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Coups, conflicts and tussles for leadership headline elections in Africa

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Citizens from several African countries will be heading to the polls this year to decided on which candidates will lead their respective nations going forward. Graphic by Timothy Alexander/African News Agency (ANA)

By Chad Williams

A number of African nations are set to head to the polls this year.

This will be in the form of general and presidential elections in the latter part of 2022.

The elections come as the continent moves towards a post-pandemic world, coupled with vast challenges that include political instability, growing insurgency in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as rising inflation that is rapidly crippling Africa’s poorest and developed nations.

According to a December 2021 International Security Studies (ISS) report, a look ahead suggests that African countries need to do much more to reverse current conflict and crisis trends.

The ISS says that given the regional repercussions faced by some states and transnational government intricacies, regional bodies and the African Union (AU) must act with resolve and urgency, especially in the coming months, to quell tensions that could potentially arise in these elections. The stark reality is that warnings of political violence cannot be ignored.

This month (July), Senegalese will go to the polls while three major elections are scheduled for Angola and Kenya in August.

In this file picture, a woman can be seen casting her ballot papers in previous elections held in Kenya Picture: Reuters

Kenya

The East African country led by the ruling Jubilee Party leader and incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta will host its general elections on August 9. Voters are expected to elect the President, members of the National Assembly and Senate, county governors and members of the 47 county assemblies. According to political analysts, the elections will expose intra-elite tensions within the political arena of the East African country. Kenyatta has so far united with opposition leader Raila Odinga against the campaign of Deputy President William Ruto, who is bitterly at odds with Kenyatta. Both candidates see a loss as posing existential peril to political and economic interests, says the International Crisis Group.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is serving out his second and last term, is at loggerheads with Deputy President William Ruto, who was instrumental in propelling Kenyatta to victory in two previous elections and is making his first bid for the top office. According to reports, Kenyatta has thrown his weight behind veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga, who at age 77 is staging his fourth and likely final run.

Angola

Angolans will go to the polls for parliamentary elections on August 24, in which the leader of the party with the most votes becomes president. The ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, or MPLA, which has been in power for half a century, has confirmed that its leader and incumbent President Joao Lourenco will stand for re-election. Angola faces a tirade of challenges including ongoing cases of state security forces continuing to be implicated in serious human rights abuses, including summary executions, excessive use of force against peaceful protesters, and arbitrary detentions throughout 2021.

Analysts have highlighted that the devastation of war, the high fertility rate, limited access to healthcare, lack of quality education for all and income inequality partially due to government corruption are the primary causes of poverty in Angola, issues that voters will keep in mind when heading to the polls.

Senegal

This year marks three years after incumbent President Macky Sall was re-elected for a second term in polls that barred two would-be major competitors for suspected politically motivated criminal convictions.

According to the ISS Peace and Security Council report, the elections will also take place two years before a presidential election for which Sall is rumoured to be contemplating vying for a third term.

In Senegal, the Yewwi Askan Wi coalition of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko and the Wallu Sénégal coalition of former president Abdoulaye Wade decided to join forces ahead of the July legislative elections. Senegalese honked car horns and banged on pots and pans in the capital Dakar this week in the latest protest organised by the political opposition ahead of legislative elections next month.

Senegal’s main opposition coalition, Yewwi Askan Wi, demonstrated to signal their anger over the disqualification of their candidate list in the upcoming poll.

The demonstration followed street protests recently that were banned by authorities and turned violent as police fired tear gas and water cannons during clashes with protesters.

Opposition leader Ousmane Sonko said three people were killed in the June 17 protests, one in Dakar and two in the southern region of Casamance, according to various reports.

Lesotho

On the other hand, general elections are expected to be held in Lesotho in September 2022 to elect all 120 seats of the National Assembly, the lower house of the Parliament. Since the first government coalition in the country’s history in 2002, Lesotho knew three elections, four changes of prime minister, two suspensions of parliament, the assassination of two army chiefs of staff and continued mediation by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) since 2014, according to the French Institute of International Relations.

A new political crisis broke out in April 2021, a year after the previous one leading to the departure of Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, accused of being involved in the assassination of his wife in 2017. SADC intervened to negotiate his departure.

The ISS says that although the kingdom has seemed from the outside to be fairly quiet since Moeketsi Majoro took over as prime minister from the controversial Tom Thabane in May 2020, in reality, there have been deep rumblings beneath the surface.

The government and the country have been paralysed for some time by bitter in-fighting in the All Basotho Convention (ABC) – the leading party in the six-party governing coalition.

Lesotho faces immense challenges, as one of the last kingdoms in the world ravaged by poor healthcare systems, weak institutions and lagging private sector development. Lesotho is due to hold national elections in mid-October. The polls were expected to be held under a new constitutional regime resulting from a reform process that started in 2012. But, the process has not yielded much fruit.

There’s widespread consensus – locally and internationally – that the constitutional kingdom of about 2.2 million must reform its political system to overcome recurrent political instability. But successive governments have failed to bring about the necessary changes, writes the Conversation.

Election violence

As Africans head to the polls, pre and post-election violence can be expected, but we will not see large-scale dissent among the African electorate. Africans are aware of the power of their vote, so by making their mark on the ballot paper, not only are Africans voting for change, but also showing the Western world that free and peaceful elections are possible on the Continent. However, security continues to be a concern.

International Observer Missions

As seen over the decades, the West has always sent observer missions to Africa to monitor free and fair elections. But the question is, are foreign observer missions necessary to monitor elections in Africa?

According to the African Union (AU), Africa has made significant progress in institutionalising electoral democracy over the course of the past decade, adding that this is reflected in a number of successful multiparty elections in most AU member states.

The AU has said in a report this week that it contributes to electoral observation through its Election Observation Missions, AUEOM.

The objectives of the AUEOM are: to provide an accurate and impartial reporting or assessment of the election, including the degree to which the conduct of the elections meets regional, continental and international standards for democratic elections; to offer recommendations for improvement of future elections based on the findings; and to demonstrate the AU’s interest to support its member states’ elections and democratisation process, to ensure that the conduct of genuine elections contributes to the consolidation of democratic governance, peace and stability.

Chad Williams is a multimedia reporter for the African News Agency. He specialises in African politics, health and social justice affairs.

This article is original to The African. To republish, see terms and conditions.