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this handing of sovereignty back to African nations all that has really changed is that white minority rule has now been replaced by black minority rule, the new APARTHEID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-SIX 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, 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, in Togo and Gabon, with sons taking over from fathers, the same families have ruled 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. Then 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 coming year before an election is December where he is not allowed to seek re-election.
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 low but maybe improving, 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 ELECTIONS 2018
July 29 - Mali - President Ibrahim Keita is expected to stand again after winning a run-off in 2013 against former finance minister Soumalia Cisse by 77% to 23% of the votes cast. This election will take place against a backdrop of governance and security issues. The security situation in the country, chartacterised mainly by the persistence of terror threats, has resulted in the state losing contol of large parts of northern and central Mali. At the same time the agreement reached between the government and rebels to end the fighting in the north has stalled making it unlikely that the authorities can run a credible election.
July ? - Zimbabwe - Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected to stand in this election after taking over the presidency from Robert Mugabe in December 2017 after the army quietly intervened to oust the former leader of Zanu-PF. His main opponent would appear to be Nelson Chamisa, recently elected leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), after the death of Morgan Tsvangirai. With the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) filled with Mnanagawa's allies, unless the opposition can unite behind one candidate, it is likely that Mnangagwa will be annointed president in his own right after the 'counting' is over.
July ? - South Sudan - 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. But will this election take place at all?
FUTURE LEADERSHIP ELECTIONS 2018
September - Libya - postponed from March due to registration 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 agreed to negotiate a peace deal raising hopes for an end to the 3 year civil war. The 2 sides have agreed in principle to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in 2018 and the deal also signals that Haftar is ready to recognise Serraj's administration. The two men held talks in Paris and the deal was brokered by President Macron. The agreement also holds out hope for a unified army under Haftar. The UN had hoped that the Serraj government would unite the country but it has failed to secure the endorsment 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.
October - Cameroon - Paul Biya, now aged 85, first took power here in 1982 and after being No 1 for 36 years will no doubt be persuaded to stand again. In 2011 he secured 78% of the vote in a large field of candidates. In second place came John Ndu of the Social Democratic Front with 11%. Notwithstanding the current dissent in the Anglophone south-west of the country and with both the opposition and media suppressed in this nation there is little chance of change.
November - Madagascar - President Hery Rajaonarimampianina will strike out for a second term here.
December 23 - 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 2017 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. The register started to be updated in March, 2016 and took almost 2 years 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$1.8bn!!! needed to hold an election. However, the electoral commission finally published a calendar in late 2017 fixing the poll for the presidency for 23 December, 2018. Not surprisingly the opposition are still livid but after 18 years in office Kabila could, at last, be moving on. But don't hold your breath. D R Congo stands as a totem for the failed continent of Africa. It has more potential than any other African country, more diamonds, more gold, more navigable rivers and more rich rich agricultural land. And the day that the former colonial power Belgium walked away was the day that the country started the long walk back into the wildersness. An election is not what this country needs right now - instead it needs a government of technocrats with integrity and drive who can start to turn this country round.
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.
PREVIOUS LEADERSHIP ELECTIONS 2018
March 31 - Sierra Leone - run-off between Dr Samura Kamara of the ruling All Peoples Congress Party (APC) and Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP). In the March 7 election Bio polled 43.3% of the vote to Samara's 42.7%. As neither candidate scored the necessary 55% to win in the first round a run-off became necessary. (see below) Bio, who had campaigned against corruption, won the run-off winning 51.8% of the vote. Some 3.1 million were registered to vote in this election. However, in a twist in the tale, in an expanded parliament, the SLPP only won 49 seats with the APC gaining 68. It will, therefore, be difficult for Bio to govern effectively with the opposition having a majority in parliament. He can only do so with all party consensus in trying to get bills and budgets passed. However, if the worst came to the worst, Bio might have to use executive force to get legislation through which would surely damage the country's democratic credentials. There may be a change of president then but the country could have troubled times ahead.
March 26-28 - Egypt - President Abdel Fatah Khalil el Sisi, ex-army general, is expected to stand again for the highest office. In 2014 he scored 93% of the vote against Nasserist candidate Hamdeen Sabahi. The Muslim Brotherhood, which had won the previous election, boycotted the poll. Opponents, this time round, also appear to be thin on the ground. Pitted against Mr Sisi was to have been former PM Ahmed Shafik but he has recently withdrawn from the contest. He had recently returned to Egypt, where he immediately endured a 24-hour kidnapping ordeal with his family, after a self-imposed exile in the United Arab Emirates. Mohamed Anwar Sadat, nephew of Egypt's former president Anwar Sadat, has also withdrawn stating that in the current political environment he didn't believe there would be equal chances for all the candidates. Two other candidates have also failed to reach the start: Khaled Ali, a human rights lawyer, is now appealing against a three month jail sentence for rude hand gestures in public whilst Col. Ahmed Konsowa was arrested, shortly after announcing his intention to run, on charges of expressing political opinions as an army officer. Neither men can enter the race with a conviction on their record. Yet another army man, General Sami Anan, is also in custody and being questioned on why he wants to run for the presidency without first getting permission from the armed forces. At present only Mussa Mustapha Mussa, a known Sisi supporter and candidate of the Ghad Party, is still in the race. In Egypt the Armed Forces are in business - the military runs a commercial empire that encompasses all sectors of the economy. Looks like a stroll across the parade ground for el Sisi again. With opposition politicians calling for a boycott only 41% of potential voters turned up to cast their ballots compared to 47% in 2014. Sisi duly won collection 90% of the votes ahead of Moussa with just 3%. 7% of ballot papers were spoiled.
March 7 - Sierra Leone - postponed from November 2017 due to ebola epidemic. 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 (APC) party secured 59% of the vote in defeating Julius Bao of the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) with 37%. These 2 parties have dominated politics in Sierra Leone since the West African country gained independence from the UK in 1961. For any one candidate to win in the first round he/she must secure 55% of the vote. Representing the APC this time is Dr Samura Kamara, a former foreign minister. His main opponent, from the SLPP, is former army leader Julius Maada Bio. In all 16 candidates are vying to become president in a country of 3,700,000 voters. For any candidate to win outright he/she must garner 55% of the votes cast in the first round. This is the fifth presidential election in Sierra Leone since the country emerged from an 11 year civil war in 2002. The economy of this poverty-stricken country is in dire straits following a slump in commodity prices and the ebola epidemic which killed thousands. So the winner will face a number of major challenges. When all the ballots were finally counted Julius Bio led Samura Kamara with 43.3% of he vote against 42.7%. In third place is Kandeh Yumkella, a former UN under-secretary with 6.9%. The National Electoral Commission recounted votes at 154 polling stations whilst at another 221 polling stations were declared null and void due to overvoting. On the whole EU observers described the ballot as 'transparent, credible and well-organised' but suggested that there were concerns about violence and intimidation in some areas. The run-off will take place on March 28.
just1world has been following leadership elections in Africa since 2004.
BELOW ARE THE DETAILS OF THE ONLY 25 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%.