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this handing of sovereignty back to African nations all that has really changed is that white minority rule has now been replaced by black minority rule, the new APARTHEID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 - potentially 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, some of whom have been in power for almost 40 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.
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 rank 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. The same happened in Rwanda and Congo Republic 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.
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 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 ELECTIONS 2020
May 20 - Burundi - President Nkurunziza's time as leader should have seen his tenure in office end in 2015. However, this ordained minister believes he is the 'eternal supreme guide' for his country and chosen by God to rule so he competed and won a third term. Then, after a referendum passed in 2018 he was permitted to stay in power until 2034. This led to a crisis which saw 300,000 people fleeing the country for safety. But now, in an announcement of monumental proportions, in January 2020, Burundi's parliament voted to pay US$530,000 to Nkurunziza, provide him with a luxury villa when he leaves office as well as granting him the title of 'supreme leader' when he steps down in May. This lavish agreement contrasts with the plight of the Burundian people where two-thirds live in poverty and half go to bed hungry every night. Add to this that the African Union, EU and the UN have delivered reports severely criticising Nkurunziza and you wonder why on earth this largesse was granted. However, now the coast seems clear to elect a new leader. That man will almost certainly be Evariste Ndayishimiye, currently secretary-general of the CNDD-FDD and its candidate in this election. But then the question has to be asked. Will Nkurunziza still be pulling the strings? It has happened in the DRC so why shouldn't it happen here!
FUTURE LEADERSHIP ELECTIONS 2020
July 2 - Malawi - in an event almost unprecedented in Africa, the constitutional court in Malawi rescinded the result of the controversial election last May when President Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party was narrowly re-elected with 38.6% of the vote ahead of Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party with 35.4%. In third place with 20.2% came Saulos Chilima of the newly formed United Transformation Movement. Chilema was formerly vice-president. Both opposition candidates claimed that the election was full of irregularities and indeed the Malawi Electoral Commission admitted that Tippex had been used but denied any wrongdoing. The case was eventually referred to the Constitutional Court. Ahead of the outcome there were months of tense clashes between the opposition and the police. This is the first election to be legally challenged in Malawi's history and indeed in the whole of Africa very few election outcomes have been successfully challenged. Peter Mutharika will stay in power until a new election takes place before the end of June whilst Saulos Chilema is back as vice-president. A rerun is estimated to cost this impoverished country US$58m. The Constitutional Court also heavily criticised the current first-past-the-post system for choosing a president and has interpreted the provision of 'majority of the electorate' as meaning that a candidate should be chosen by more than 50% of the ballots cast. From now on, to become president, a candidate will require a minimum of 50% plus one vote of the total valid votes. If no one candidate achieves this in the first round, a second run-off between the 2 leading candidates will take place 30 days later.
August 29 - Ethiopia - 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. This election, postponed from May, is bang in the middle of the rainy season and opposition leaders have complained about ethnic tensions and rising violence. The EPRDF, whose 4 core parties have controlled the state for 3 decades, is being replaced by a single national party that also appears to absorb ruling parties from the five regions not governed by EPRDF parties. If this is the case it is highly unlikely that there will be many, if any, recognisable opposition MPs in the Derg after this election!
October - Cote d'Ivoire - President Alassane Ouattara has announced that he will not seek a third term in office and stand by the constitution. In October 2015 Ouattara secured 84% of the vote ahead of former Prime Minister Pascal N'Guessan with 9%. Favourite to succeed Ouattara must be the current Prime Minister Amadou Coulibaly who also represents the ruling Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace Party. His main opponents are likely to be former presidents Henri Bedie of the Democratic Party of Cote d'Ivoire and former Laurent Gbagbo.
October - Guinea - on March 22 the people of Guinea voted in a referendum to decide whether President Alpha Conde should have the right to run for a third term in this election. If successful he will be able to serve for two more six year terms. In 2015 Conde (Rally of the People of Guinea) won the presidential election with 58% of the votes ahead of Cellou Diallo (Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea) who amassed 31% in a field of 8 candidates.
October - Tanzania - President John Magufuli, nicknamed 'the bulldozer', was elected in 2015 with a promise to eradicate corruption and public mismanagment. Instead civil liberties and political rights have been curtailed and malfeasance continues to reign supreme across all elements of government. In 2015 Magufuli of the Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) Party, which has held power since independence in 1961, won with 58.5% of the vote over former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa with 39%. The once leader of the opposition, Tundu Lissu, of the Chadema Party, was fortunate to survive after being shot several times by unknown attackers in 2017 and promises to return to Tanzania after 20 operations and nearly 2 years spent recovering in Belgium. His supporters are fearful though that he might not survive. The Magufuli government denies any links to the attacks. The current leader of Chadema, Zitto Kabwe, says that over the last 4 years freedom has been eroded with opponents of the ruling regime having been killed, kidnapped or disappeared. At the same time he claims people are in prison on false charges, farmers are not being paid for crops, cattle have been expropriated, civil servants have gone unpaid, sick people are unable to access doctors, education is in decline, unemployment rising whilst corruption is on the rise. The foreign national debt now stands at US$28.6bn. Tanzanians need to stand up and be counted in this election which could see the country descend into chaos.
November - Burkino Faso -
December 7 - Ghana -
December - Central African Republic -
December - Seychelles -
February 2021 - Uganda - 33 year-old Bobi Wine, a pop star turned politician, has indicated that he will challenge President Museveni (74) 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.' 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. He also blames the West as being a partner in crime here. He faces though an uphill struggle to dislodge the incumbemt with charges linked to an alleged attack on the president's convoy last year. At the same time changes to the electoral laws appear designed to target him. In total it seems that Museveni will have 24 opponents in this next chapter of Uganda's political story!
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.
2021 - Somalia - 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 Abdullahi Mohamed, in February 2020 signed a bill which will allow ordinary Somalis to vote in parliamentary elections in 2021. Should this happen it will be the first time in 50 years that a one-person/one vote election has taken place. Under this system Somalis will vote directly for parties with parliamentary seats being allocated according to final tallies. 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 whilst relaltions between the federal government and local administrations are often tense. At the same time Somaliland and Puntland are basically functioning independent entities.
2021 - Libya - postponed yet again 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, had 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 had agreed in principle to hold presidential along with parliamentary elections but there was worringly nothing in writing. There was 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'.
2022 - 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 2020
February 22 - Togo - in the last election in 2015 Faure Gnassingbe of the Rally for the Togolese People (RTP) secured another victory with 60% of the votes cast. He has been in power since 2005 taking over from his father Eyadema who had ruled this country since 1967. In May 2019, Togo's parliament changed the constitution to give the Gnassingbe permission to contest elections in 2020 and 2025 amid mass public demonstrations. The constitution was also amended to guarantee the Togolese leader immunity for life. Six other candidates will contest the election including Jean Pierre Fabre of the National Alliance for Change (ANC) and Agbeyome Messan Kodjo of the Patriotic Movement for Democracy and Development (MPDD). Kodjo is a former prime minister and head of the national assembly. Despite protests, with the weight of the state behind him, it will take an earthquake of monumental proportions to dislodge Gnassingbe No2. And part of that tremor would need the main opposition parties to join forces and unite behind one candidate. Final results showed Gnassingbe with 72% of the vote with Kodjo on 18%. Not surprisingly Kodjo is claiming ballot rigging and people casting multiple votes. No international observers were invited: only the AU and Ecowas observed and unsurpringly they both gave the poll a clean bill of health. On to the next 50 year then!
just1world has been following leadership elections in Africa since 2004.
BELOW ARE THE DETAILS OF THE ONLY 27 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.