African elections - just democrazy!
More than half a century ago European colonial powers started to cede control over their African colonies opening the door for independence. This move towards black majority rule was applauded by the US and the international community. However, with this handing of sovereignty back to African nations all that has really changed is that white minority rule has now been replaced by black minority rule, the new APARTHEID. This objectionable discrimination brooks no protests in the West this time round yet all Black Lives Matter!
It is a
regrettable fact that in the intervening 50-60 years since independence
swept over the African continent, only on TWENTY-EIGHT occasions* have
ruling parties lost in presidential/leadership elections in the 48 countries
which comprise the land mass of Africa. That is a staggering stat! That
is worth repeating:
Though elections are held periodically in most African nations they are largely meaningless and rarely offer citizens the freedom to choose who leads them. This is because rulers/governing parties are addicted to power and are singularly adept at holding on to control through a combination of harassment of opponents, vote buying, ballot rigging, excluding opposition candidates from the ballot as well as getting the dead to vote! And for anyone brave enough to challenge the establishment in African elections you might just as well jump into a river of crocodiles for they will be after your blood, you are going to need bait, you are swimming against the tide and you are likely to get hurt!
At the same time, the opposition is often fragmented meaning there is no single group to get right behind to try to leverage change. And the former president of the Republic of Congo, Pascal Lissouba, could be said to have publicly admitted to all this when he said that 'one does not organise elections to end up on the losing side.' Tanzanian Foreign Minister, Benjamin Memba, also underlined this sham when he stated recently that 'in Africa, when it comes to elections, irregularities and errors are a given.'
Little wonder, then, that ruling elites are perpetuated in power no matter how contemptuously they govern for there is nothing to prevent them doing so. Certainly not the African Union, whose own constitution even espouses democracy and free elections, as it is controlled by all the heads of African governments who want to stay in power for as long as possible. And certainly not western governments who, although they preach to their African counterparts about the need for free and fair elections and are even happy to finance them, rarely take governments to task for the way they monopolise power. And certainly not the United Nations whose 193 members, the latest being the unfortunate and war-torn South Sudan in 2011, may have signed the UN Declaration of Human Rights but which all too many prefer to ignore. As a result, in Africa, more governments are toppled through popular uprisings/military coups - in August 2020 in Mali; in April 2019 in Algeria and Sudan; in November 2017 in Zimbabwe; in January 2016 in The Gambia; in October 2014 in Burkina Faso; in 2013 in Central African Republic and Egypt; in 2012 in Mali and Guinea-Bissau; in 2010 in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Niger; in 2009 in Madagascar and in 2008 in Guinea and Mauritania - than through the ballot box.
It is this
unchallenged rule and the lack of censure from within or without which
is the principal factor as to why, today, Africa is the home of many of
the world's longest serving autocrats, forever presidents/leaders, some
of whom have been in power for over 40 years:
According to 'African Insiders', the typical African political leader is old, male and in many cases of questionable legitimacy. Of the 90 presidents, prime ministers and other top ranking politicians on the continent, only two are female. The median age is 62 years, compared to a median age of 19 for the entire population of the continent. Of the 54 politicians who can be considered to lead their countries, 24 originally came to power under extra-constitutional circumstances like coups and fraudulent elections, changed constitutional term limits to their own benefit, or were preceded by a close relative, usually their father, in office. And perhaps the most striking aspect of all this is that there is a complete lack of women in the continent's leadership.
A survey of public opinion across Africa in April, 2015 showed that nearly 3 in 4 Africans want their presidents to serve no more than 2 terms in office. However, how many leaders care what their people think! Therefore, in order to get round this limiting procedure constitutional coup d'etats are starting to take place. In July 2015, in Burundi, President Pierre Nkurunziza bulldozed his way to serving as president for at least another 5 years by ignoring the constitution and 'winning' a ballot that the opposition boycotted. Since then a referendum in May 2018 found 73% of the electorate voting to allow Nkurunziza to stand for 2 more 7 year terms after his current mandate expires which could see him extend his 'reign' until 2034. (Nkurunziza finally was persuaded to step down before the election in May 2020 and has since died.) The same happened in Rwanda, Congo Republic and Guinea whilst in Uganda and Sudan members of parliament saved the citizens the trouble though people power later brushed al Bashir aside in Sudan in April 2019.
Now longevity of rule would not matter so much if these governments were inclusive with the goal of seeking to improve the lives of all of their people by delivering on economic growth, strong institutions of state, good governance, social welfare and human rights. However, the majority of regimes in the world's poorest continent by far, are more concerned with looking after the interests of their families and friends, amassing personal fortunes and selling off the country's natural resources to the highest bidder. No wonder then that the majority of Africans today are still subsistence farmers scratching a living from the soil as they have done since biblical times. Perhaps Black Lives Matter less in Africa!
In some countries, though, a few green shoots of democracy have started to appear and ruling parties have relinquished power. But this has only happened in a few countries like Ghana, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Benin, Zambia, Senegal, Lesotho, Nigeria and just recently The Gambia and Liberia. And with freely elected governments in only 10 out of 48 nations after a period of half a century, the holding of elections in too much of Africa only seeks to give legitimacy to one party rule and is surely a waste of everyone's time, effort and money. For until things change, for the European Union and the US to continue to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into supporting fatuous elections in most of Africa is just 'democrazy'. Instead the West would be far better off encouraging improved leadership and bureaucratic competence in all developing countries through the targeting of overseas aid and practical support at the better governed countries.(see RECOMMENDATIONS)
Nevertheless, although the chances of change at the ballot box are few, for record purposes, just1WORLD will produce below a timetable of forthcoming leadership elections in African nations. As each country's election draws closer we shall show what happened in the previous election and present the main opposition candidates/parties in the contest about to be fought. After the election we shall give the result and report the findings of the 'international' election observers which will undoubtedly be along the lines of that, although there were problems in certain areas, the election itself probably reflected the will of the people.
(Only 3 nations in Africa do NOT currently hold leadership elections - Eritrea, Morocco and Eswatini, formerly Swaziland, the last two being ruled by monarchs. In Africa, men/women are allowed to vote at 18 in all countries except in Cameroon, Central African Republic and Gabon where the voting age is 21. However, in Sudan the voting age is 17)
NEXT LEADERSHIP ELECTION 2021
March 21 - Congo Republic - just ahead of Christmas President Denis Sassou-Nguesso was officially nominated by the ruling Parti Congolais du Travail as its candidate in this election. He has been in power since 1997 and will be seeking a fourth term. In the 2016 election Sassou-Nguesso took 60% of the vote. According to the Catholic bishops the Republic of Congo voter roll includes dead people and lacks an independent and credible electoral commission. Citing doubts about the organsiation and safety several opposition candidates pulled out ahead of the February 7 election registration deadline. The bishops went on to say that the people are tired of elections which merely weaken social cohesion and tarnish our country's image abroad. What people need is safe water, electricity, health, transport and education and for the government to fight corruption, injustice and impunity. There is a rumour that the president is grooming his son Denis Christel to succeed him.
FUTURE LEADERSHIP ELECTIONS 2021
April 9 - Djibouti - run-off April 23. In 2016 Ismail Guelleh had the 'trust' of 87% of the voters. He has been in power since 1999.
April 10 - Chad - a constitutional amendment passed in 2018 allows President Idriss Deby to remain in office until 2033 if he wishes and voters agree! (Presidential term now 6 years) He is willing to stand again for the Patriotic Salvation Movement. Deby (68) celebrated 30 years in power in 2020. In the 2016 election Deby coasted home with 61.6% of the vote in a field of 14 candidates. The AU praised the way the election was run. Main opposition candidate Saleh Kebzabo has pulled out of the race accusing Deby of using force to intimidate his rivals. Another opposition candidate Yaya Dillo has been interviewed in his home by the security forces. 12 small opposition parties are hoping to field a joint single candidate as part of an Alliance Victoire. He is Theophile Bongoro, a notary who has never fought an election. One of the world's poorest countries where, according to World Food Programme, two-thirds of the people live in abject poverty. At the same time corruption and nepotism are rife says Freedom House. Given his track record over 30 years you would have to be mad to vote for more of the same but others will argue that he has at least held the nation together and is an essential Western ally in the fight against Islamist militias.
April 11 - Benin - although President Patrick Talon said when elected for the first time in 2016 he would remain in government for only one term, his candidacy for a second term is almost certain. In 2016 Talon, a former businessman, surprised many by coming from nowhere to garner 24.8% of the vote just behind the ruling party candidate Lionel Zinsou who finished with 28.4%. In the following runoff Talon finished strongly gaining 65% of the vote in a rare defeat for a ruling party in Africa. Should a runoff be required this time it will be held on May 9.
April 18 - Cape Verde Islands - National Assembly elections. Prime Minister Ulisses da Silva will stand again for the Movement for Democracy (MpD) party. He became PM in 2016 defeating Janira Almada of the African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV) by 54% of the vote to 37%. The role of president in Cape Verde is largely representative and above party politics.
May 31 - Somaliland - Parliament
June 5 - Ethiopia (postponed from Aug 2020) - in the 2015 election Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democracy Front (EPRDF) won 547 seats out of 547 in the Ethiopian parliament making the country an one-party state! In February 2018 he stepped down in response to the fallout from mass protests and unrest which had started in 2016. The new prime minister was named as Abiy Ahmed who made a point of ending the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea by making an historic visit there almost immediately. For this he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. He also released political prisoners and promised fair elections. At the same time he plans to liberalise the economy introducing a spate of privatisations of state-run sectors such as energy and telecommunications and the eventual opening up of the financial sector. The EPRDF, whose 4 core parties have controlled the state for 3 decades, is being replaced by a single national party - the Prosperity Party - that also appears to absorb ruling parties from the five regions not governed by EPRDF parties. However, one of the core parties, the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) is going it alone. Tigray also went ahead and and had the election in August 2020 which resulted in a big win for the TPLF. The party subsequently set up a government in the province to which Addis took exception to and promptly sent in troops. Tigray fell to the Ethiopian army which is now seeking the whereaboutsof the TPLF leaders. Many Tigrayans fled to Sudan. The EU has suspended nearly ¤90m in budget support payments to Ethiopia due to concerns over the crisis. As many as 140 parties will contest 547 seats for parliament when the election is held.
June - Sao Tome/Principe - presidential election.
July 12 - South Sudan - (postponed from 2018) the last election was in 2011 when Salva Kir won a landslide victory in this country's first election. Since then civil war has erupted causing death and destruction forcing many to flee their homes all because of the sacking of Vice-President Riek Machar. At the same time 4.8 million people - half the population - are facing extreme hunger. This inexcusable self-immolation was not what was meant to be when the country voted for independence from Sudan in January 2011.
August 12 - Zambia - in 2020 Zambia became the first African country to default on its foreign debt since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic began.
December 4 - Gambia - despite promising to step down after one term, President Adama Barrow launched his new political party, the National People's Party, in early 2021 claiming it is the party for all categories, based on the notion of true democratic and patriotic citizenship. Based on a coalition of 7 opposition parties, Barrow won the December 2016 presidential election ending 22 years of oppression under Yahya Jammeh. Jammeh is now safely in Equatorial Guinea enjoying the fruits of his longevity in power.
December 24 - Libya - the country has been torn apart by civil war since the overthrow and death of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 which led to the country being divided into east and west. This election has been postponed many times due to internal strife. General Khalifa Hafter, Libya's most powerful military commander and Faiez Serraj, head of the UN-backed government of national accord in the west of the country, have at last negotiated a peace (2/21) which should end to the 3 year civil war. An interim president and PM have both been sworn in who will hold the fort. All sides have agreed in principle to hold presidential along with parliamentary elections on December 24 - the 70th anniversary of the country's independence in 1951.
2021 - Somalia - (postponed from Feb 8) presidential elections in 2009, 2012 and 2017 were decided when 14,000 clan delegates voted in 329 lawmakers who then elected a president. However, the president, Mohamed Farmaajo, in February 2020 signed a bill which will allow ordinary Somalis to vote in parliamentary elections. It will be the first time since 1969 that a one-person/one vote election has taken place. Under this system Somalis will vote directly for parties with the 275 parliamentary seats being allocated according to final tallies. 55 Senate members will also be elected. Members of parliament will then elect the president and prime minister. The PM must come from the majority party in parliament. Somalia faces major logistical hurdles to achieve this vote as parts of the country are controlled by the Islamist militant group al-Shabab which has promised to disrupt the vote stating that voting is a crime against Islam. All of this when peacekeeping Ethiopian and US forces have recently been withdrawn although US Africa Command can still target al-Shabab bases from outside the country. At the same time relations between the federal government and local administrations remain tense and has precluded a national army being set up. Also in the mix is that Somaliland and Puntland are basically functioning independent entities although people in Puntland will vote in this election. Among those standing for president are incumbent Mohamed Farmaajo; Abdihabib Warsame, Hayaan Party, who has a PhD in political science; ex-President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud; ex-President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed; former Premier Hassan Khaire; former Planning Minister Abdirahman Abdishakur and Abdikarim Guled. No former president has ever been re-elected. But whoever wins the presidency will grasp a poisoned chalice. For until the clan leaders step back to allow properly elected MPs and a president to take full control Somalia is going to remain in a spiral of darkness. Time for the African Union then to start to take an interest. But we all know that is not going to happen! Somalia is in such a state of disorganisation that none of the above votes timetabled to take place will happen on time. And no one inside or outside the country seems to care.
2022 November 1 - Sudan - after the removal of President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 power is jointly held by a transitional government of the military and civilians. This is scheduled to move to civilian control next year with elections for a full civilian government set for 2022. Sudan previously was a military dictatorship.
PREVIOUS LEADERSHIP ELECTIONS 2021
Feb 21 - Niger - runoff between the two leading candidates from the presidential election on December 27: Mohamed Bazoum (60) from the ruling Parti Nigerien pour la Democratie et le Socialisme (PNDS) who scored 39.3% and former president Mahamane Ousmane (70) of the main opposition CDS Party who scored 17%. Adhering to the constitution Mahamadou Issoufou is stepping down as president after two terms paving the way for a peaceful transition of power for the first time in Niger. According to the UN Niger is the poorest nation in the world. Out of a population of 23 million only 7.4 million are eligible to vote - the rest aren't old enough! In a close encounter for the presidency Mohamed Bazoum won 55.75% of the vote against 44.25% for Mahamane Ousmane.
January 14 - Uganda - in the 2016 election Dr Kizza Besigye, of the Forum for Democratic Change, challenged President Museveni for the 4th time and failed to win for the 4th time. However, this time Besigye is under pressure to step down. The mantle of the main opposition is now likely to come from 38 year-old Bobi Wine, a pop star turned politician, who is desperate to challenge President Museveni (76) in this election. Born Robert Kyagulanyi, the 6th child of the 4th wife of a Catholic yet polygamous father, he adopted his Christian name to pay homage to his idol Bob Marley and his surname to Wine 'because I shall probably get better with age.' He has formed a new party, National Unity Platform, with an umbrella as its emblem. The musician has been arrested several times and almost beaten to death as he has tried to win the support of the young who are becoming increasingly disillusioned with Museveni's imperious rule. This has been made even more difficult as he is not permitted to campaign outside Kampala by the state security forces. The under-25s make up 77% of the population of 43 million in a nation where 42% of the population live in poverty at the international banchmark of US$1.90 per day. At the same time only half the children complete primary education. It is going to be a tough call for Wine (38) to win as Museveni (82), who has ruled this country for 34 inglorious years, will have the apparatus of state lined up in his favour. He will also coerce or bribe wherever he can. But as Wine says bribery will not put medicines in hospitals or bring clean water to shanty towns or improve country roads. But as we say above, and this is certainly true in Uganda, anyone brave enough to challenge the establishment in African elections might just as well jump into a river of crocodiles for they will be after your blood, you are going to need bait, you are swimming against the tide and you are likely to get hurt! As such the Wine will need to be fortified! Museveni will face 10 other candidates in the race for the presidency including one woman Nancy Kalembe. If no candidate gets 50% of the votes cast, a run-off will take place in mid February. 529 MPs will also be elected. Electorate 18.1m. This is turning out to be one of the most violent elections since the 1980s and the ruling National Resistance Movement looks rattled by the appeal of Bobi Wine. In a recent opinion poll fewer than half the voters expected the 2021 election to be completely free and fair. Just before and during voting the internet conveniently was shut down by the government. Inevitably, when the final result was announced, Museveni had the lead with 58.6% of the votes followed by Bobi Wine on 34.8%. Turnout was 57%. Only the African Union monitored the vote. Wine alleged widespread fraud and violence. The US, a major donor to Uganda, cancelled its diplomatic observer mission to the country stating that the majority of its staff had been denied permission to monitor polling sites. The US State Department said the vote occurred in an environment of intimidation of fear.
just1world has been following leadership elections in Africa since 2004.
BELOW ARE THE DETAILS OF THE ONLY 28 OCCASIONS, SINCE INDEPENDENCE, WHEN RULING PARTIES HAVE BEEN DEFEATED IN LEADERSHIP ELECTIONS ON THE LAND CONTINENT OF AFRICA WHICH CURRENTLY COMPRISES 48 COUNTRIES:-
1. 1967 SOMALIA Aden Abdullah Osman Daar was elected
the countrys first president in 1960 after independence. In the
presidential election in 1967 he was defeated by Abdirashid Ali Shermarke,
his former prime minister, making him the first leader in Africa to peacefully
hand over power to a democratically elected successor. And it was a long
wait until the next time.
9. 2000 COTE D'IVOIRE - in a 1999 coup General Robert
Guei came to power but in the subsequent poll his attempt to claim victory
led to an uprising which carried the poll's victor, Laurent Gbagbo, to
20. 2015 Feb LESOTHO - in a closely fought election Prime Minister Thomas Thabane of the All Basotha Convention lost out in this 'early' election gaining only 46 seats to former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and the Democratic Congress who got 47 seats. And with the support of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy and smaller parties Mosisili secured the premiership which he held between 1998 and 2012.
21. 2015 Mar NIGERIA - former miltary leader General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress defeats incumbent Goodluck Jonathan of the People's Democratic Party by 15.4 million votes to 12.9 million. Buhari, president from 1983-5, united the opposition to forge a major single opposing party and along with security concerns over Boko Harem and widespread dissatisfaction with the PDP, romped home to a convincing vistory.
22. 2016 Mar BENIN - Prime Minister Lionel Zinsou taking over the mantle of leadership of the Forces Cauris party from retiring President Boni Yayi went down by 65% to 35% in a run-off against businessman Patrice Talon.
23. 2016 Dec GAMBIA - President Yahya Jammeh, in power since 1994, loses to a coalition of seven opposition parties under the leadership of property developer Adama Barrow. Barrow scored 43.3% of the votes cast to Jammeh's 39.6%.
24. 2016 Dec GHANA - opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo, at the third attempt, won the presidency defeating John Mahama by 53.9% to 44.4%. Mahama, 72, was formerly a justice and foreign minister and a human rights lawyer. This marks the third time in 16 years that Ghana has changed its government.
25. 2017 Dec LIBERIA - with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf adhering to the constitution and stepping down after 2 terms, George Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change defeats Vice-President Joseph Bokai of the governing Unity Party by 61.5% to 38.5% of the vote to become president.
26. 2018 Mar SIERRA ELONE - with Ernest Koroma keeping to the constitution and standing down after 2 terms, Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People's Party defeated Dr Samura Bio of the ruling All Peoples Congress Party in a run-off by 52% to 48%.
27. 2018 Dec DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO - with term limits preventing Joseph Kabila from entering this presidential election, the ruling party nominated Emmanuel Shadary to fight in his place. He came third in the poll behind the winner Felix Tshisekedi who won with 39% of the vote ahead of Martin Fayulu with 35%. First time power changed hands democratically in the DRC. But with Kabila's political coalition winning a decisive majority in parliament he now has the power to 'control' his successor and is doing so! It is estimated that Fayulu actually won 60% of the vote here.
28. 2020 Jun - MALAWI - after the constitutional court annulled the result of the disputed 2019 presidential poll because of irregularities, in the rerun, Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party came back from the dead to defeat President Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party by winning 59% of the votes cast against 39%.