The second largest and second most populous continent in the world, Africa was expected to witness over 15 elections this year but only a few elections took place. Just like other years, Africans were still skeptical if these elections would go through the right process in order to strengthen their democracies but they were still marred with irregularities.
According to a survey conducted by Afrobarometer, only 25 percent of Africans believe in their national electoral commissions and the quality of their elections. These set of people believe that votes during elections are counted fairly. Around 40 percent of Africans in 36 countries believed that the last elections in their country were free and fair. 35 percent said that there is rampant bribery, media bias, and often times voters are threatened with violence at the polls.
Almost all the elections that took place this year were marred with election violence and fraud. Elections are supposed to usher in change, but this is not the case about most of the elections happening in Africa, as most often than not, they fail to deliver the hope that is expected by the citizens. African leaders need to work hard to ensure that these electoral issues plaguing the continent for decades are gone for good.
As we draw the curtains on 2018, below are highlights of presidential elections that took place in Africa during the year:
General elections were held in Sierra Leone on 7 March, 2018 to elect the President, Parliament and local councils. Sierra Leone’s opposition candidate and a former military ruler, Julius Maada Bio won the country’s presidential election with 51.81 percent of the votes while Samura Kamara of the incumbent party took 48.19 percent of the votes. The election was Bio’s second bid for the presidency. He lost the 2012 election to the immediate past President Ernest Bai Koroma who did not run for another term, having served ten years in office.
Bio contested the elections under Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party (SLPP) while Kamara, who vowed to challenge the result of the election, contested under the All Peoples’ Congress (APC).
The incumbent president of Egypt Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was re-elected with 97 percent of votes, the same proportion that he secured four years ago for his first term but with a lower turnout. As one would have expected at the beginning of the year, the three-day election which took place between 26th and 28th of March 2018 had only one candidate as other candidates pulled out of the race while the main challenger was arrested.
Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat, the nephew of Egypt’s former president dropped out of the race citing intimidation of his supporters. Hamdeen Sabahi, a former two-time presidential candidate previously joined with a coalition of other pro-democracy figures to call for a boycott of the election was also arrested. It was rather unfortunate that the election, which is the fourth contested presidential election in Egypt’s history ended as it did.
Mali, a West African country that produces gold and cotton, held the first round of its election on 29 July and the incumbent president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita known as “IBK” won 41.4 percent of total votes while his rival Soumaila Cisse won with 17.8 percent votes. But since neither of the candidates obtained 50 percent votes required to win outrightly, 73-year-old Keita and Cisse took part in a runoff election which held on 12 August. Following the runoff, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta claimed an overwhelming victory to win a second term in office with 67 percent votes and his rival Cisse had 33 percent vote. Mali’s election was marred with allegations of electoral fraud and attacks by suspected militants.
Insecurity in Mali, which is known mainly by the persistence of terror threats, has made the country lose control of large parts of northern and central Mali. The implementation of the 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation between the state and rebels to end the conflict in the north has also stalled. The issue of insecurity in Mali scared a lot of people from going out to participate in the elections.
Southern Africa country, Zimbabwe for the first time since its independence in 1980 held an election without ousted president Robert Mugabe on the ballot paper. After ousting Mugabe in a 2017 coup, a lot of people thought that the 30 July 2018 election would be different from previous elections but as usual, the election was marred with irregularities and violence.
The ruling political party, Zanu-PF were accused of pulling out tricks of incumbency to ensure victory for President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took over from Mugabe after the coup. Emmerson won by 50.8 votes while his main rival of MDC Alliance, Nelson Chamisa won by 44.3 percent.
According to reports, there were misuse of state resources, instances of coercion and intimidation, partisan behaviour by traditional leaders and overt bias in state media, all in favour of the ruling party. The election was also marred by lack of transparency as some results were not posted outside polling stations after the ballot count as demanded by law.
Cameroon‘s presidential election took place on the 7th of October 2018 and the octogenarian president, Paul Biya, who has held power for 36 years won another term. According to reports, the election was marred by allegations of fraud and a lot of people were too scared to vote.
Biya was declared winner with 71.28 percent votes and the opposition leader Maurice Kamto, who had declared himself winner of the election a few hours after the polls closed, refused to attend the declaration ceremony. The constitutional council announced that Biya’s closest rival won by 14 percent. Cabral Libii who emerged as the third-placed candidate also rejected the results, saying they did not “reflect reality” in Cameroon.
Five elections have taken place in Cameroon since 1982 and all of which have been won by Biya.
Presidential elections were held in Madagascar on 7 November but no candidate won the majority vote. The outgoing president Hery Rajaonarimampianina was eliminated in the first round after winning only nine percent. A rerun involving the top two candidates, Former Madagascan president Andry Rajoelina and his rival and predecessor former president Marc Ravalomanana, was held on 19 December. Rajoelina was announced as the winner with 56.66 percent of the votes while Ravalomanana won 44.34 percent. However, the results may be contested by Ravalomanana who claimed that the election was marred by fraud.
It would be recalled that in 2002, Ravalomanana was elected president of Madagascar but he was forced to resign seven years later following protests fuelled by Rajoelina. Rajoelina was then installed by the army and ruled from 2009 until 2014. According to reports, the two candidates were both banned from running in the 2013 election as part of an agreement to end recurring crises that have rocked Madagascar since independence from France in 1960.
If the issue is not resolved immediately, Madagascar could be faced with another crisis.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Ballot counting is currently underway in the long-delayed presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo which took place Sunday 30 December, 2018. The election to replace outgoing President Joseph Kabila who has ruled the DRC since his father’s assassination in 2001 was originally set to take place in 2016 but was called off when President Kabila refused to step down after the end of his mandate.
Sunday’s election was initially scheduled to take place on 23 December, but it was postponed because of a warehouse fire which happened earlier this month destroying thousands of voting machines. Election officials also postponed elections in the Ebola-stricken eastern cities of Beni and Butembo, and the western city of Yumbi, which has been plagued by ethnic violence. According to reports, residents in Beni have defied the decision and gone ahead to cast the symbolic votes on Sunday.
Just like other elections in Africa, DRC elections were also marred by disorganization at many polling stations, such as missing voter rolls and malfunctioning electronic voting machines. This pushed voting into the night thereby forcing election officials to make use of flashlights.
The first partial results of the election which could mark the country’s first peaceful transition of power after nearly six decades of independence are expected to be announced within the week while the official results will be announced on January 15.
Kabila has endorsed his interior minister Emmanuel Shadary to be Congo’s next president. However, Shadary contested with several strong challengers, which includes Felix Tshisekedi, the head of Congo’s biggest opposition party, and Martin Fayulu, a businessman endorsed by a coalition of opposition groups, who was reported to be leading in opinion polls on the eve of the election.
If the outcome of this election is disputed, there could be a repeat of the violence that followed the 2006 and 2011 elections and a wider security breakdown, particularly along Congo’s borders with Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.