poll.

BBC (December 10, 2021): Isabel dos Santos: Angolan billionaire hit with US visa restrictions

Julia Payne, Reuters (December 9, 2021): U.S. adds former Angolan General Dino to sanctions list

Africanews (December 6, 2021): Angolan opposition re-elect Adalberto Costa Junior as leader

AFP (December 5, 2021): Angola Opposition Party Re-Elects Adalberto Costa After Ousting By Court

Equatorial Guinea Parliamentary Elections: November 2022 (due) and Presidential Election: April 2023 (due)

Equatorial Guinea is due to hold elections in 2022 and 2023. Elections the country have been neither free nor fair. Current president Teodoro Obiang seized power in a coup in 1979 and has ruled ever since. He presides over one of the most brutal regimes in Africa.

Equatorial Guinea discovered oil in the 1990s, and has since become one of the biggest oil producers in the region. Nonetheless, much of the population still lives in poverty.

Fred Harter, Times of London (December 6, 2021): US concerns after China targets Equatorial Guinea for Atlantic naval base

Michael M. Phillips, Wall Street Journal (December 5, 2021): China Seeks First Military Base on Africa’s Atlantic Coast, U.S. Intelligence Finds: Alarmed officials at the White House and Pentagon urge Equatorial Guinea to rebuff Beijing’s overtures

Zimbabwe General Elections: July 2023 (due)

Zimbabwe is due to hold elections in 2023. These 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. However, democracy continues to face many challenges in Zimbabwe.

Chipo Dendere, Mail and Guardian (December 13, 2021): To win in 2023, Zimbabwe’s opposition will have to court the military

Farai Shawn Matiashe, The Africa Report (December 3, 2021): Zimbabwe: Is Zanu PF imploding ahead of the 2023 elections?

Peter Fabricius, Daily Maverick (November 29, 2021): Accusations and bullets fly in Zimbabwe as MDC-A allege assassination attempts by Zanu-PF

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.

The Economist (December 9, 2021): Congo’s president has not kept his word: From free schools to peace in the east, Félix Tshisekedi has failed to deliver

Sudan General Elections: By 2024 (due – unclear following coup)

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.

Reuters (December 4, 2021): Sudan’s Burhan Says Military Will Exit Politics After 2023 Elections

Al Jazeera (December 6, 2021): Sudan police fire tear gas as thousands protest against military: Demonstrators in different locations across Khartoum and other cities voice their rejection of the military deal reached last month.

Past Africa Elections

Gambia Presidential Election: December 4, 2021

Gambia held 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. Jammeh sought to influence this election from exile (he is currently in Equatorial Guinea). Although Jammeh and Barrow had previously made a controversial pre-election deal, they abandoned it and Jammeh ultimately called on voters to oust Barrow, who nonetheless won re-election by a large margin.

However, even though international observers and Gambian civil society organizations have called the vote credible, some opposition candidates are challenging the results. More

Pap Saine, Reuters (December 13, 2021): Gambia opposition files legal challenge to election result

Niklas Hultin, The Conversation (December 9, 2021): What Barrow’s re-election means for The Gambia

AFP (December 8, 2021): US hails Gambian elections after Barrow victory

David Coffey with RFI (December 7, 2021): Gambia’s losing presidential candidate calls for calm as opposition contests election result

Pap Saine, Reuters (December 7, 2021): Gambia police disperse protesters contesting president’s re-election

Alieu Sanneh, The Conversation (December 7, 2021): The Gambia’s 55-year-old marbles voting system is simple but difficult to cheat

Abdoulie John, AP (December 5, 2021): Gambia President Barrow wins re-election in post-Jammeh vote

Reuters (December 4, 2021): Gambians vote with marbles in key test for stability

Sarah Sahko, France24 (December 2, 2021): Ex-president Yahya Jammeh’s victims still waiting for justice ahead of Gambia polls

South Africa Local Elections: November 1, 2021

South Africa held local elections on November 1, 2021. Voters elected councils for all municipalities in each of the country’s nine provinces. The elections took place in the context of unrest following the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma for corruption. In that vein, the ruling African National Congress had its worst election result since the end of apartheid, gaining less than 50 percent of the vote. More

Carin Runciman and Martin Bekker, The Conversation (December 8, 2021): Here are five factors that drove low voter turnout in South Africa’s 2021 elections

Editorial Board, Financial Times (December 5, 2021): South Africa is slowly edging towards a post-ANC future: After gains in local elections, opposition needs pro-growth policies

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.

Chiwoyu Sinyangwe, The Africa Report (December 9, 2021): Zambia: Hichilema’s first 100 days, a clash of expectations and reality

Sishuwa Sishuwa, African Arguments (December 2, 2021): The good, the bad and the alarming: Hichilema’s first 100 days in Zambia

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

BBC (December 12, 2021): Reckya Madougou: Opposition leader jailing damages Benin democracy – lawyer

AFP (December 11, 2021): Benin opposition leader Reckya Madougou sentenced to 20 years in prison

Africa Elections Coming Up in 2021 and 2022

Somalia, Indirect Legislative Elections: Ongoing

Senegal Local Elections: January 23, 2022

Somalia Indirect Presidential Election: 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)

Central African Republic Local Elections: September 2022 (due – delays possible)

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

Equatorial Guinea Parliamentary Elections: November 2022 (due)

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