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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this handing of sovereignty back to African nations all that has really changed is that white minority rule has now been replaced by black minority rule, the new APARTHEID

It is a regrettable fact that in the intervening 50+ years since independence swept over the African continent, only on TWENTY-SEVEN 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 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! At the same time, the opposition is often fragmented meaning there is no single group to get right behind to try to lever change. 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/ foreign interventions - 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, some of whom have been in power for more than 35 years - Obiang Nguema in Equatorial Guinea since 1979 and Paul Biya in Cameroon since 1982. At the same time, dynasties are being established in Togo and Gabon, with sons taking over from fathers, which has led to the same families ruling these two nations since 1967 - more than 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! 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. The same happened in Rwanda and Congo Republic whilst in Uganda and Sudan members of parliament saved the citizens the trouble.

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 Liberia. And with freely elected governments in only 10 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 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 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)


May 21 - Malawi - President Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is set to stand again. In the last election in 2014 Mutharika was declared the winner with 36% of the votes cast with Lazrous Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party in second place with 28%. (A recommendation that the victor should need 50%+1 to secure the presidency was vetoed by parliament.) In Malawi, using a biometric system of voting for the first time, it is a first past the post system of voting which sees the candidate with the largest percentage of the votes taking all. Mutharika has snubbed the DPP leaders and chosen a political novice, Everton Chimulirnji, as his running mate. Lazrous Chakwera, of the Malawi Congress Party, is challenging again and in a recent opinion poll is just 2% behind Mutharika in a survey by Zomba-based Institute of Public Opinion and Research (IPOR). Also in the mix will be Vice-President Saulos Chilima who is leader of the newly-formed United Transformation Movement who promises to reboot the country's administration from corruption, nepotistism and factionism to accountability and ethical and inclusive leadership. IPOR gives him currently 17% of the vote. Former President Joyce Banda has withdrawn from the race after intensive talks with Chakwera. In all 7 candidates will contest this election. At the invitation of the Malawi Electoral Commission the EU has agreed to send election observers to try to ensure that the contest is transpartent, inclusive and credible. However, they immediately flagged up their concern about previous recommendations failing to be implemented after the 2014 election.These include the misuse and abuse of government resources by the ruling party and the failure to open up the media to the opposition. Malawi faces many socio-economic problems not least with half the population living in poverty with just 11% having access to electricity. Malawi's yung population also suffers from high unemployment. Plenty of food for thought for whoever wins.


April 18 - Algeria (postponed) - President Abdelaziz Bouteflika (82), still suffering the after affects of a stroke in 2013 and rarely seen in public, will seek to govern this country for a fifth term. Bouteflika's close political entourage headed by his brother, his larger economic clientele favoured with graft and privilege, and his close elations with high military officers leave far too much at stake to allow his exit. He has just returned from Switzerland where he underwent medical tests. In 2014 he won with 82% of the vote. With ongoing mass demonstrations and strikes in several cities throughout the country he has, however, been forced to postpone this election and has conceded, with army backing, that he will now step down as president immediately. Abdelkader Bensalah, chairman of the upper house of parliament, is expected to become caretaker president for 3 months until elections. The street demonstrations in many towns and cities across the country have been relentless and Algeria could be on the verge of its own Arab Spring!

May 2019 - Libya - (postponed) again due to organisational difficulties. 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 started to negotiate a peace deal raising hopes for an end to the 3 year civil war. Also at the talks brokered by President Macron in Paris were Aguilla Saleh Issa, parliament speaker based in Tobruk, who opposes the UN-backed administration and Khalid al-Mishri, head of the High Council of State, Libya's highest consultative body. All sides have agreed in principle to hold presidential along with parliamentary elections but there is worringly nothing in writing. There is also hope on an agreement on a unified army under Haftar. The UN had hoped that the Serraj government would unite the country but it has failed to secure the endorsement of the rival parliament in the east which backed Haftar. Libya has been torn apart by civil war since the overthrow and death of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 which led to the country being into east and west. With the current strife in and around the capital, Tripoli, it is looking like wishful thinking that any kind of election will be able to be held this year. The UN also wanted a delay to give Libyans firstly a forum to discuss their future followed by elections 'within months.'

June 23 - Guinea-Bissau -- this failed state with a population of 1.6m is a hub of organised crime, drugs and people trafficking and its institutions exist in name only. The current president, Jose Mario Vaz of the PAIGC, the dominant party, will undoutbedly stand again. But it may not be all plain-sailing as the PAIGC failed to secure a majority in the parliamentary elections held in March. Last time Vaz defeated Nuno Nabiam of the Party for Social Renewal in a run-off securing 62% of the votes.

June - Mauritania - according to the constitution President Mohamed Ould Aziz should step down this year after two terms as president. And it may be that he is persuaded to do so after an announcement that Defence Minister Mohamed Ould Ghazouani is to represent the ruling Union pour la Republique (UPR) in this election. If he does step down it will be the first time that a leader has left power peacefully in Mauritnia. He took power following a military coup in 2008.

October, 2019 - Botswana - President Lt General Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama stood down after winning two terms on March 31, 2018. He handed power over to his vice-president Mokgweetsi Masisi on April 1, 2018. The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has held power since independence in 1966 but at the last election in 2014 the party secured less than 50% of the vote. The Botswana parliament has 63 seats of which 57 are filled through direct votes, there are 4 seats reserved for the majority party in parliament while the president and and attorney-general are ex-officio members. At the last election in 2014, although the BDP's share of the vote dropped below 50% for the first time, the party still managed to secure 37 of the 57 seats in parliament. With the BDP monopolising news coverage and with African governments past masters at retaining power it will be a major surprise if Masisi doesn't validate his position as prime minister in this election. However, former president Ian Khama has fallen out with his successor and is backing a rival candidate for the leadership of the BDP. However, this challenge never materialised and Masisi was duly elected.

October 15 - Mozambique -

November - Namibia -

December - Mauritius -

December - Tunisia - President Beji Essebsi of the Nidaa Tounes party will hope to secure another victory after winning a run-off in 2014 against interim President Moncef Marzouki. His main rival is likely to be Sheikh Rachid Ghannouchi of the Islamist Hizb Ennahda.

July 2021 - 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.



May 8 - South Africa - having deposed Jacob Zuma in December 2017, President Ramaphosa continues under severe pressure after finally admitting that a company named African Global Operations contributed 500,000 rand (£27,500) to Ramaphosa's campaign for the leadership of the ANC. Initially he denied receiving this payment stating that it was to his son for consultancy work. However, on further questioning he said that he had mistakingly mislead parliament and acknowledged that it was a campaign contribution. Both the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) are not going to forget this. In the 2014 presidential election Zuma and the ANC won 62% of the vote followed by the Democratic Alliance with 22%. Ramaphosa's anti-corruption campaign and his re-election attempt is being undermined by key players in the ANC loyal to Zuma who are seeking to stand for parliament in this election. However, the electorate should still be on the side of Ramaphosa and the ANC, giving the man and the party one last chance to set the country on the route to progress. When the votes had all been counted the ANC had garnered 57% followed by the DA on 21% and the EFF with 10%. This was the first time that the ANC had received less than 60% of the votes cast. Turnout 65%. Now the challenge for Ramaphosa is to give hope to the unemployed (currrent rate 27%, youth unenployment 50%); tackle corruption; improve the economy which has averaged growth of just 1.5% in the last decade; confront inequality which shows currently Black South Africans earning, on average, 20% of their White compatriots and rid the party of Jacob Zuma's cronies. One tall order but he must start immediately, for if he doesn't, next time the party of Nelson Mandela may not even score 50%. And Mandela's legacy turned to dust.

March 24 - Comoros - on 30 July 2018 there was an amendment to the constitution passed. The referendum, boycotted by the opposition, endorsed extending presidential term limits as well as abolishing the power-sharing system that had rotated the presidency every 5 years among the main islands of Grand Commore, Anjouan and Moheli. President Azali Assoumani from Grand Comore gained power under this power-sharing system in April 2016 and was due to serve 5 years as president until 2021. But the controversial changes to the constitution effectively allow President Assoumani to remain in office for 8 years beyond his proper term. However, as a sop to the opposition, he agreed to bring forward the date of the next election to March, 2019. The opposition opposed this idea stating they had no time to prepare. However, the election went ahead with the result that Assoumani gathered 61% of the vote and will rule for another 5 years. His opponents declared that this election had been rigged and violence broke out across the archipelago. This prompted the African Union, which was heavily critical of this election stating it was full of irregularities, to call on all sides for restraint. President Assoumani is now laying claims to Mayotte which voted to remain under French jurisdication in 1974 and which re-inforced this decision in 2009 when they voted overwhelmingly to become even more closely integrated into France by a margin of over 95% as that country's 101st departement even though the island is mainly Muslim. In 2016 Mayotte's GDP per capita was 15 times that of the rest of the Comoros.

February 23 (delayed by one week) - Nigeria - President Muhammadu Bukari will seek to win a second and final four year term. Opposing him will be Atiku Abubakar of the People's Democratic Party, the party of former presidents Goodluck Jonathan and Olusegun Obasanjo, under whom Abubakar served as vice-president. Also in the mix will be Kingsley Moghalu, a former deputy governor of the Central Bank and candidate of the Young Progressive Party who presents himself in the mould of Emmanuel Macron. Both Buhari and Abubakar are promising huge domestic investment in infrastructure projects, the encouragement of more foreign direct investment and reduced taxes all of which they hope will lead to the creation of thousands of jobs. But both sets of policies probably fail the credibility test. Nigeria is the world's seventh most populous nation with 200 million people but even with being so blessed with so much in the way of natural resources the country is poorer today than when it became a democracy in 1999. Buhari retained the presidency winning 15.1m votes (56%) of the votes cast to Abubakar's 11.2m. Turnout was just 35.6%, the lowest since the return to civilian rule in 1999.

February 24 - Senegal - having served one full term of 7 years Macky Sall bids to prolong his presidency for another 5 years after a change in the constitution which now limits presidential terms to 2 x 5 years. He will be up against only 4 candidates accepted by the Constitutional Council. When the final result was announced Macky Sall was duly confirmed as president for another 5 years amassing 58.3% of the vote ahead of Idrissa Seck with 20.5%. Ousmane Sonko was third with 15.7%. Turnout was a record high at 66.2%.

just1world has been following leadership elections in Africa since 2004.


1. 1967 SOMALIA Aden Abdullah Osman Daar was elected the country’s 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.

2. 1991 ZAMBIA Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia loses to Frederick Chiluba who won 80%+ of the vote.

3. 1991 BENIN Mathieu Kerekou defeated by Nicephore Soglo, a former World Bank official.

4. 1992 CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC - President Kolingba, under intense pressure from France, agreed to hold multiparty elections. But Kolingba refused to accept the result of this election in October where Ange-Felix Patasse seemed to have won with Kolingba last, and annulled it. But a year later the result was confirmed and Patasse was sworn in as president in 1993.

5. 1992 REPUBLIC OF CONGO August 1992. Pascal Lissouba defeated Bernard Kolelas in a second round of voting marking the end of the transitional period. In the first round Lissouba gained 36% v Kolelas with 20% and previous president Denis Sassou-Nguesso of the Congolese Party of Labour with 17%.

6. 1994 MALAWI - Hastings Banda finally seen off by Bakili Maluzi in Malawi.

7. 1996 - BENIN - saw Mathieu Kerekou regain power by defeating his rival Nicephore Soglo.

8. 2000 SENEGAL - Abdou Diouf lost to Abdoulaye Wade.

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 power.

10. 2000 December GHANA - after Jerry Rawlings, representing the New Democratic Congress (NDC), was obliged to step down after serving 2 x 4 years as president, John Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party defeated John Atta-Mills (NDC) in a run-off.

11. 2002 Apr/May MALI - with president Alpha Konare standing down after 10 years, Amadou Toure won a run-off against Soumaila Cisse by 64% to 36%. Cisse represented the previous ruling party ADEMA.

12. 2002 Dec KENYA - the Rainbow Coalition of Mwai Kibaki defeated the 24 year old regime of Daniel Arap Moi.

13. 2007 Aug/Sep SIERRA LEONE - Ernest Koroma of the All Peoples Congress defeated Vice-President Solomon Berewa of the Sierra Leone People's Party by 55% to 45% in a run-off to secure 5 years at the top.

14. 2008 Dec GHANA - John Atta Mills of the National Democratic Congress defeated Nana Akufo-Addo of the ruling New Patriotic Party in a run-off by the margin of 50.23% to 49.77%.

15. 2010 Nov/2011 Mar COTE D’IVOIRE - after a protracted battle for power Alessandre Ouattara defeated Laurent Gbagbo in the presidential election in Nov, 2010 and went on to defeat him again in the military field in order to become president in March, 2011.

16. 2011 Sep ZAMBIA - Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front took 43% of the vote and the presidency against Rupiah Banda (Movement for Multi-party Democracy MMD) 36% and Hakainde Hichelema Party for National Development with 21%.

17. 2012 Mar SENEGAL - Macky Sall takes 66% of the vote in a run-off with president Abdoulaye Wade to secure 5 years in power as president.

18. 2012 May LESOTHO - having broken away from the Lesotho Congress for Democracy to form his own party, the Ntsu Democratic Congress, Pakalitha Mosisili failed to gain a majority for his new party leaving the way open for the opposition All Basotha Convention (ABC) and LCD to combine to form the new government under the ABC's Thomas Thabane.

19. 2014 May MALAWI - despite claims of major irregularities and ballot rigging, Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party with 36% of the vote beat the incumbent, Joyce Banda (20%) of the People’s Party into third place to secure the presidency which his brother, Bingu wa Mutharika, had held until his death in 2012.

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 impeach his successor!

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