By Prince Kurupati*
As the year begins, we all hope that our beautiful continent, Africa, continues to rise in all facets of development. Africa possesses all the necessary ingredients for sustainable development i.e. natural resources endowment and a skilled and technology savvy labour force. However, the major challenge that has curtailed African development pertains to a toxic environment that inhibits sustainable development, innovation and entrepreneurship.
The toxic environment is largely a creation of non-peaceful and sometimes violent transitions of power. With this background in mind, we have drafted a detailed overview of the countries that are going to conduct electoral processes in 2018 so we all can keep an eye as the events unfold in these countries and gauge if Africa is progressing or regressing in terms of democratic transitions of power.
Cameroon 2018 Presidential Election
In October, Cameroonians are going to the polls to choose their new leader. To date, only two opposition candidates, Akere Muna and John Fru Ndi have submitted their names to compete against incumbent Paul Biya who has been in power since 1982. However, it’s only a matter of time before other candidates submit their names for selection come October. Muna is a lawyer by profession and a strong anti-corruption activist who has served as Vice President of the internationally acclaimed organisation, Transparency International. The political field in Cameroon is at best level now, but if opposition parties unite as has been muted in various circles, then the tilt might just be in the opposition’s favour come October. All Africa wants is a peaceful election that recognises the wishes and aspirations of the masses. Hope Cameroon does not fail Africa.
Egypt 2018 Presidential Election
The events of the Egyptian revolution are still fresh in our minds though seven years have since lapsed. Egypt is gearing up for its second presidential election after the revolution and many think the elections will usher in a new wave of change. The incumbent, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi a former military commander took over power 4 years ago after ousting the then President, Mohamed Mursi. Sisi’s presidency has however been marked by numerous protests due to some dictatorial tendencies such as banning the independent media and restricting the conducting of opinion polls. Only one candidate has thus far declared interest to compete against the incumbent that is Khaled Ali. Ali has since said if discrepancies appear in terms of how the elections are conducted, he will boycott leaving Sisi to go in a one-man race. Africa, however, hopes it does not come to this.
Mali 2018 Presidential Election
The troubled West African nation of Mali hasn’t had many difficulties when it comes to conducting credible elections. The same is expected this year when the nation goes to an election. The incumbent, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is currently in his first term and is seeking a second term in office. Keita will face Kalifa Sanogo if no other candidates throw their names into the hat before election day.
Sierra Leone 2018 Presidential Election
Sierra Leone will hold its presidential elections on 7 March. Four candidates will be on the ballot paper. These are former United Nations top official, Kandeh Yumkella (National Grand Coalition), former Vice President, Samuel Sam Sumana (Coalition for Change), former military junta leader retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, and current foreign minister, Samura Kamara (All People’s Congress, the ruling party). The incumbent Ernest Bai Koroma is ineligible for re-election after serving his two terms. After contentious elections in its first years after independence, Sierra Leone now relatively holds peaceful elections.
South Sudan 2018 Presidential Election
South Sudan is pushing for elections this year though the conditions are unfavourable for the process. The country is currently at war meaning voter registration will be hampered by insecurity, the government itself says it does not have the adequate resources to conduct elections and the main opposition party leader, Dr. Riek Machar is in exile in South Africa meaning he cannot campaign or hold rallies. The incumbent, Salva Kiir came to power via a negotiated Peace Agreement in 2015 that created a Transitional Government of National Unity with a lifespan of 30 months. The 30 months window closes in February this year meaning the country has to hold elections. Despite the negative factors, President Kiir is pushing for elections in a bid to legitimise his stay in power beyond February 2018. The hope around Africa is that this will not lead to an escalation of the already warlike environment in the country.
Zimbabwe 2018 Presidential Election
There were some dramatic events in Zimbabwe over the past two months that eventually led to the resignation of long-time President, Robert Mugabe who had been in power since 1980. Mugabe’s resignation meant that the newly appointed (by the party of outgoing President, ZANU (PF)) President, Emmerson Mnangagwa will finish off Mugabe’s term. At the end of the term, on or before September 2018, Zimbabwe will go to the polls to elect a new leader. Before the rise of Mnangagwa to the top post, both the ruling party and the main opposition were embroiled in destructive political divisions and fights but basing on the new dispensation, it looks as if ZANU (PF) has regrouped and is now a unified force while the opposition is still showing signs of fissures. Emmerson Mnangagwa has promised a free, fair and credible election thus Africa hopes he will stay true to his word.
Democratic Republic of Congo challenges
2018 is not supposed to be an election year in the DRC but with the way things are going, an election seems to be the only feasible lasting solution. The incumbent, Joseph Kabila was supposed to step down in November 2016 when his term ended but did not and he failed to call for an election at that time. However, reports say the presidential election may be held simultaneously with the legislative, regional and local elections scheduled for December 23rd this year. Several protests in the capital, Kinshasa some violent are now a common feature. Africa’s hope is that the elections are held at the said date and done in a peaceful manner.
South Africa (Two centres of power)
One of Africa’s biggest economic giant, South Africa is currently embroiled in legal challenges aimed at removing the incumbent, Jacob Zuma from power. Zuma’s term runs until 2019 when the country is scheduled to conduct its elections. However, there is a high probability that Zuma may not last until 2019 largely as a result of the emergence of Cyril Ramaphosa as ANC’s President. Ramaphosa was elected ANC President in December 2017. Since Ramaphosa came into power, ANC bigwigs have been calling on Zuma to resign or be impeached. The Parliament failed to impeach Zuma last year after countrywide protests about Zuma’s corrupt tendencies. However, the odds are now stacked heavily against Zuma, as both his party and the opposition want him out of office. Regardless of the circumstances that will eventually lead to Zuma’s ouster whether impeachment or via elections, Africa hopes that South Africa will remain unscathed and will continue to raise the African flag high.