Four African countries engaged in presidential elections in 2017. Rwanda and Kenya had their incumbents retain their seats while Angola and Liberia had leadership changes made possible by the withdrawal of the incumbent presidents.
It is worth noting the election of the self-declared independent nation of Somaliland which ushered in a new president after the withdrawal of the incumbent Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud. They used the iris biometric register, making them the first country in the world to do so.
This year, eight African countries are going to the polls. They include Egypt, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Mali, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Libya. Almost all of these countries are facing political tensions.
Zimbabwe recently expelled its long-time president Robert Mugabe through a military takeover that forced him to resign. Former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been appointed the president and he will represent the ruling ZANU-PF party in this year’s election. He is touted to win the election which has always been won by the incumbent.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has delayed its election in two years over “inadequate funding”. President Joseph Kabila has exhausted his two-term in office since 2016 but continues to serve as president with the backing of the court. This raises suspicion that he wants to alter the constitution to run for a third term.
Kabila promised to organise the election in 2018 after postponing the process twice. Opposition and youth groups have been holding regular protests to force the government to hold the elections. If the election date is set and Kabila agrees to step down, DR Congo will get a new president.
Sierra Leone is also expecting a new president in a few weeks as the incumbent Ernest Bai Koroma has exhausted his two terms in office after serving for ten years. Egypt is not likely to have a new president as incumbent president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has not formally announced if he will be running for a second and final term. The probability of him running again is high.
South Sudan has expressed its desire to hold an election this year despite the threats of a civil war. There are continued attacks in the world’s newest country and it was unable to hold elections since 2015 due to security threats.
Libya has expressed readiness to hold elections in 2018 backed by the United Nations. The UN-backed leader Fayez Al-Sirraj announced the readiness to hold elections this year. The leader of eastern Libya, Khalifa Haftar, said the country will not be ready for democracy and vowed to seize control of the country if the elections fail. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi, has also expressed interest in contesting in the election.
Mali’s incumbent president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is contesting for re-election this year. He is tipped to continue his second and final term. Cameroon’s Paul Biya will be standing for his eighth term this year as the country goes to the polls. He has been president since 1982 and has no plans to step down.
Below are the election dates in the eight countries.
South Sudan – July 9
Sierra Leone – March 7
Zimbabwe – September 2018
Egypt – March 2018
DR Congo – 2018
Libya – September 2018
Mali – July 2018
Cameroon – October 2018