2017 has been a revolutionary year for democracy in Africa. Africa has long been known as the continent with sit tight leaders who have, through sheer repression and overriding of their various constitutions, stayed long at the helm of affairs. Millions of Africans have voted in presidential elections this year, to remove dictators, and make democratic institutions stronger in their countries. Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh, who was president for 22 years, was forced to step down after he lost at the elections to Adama Barrow. Angola’s Jose Eduardo Santos ended his 38-year reign as the country’s president and was replaced by his hand-picked successor Joao Laurenco, who won in the presidential elections. Paul Kagame was re-elected president of Rwanda, winning 99 percent of votes and making it his third seven-year term in office after presidential term limits were removed for him last year.
Here are the key elections to watch as Africans continue their quest to remove African presidents for life.
Robert Mugabe was forced to step down after army officials invaded his residence last month. Mugabe had been Zimbabwe’s ruler for more than three decades, holding on to power through the army and his political party, while also aided by Zimbabwe’s army veterans who helped him fight for Zimbabwe’s independence.
There were talks that, in Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe was replacing one dictator with another. He really didn’t dispel the speculations. The army general Constantino Chiwenga who aided Mnangagwa in the ‘coup’ to remove Mugabe was chosen by the former to be his vice president, and also his deputy in the ruling party ZANU-PF. This is sure to cement their positions in the upper echelons of government as Zimbabwe looks towards next year’s presidential elections. The main opposition parties headed by Marvin Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube has already been rendered obsolete, with their no showing at Mugabe’s handing over to Emmerson. Next year’s elections would determine if Zimbabwe is really free from Mugabe, or if he was just a lesser danger to his party, the ZANU-PF.
Paul Biya’s reign as president of Cameroon for three decades could soon come to an end, thanks to the agitation of the British Cameroonians (Read here). And while Ambazonia, the name of British Cameroon’s new republic, now has militants attacking state security forces, Biya will also be distracted by increasing calls for him to step down. Opposition parties decided in March to come together to nominate only one candidate, but their plans failed to materialize. Presently, only one candidate, Mr Akere Muna, has shown a genuine interest in contesting against Cameroon’s big man, Paul Biya.
Muna is a lawyer by profession and has served as the vice-president of Transparency International, and also as the President of Cameroon’s Bar Association. He is also from British Cameroon and so, probably has an extra incentive to win. However, as African elections go, will Muna’s base be stable before election time? Right now many anglophone Cameroonians are crossing the border into Nigeria, trying to escape government clamp down.
Egypt’s presidential elections are set to hold in February 2018, and it’s a matter of ‘who dares to contest against Sisi’ (the incumbent president). Abdel Fattah el-Sisi became president of Egypt in 2014, winning the 2014 elections after a military coup d’etat displaced former president Morsi the previous year. Sisi was Commander-in-Chief of Egypt’s armed forces during the coup, and his attitude to leadership has not changed. Sisi has been accused of repression of human rights in Egypt, shutting media houses, and restricting the conducting of opinion polls, meaning he doesn’t care about public perception of his government. The candidates considering running against Sisi have all been charged to court for different reasons. The only candidate to declare now, Khaled Ali, a human rights lawyer, says he will contest provided he is not barred from it.
For a country that fought to leave Sudan for so many years, and finally was granted leave in 2011, not much has happened in South Sudan since its independence. Soon after its independence, a civil war broke out in 2013 that has rendered many people homeless and created a humanitarian crisis in the country. Thousands of people have been killed in the conflict while thousands more have fled to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. There is massive food insecurity, with many of the children starving to death.
Despite the pall that hovers over the country, the president Salva Kiir still insists for the elections to go on as planned. The United Nations warned earlier this year that holding the elections in 2018 could risk worsening the civil war in the country. Kiir’s main opposition Dr Riek Machar, who is on exile in South Africa, is the petrol to Kiir’s fire and is the main cause of the civil war that still rages on in South Sudan. The country is financially broke, while voters registration has not begun. One wonders how the election is supposed to happen.