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this handing of sovereignty back to African nations all that has really changed is that white minority rule has now been replaced by black minority rule, the new APARTHEID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


February 16 - 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.


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:- former president Abdoulaye Wade's son Karim Wade; rising opposition firebrand Ousmane Sonko; Dakar's jailed former mayor Khalifa Sall and Issa Sall who heads the University of the Sahel. (The latter two are not related to the president.)

April - Algeria -

May 21 - Malawi - President Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party 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%. In Malawi it is a first past the post system of voting which sees the candidate with the largest percentage of the votes taking all. Lazrous Chakwera 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.

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 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. 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.'

May 2019 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 and the Economic Freedom Fighters 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%.

May -- Guinea-Bissau --

June - Mauritania -

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.

October - Mozambique -

November - Namibia -

December - Mauritius -

December - Tunisia -

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. These changes effectively allow President Assoumani to remain in office for 8 years beyond his proper term which would have ended in 2021. President Assoumani is also 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 tims that of the rest of the Comoros.

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.



December 30 - December 23 postponed for a week for technical reasons, a warehouse fire in which 8,000 electronic voting devices were destroyed. 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. The main opposition grouping is now led by Moise Katumba whom the Congolese government has said is ineligible for the presidency as he holds Italian nationality (an assertion denied by Katumba). All candidacies for this election had to be declared by 8 August, 2018.

To the surprise of most Africa watchers Joseph Kabila is not seeking a third term in December's presidential election. Instead he has thrown his weight behind Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a former interior minister who is under EU sanctions for his alleged role in human rights abuses. Also entering the race was former Vice-President Jean Pierre Bemba who has just returned to DRC after being acquitted of war crimes at the International Criminal Court. But the electoral commission later deemed his candidacy ineligible because of his conviction by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for bribing witnesses. Felix Tshisekedi, son of Etienne, who leads the largest opposition party, is also among the favourites. However, Moise Katumba's name will not be on the ballot paper after being blocked by the authorities from entering the country.

Another group of seven opposition leaders has chosen Martin Fayulu as their candidate after a meeting in the Swiss city of Geneva. He is already a MP and businessman. Vital Kamerhe and Felix Tshisekedi are also candidates in a list of more than 20. All that is needed is to come top of the poll for there is no second round - the winner takes all. This is likely to throw up the probability that the Congolese people will get a leader for whom the majority of the people never voted for.

The controversial voting machines introduced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) will not help those looking for a clean election for CENI has not addressed the question of 10m voters who are lacking corresponding biometric data.

With Joseph Kabila standing down it doesn't mean the end of his involvement in this local Game of Thrones. For many pundits are saying that should Shadary win, Kabila will rule from the shadows. He will then be able to move back into the limelight again to contest the election in 2023.

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, whose governance was far from perfect, walked away was the day that the country started its long walk back into the wilderness. An election, costing an estimated US$1.8bn, is not what this disparate country with 450 tribes needs right now. Instead it needs a government of pragmatists with ability and integrity who can start to turn this country round. Sadly that is the last thing this impoverished country is going to get.

Voting has been delayed by three months in the eastern cities of Beni, Butembo and Yumbi due to the Ebola outbreak in these areas. The vote for a new president was also hit with a series of delays including the failure of the new voting machines in some areas. When the result was finally declared shock was the immediate reaction. Felix Tshisekedi was declared the winner ammassing 7 million votes (39%) with Martin Fayulu in second place with 6.4 million votes (35%). Emmanuel Shadry finished with 4.4 million votes (24%). Turnout 47%. The Catholic Church said that this result did not match its own data collected by its 40,000 election monitors which put Fayulu in front. And according to Africa-Confidential a cache of data leaked from the state's electoral commission points to an overwhelming victory by Fayulu. Not surprisingly Fayulu has challenged the outcome. Belgium, France, UK and US have also expressed doubts. Concern is mounting that Joseph Kabila did a deal with Tshisekedi to protect him from being investigated for corruption. Despite the concerns of the African Union, and the accusations of fraud by the Catholic Church and others, the Constitutional Court judged that Fayulu had failed to prove that the election commission had announced false results and declared Tshisekedi the winner of the poll.

This is the first time that an opposition challenger has won in DRC since independence in 1960.

December 19 - Madagascar - run-off - when all the votes were counted in the November 7 presidential election former presidents Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana finished neck-and-neck with 39% and 35% respectively. Outgoing president Rajaonarimampianina amassed just 8.8%.Turnout was 54% against 61% in 2013. (see below) When the final tally was announced Rajoelina had amassed 55% to win back the presidency.

November 7 - Madagascar - President Hery Rajaonarimampianina will strike out for a second term here with a second round, if needed, on December 19. Two former presidents, Marc Ravalomanana (2002-09) and Andry Rajoelina (2009-13), were initially barred from standing by a new law but the constitutional court struck this out on May 3. So there now appears to be a 3-way competition to become president in a field of 36 candidates who include an evangelical pastor, a singer-songwriter and a bat guano businessman. Madagascar is one of a few African countries that have become poorer in the last 50 years so the election of one of those three candidates will offer little in hope for positive change. When all the votes were counted Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana finished neck-and-neck with 39% and 35% respectively. Outgoing president Rajaonarimampianina amassed just 8.8%.Turnout was 54% against 61% in 2013. The run-off is scheduled for December 19.

October 7 - Cameroon - Paul Biya, now aged 85, first took power here in 1982 and after being No 1 for 36 years has decided 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%. Shortly after his announcement of standing again a coalition of 20 opposition parties announced support for Biya! Notwithstanding the armed separatists in the Anglophone north-west and south-west of the country and with both the opposition and media suppressed there is little chance of change. However, Akere Muna, 65 year old lawyer and founder of the Transparency International branch of the anti-corruption watchdog in Cameroon, is determined to have a go. Corruption, according to Muna, is so endemic in the country that a patient suffering a serious complaint, such as a snake bite, can expect to be asked for a bribe just to receive treatment in hospital. Jean Jacques Ekindi of the Progressive Movement Party, Prophet Frank Afanui of the Cameroon National Citizenship Movement, Maurice Kamto of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement and Joshua Osih of the Social Democratic Front are also contenders. The EU has decided not to deploy election observers as it has done since the counry adoptyed a multi-party election system in 1990. Cameroon has dropped from a middle income country when Biya took over in 1982 to a low income country today. A quarter of its 24,700,000 citizens earn <$2 per day; 3,300,000 require urgent humanitarian assistance and average life expectancy is under 60. When the result was finally declared Biya was given a seventh term in office but the poll was marred by low turnout and voter intimidation. He took 71.3% of the vote followed by Maurice Kamto with 14.9%. Turnout was put at 50% but in some Anglophone areas it was put as low as 5%. Tens of thousands were unable to cast their votes because of insecurity. Biya is Africa's oldest leader and has been elected 7 times.

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.

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