African elections - just democrazy!
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this handing of sovereignty back to African nations all that has really changed is that white minority rule has now been replaced by black minority rule, the new APARTHEID
It is a regrettable fact that in the intervening 50 years since independence swept over the African continent, only on TWENTY-FOUR occasions* have ruling parties lost in presidential/leadership elections in the 48 countries which comprise the land mass of Africa.
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 governing parties are singularly adept at holding on to power through a combination of harassment of opponents, vote buying, ballot rigging along with an often fragmented opposition. And the former president of the Republic of Congo, Pascal Lissouba, publicly admitted such when he said that 'one does not organise elections to end up on the losing side.' Tanzanian Foreign Minister, Benjamin Memba, also owned up to 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 poorly 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 South Sudan, 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 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, some of whom have been in power for more than 35 years - Jose dos Santos in Angola and Obiang Nguema in Equatorial Guinea since 1979, Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe since 1980, and Paul Biya in Cameroon since 1982. At the same time, in Togo and Gabon, with sons taking over from fathers, the same families have ruled these two nations since 1967 - half a century.
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 so 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. Denis Sassou Nguesso also secured his longevity as president of the Congo Republic after a sham referendum. And it is not impossible that President Joseph Kabila in DRC will attempt the same this summer.
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, 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.
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 with freely elected governments in only 9 out of 48 nations after a period of half a century, the holding of these elections only seeks to give legitimacy to one party rule and is surely a waste of everyone's time, effort and money. For until economic progress leads to a strong middle class in each country, 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 better governance 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 low, for record purposes, just1WORLD will produce 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 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
August 4 - Rwanda - having successfully won a constitutional referendum extending term limits President Paul Kagame will have no trouble winning the country's leadership for a third term of 7 years. Thereafter he will still be eligible for 2 more terms of 5 years. That should see Rwanda with settled leadership until 2034. In the last election in 2010 he won with 93% of the vote. Kagame is an inspiring example to other African leaders in trying every which way to grow the Rwandan economy, clamp down on corruption and to help his people to move forward. And in a free election there is little doubt he would swoop back to power. It's just that he can't believe that and so attacks and intimidates his opponents.
FUTURE LEADERSHIP ELECTIONS 2017
August 8 - Kenya - Uhuru Kenyatta will stand for a second and final 5 year term. He is likely to be challenged by a candidate from a combined opposition. In the 2013 election Kenyatta scored 50.07% of the votes cast in the first round against Raila Odinga, the then prime minister, with 43.31%. The result was seriously contested by Odinga. Kenyatta is the son of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's first president.
August - Angola - in the 2012 election Jose dos Santos and his Movement Popular for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) gained 72% of the votes cast ahead of Isaias Samakuva and Unita with 19%. Dos Santos (74) is set to step down here after being in power since 1979 handing over the reins to Joao Lourenco, the current defence minister, who is considered a moderate. Dos Santos though will remain leader of the influential ruling party. Under the new constitution the president is chosen by parliament and can only serve 2 x 5 year terms.
October 10 - Liberia - having served two terms Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is poised to stand down leaving the way open for what should be a tight race. George Weah, 1995 FIFA and European footballer of the year, and Johnson-Sirleaf's opponent in 2005, is poised to head up a coalition of three opposition parties. For his running mate seems to have chosen Jewel Howard-taylor, ex-wife of Charles Taylor, ex-president and warlord who ruled Liberia for 13 years from 1990 to 2003. Taylor is currently serving 50 years in jail for war crimes during Sierra Leone's civil war.
November - Sierra Leone - President Ernest Koroma will step down at this election having served the mandatory two terms. In the 2012 election Koroma and his All People's Congress secured 59% of the vote in defeating Julius Bao of the Sierra Leone People's Party with 37%. For any one candidate to win in the first round he/she must secure 55% of the vote.
By December 31 - Democratic Republic of Congo - at the end of 2016 there was an agreement that President Joseph Kabila, having served the maximum of two terms allowed by the constitution, would step down by the end of this year and allow an election to appoint his successor. The presidential election ought to have taken place in December 2016 but Kabila used an out-of-date election register to prolong his tenure. This register started to be updated in March, 2016 and will take more than 1 year to complete. In a hotly disputed election in 2011 Joseph Kabila triumphed winning 49% of the vote against Etienne Tshisekedi, leader of the opposition, with 32% to win a second and final term as president. The US, France, Belgium and Carter Centre all agreed that the poll was seriously flawed. Since the agreement in December 2016, Etienne Tshisekedi has died prompting speculation that Kabila may back-track on what was agreed. And this was further underlined when the budget minister announced that it would be impossible to find the US$1.5bn!!! needed to hold an election. Kabila, not unexpectedly, is about to dig his heels in and continue in power. Over to the African Union then.
PREVIOUS LEADERSHIP ELECTION 2017
February 8 - Somalia - postponed from December 28 - postponed from November 30 - postponed from October 30 due to clan disputes, security threats and unpreparedness. Most of the members of the 275-member Lower House of parliament and the 54-seat Upper House were sworn in on December 15. When the remainder have been sworn in a speaker will then be elected. The federal parliament will then try to elect a new president on January 24. In the process more than 14,000 delegates representing Somalia clans will have cast their votes for members of the Lower House, while the regional states will have selected members of the Upper House. This means that 99% of Somalis didn't get a vote. The incumbent Hassan Skeikh Mohamud, an academic, is among 2 dozen candidates vying for the post of president, who will be elected by the new lawmakers to serve 4 years. President Hassan started off with great hopes but has been unable to tackle the problem of corruption and indeed just survived impeachment proceedings in 2013 over a corruption scandal involving the repatriation of overseas Somali state assets. Outgoing Prime Minister Omar Sharmarke has also thrown his hat into the ring. Much of Somalia remains desperately unstable and impoverished. 6.2 million people (more than half the population) suffer from food shortages and more than a million are homeless. No matter who is elected it will likely be decades before stability returns to Somali life. Finally, in a ballot, where many votes were bought beforehand, held in a heavily guarded aircraft hangar, former Prime Minister Mohamed 'Farmajo' Mohamed won the ballot in a surprise result. He took 184 votes to 97 for the outgoing president in the third and final round of voting. Thereafter thousands of Somalis took to the streets to celebrate.
just1world has been following leadership elections in Africa since 2004.
BELOW ARE THE DETAILS OF THE ONLY 23 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.