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AFRICA/ELECTIONS: A Review of Previous Elections and Present Ones, What Major Changes?

18.10.2018
Former and late UN secretary general Kofi Anan once said Democracy is not just about one day every four or five years when elections are held, but a system of government that respects the separation of powers, fundamental freedoms like the freedom of thought, religion, expression, association and assembly and the rule of law. The years 2016, 2017 and 2018 have been very significant and will remain remarkable in the history of Africa and in the history of elections in the continent. These years can therefore be termed elections years in Africa. This assertion is coming from the fact that many African nations have gone or are yet to go to the polls to cast their ballots in landmark elections, either at the parliamentary or presidential level.

Exercising their democratic rights through voting, many Africans in different nations across the continent have validated another democratic process by casting their ballots during poll to elect new leaders that would take the nations forward in governance. The fundamental and democratic process consequentially led to a change of regime in some countries. However, power did not change hands in other nations. In 2016, landmark presidential elections in some African Nations shakened the political sphere of the continent which presented a wind of change that have been blowing across Africa.

  • A country like The Gambia was a center of attraction in West Africa after the nation went to the polls on December 1, 2016 to elect a new leader. At the end of the election process; Yaya Jammeh who has been at the helm for over two decades conceded defeat and accepted the election victory of his main challenger, leader of a formed coalition, the National Alliance for Democracy and Democracy NADD, Adama Barrow. Notwithstanding, then President Yaya Jammeh became defiant, refusing to cede power to Barrow. The intervention from a dependable regional bloc ECOWAS eventually ensured a peaceful transfer of Power from Yaya Jammeh to Adama Barrow.
  • In the central African nation of Gabon; a highly contested election between Ali Bongo and ex- minister of foreign Affairs Jean ping, gave Bongo an upper hand with a  80% against  Jean Ping who garnered 48.23%. Focusing on Ghana’s presidential elections, the independent election process saw Nana Akufo Addo defeating John Dramani Mahama with a 53.8 percent to 44.4 percent.

Other Landmark Elections

  • In 2017, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame was again voted to be at the helm of Rwanda’s Presidency. He was declared winner by the elections body with over 98% of the votes cast. Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya after an election runoff officially emerged the rightful winner of the presidential poll with 54.27% of votes cast.
  • In the oil rich nation of Angola, the presidency got a new face as president Eduardo dos Santos finally resigned his post but the ruling MPLAwon the polls with Ex-Defense minister Joao Lourenco taking over the reins from dos Santos.  Power equally changed hands in Somalia where Hassan Sheikh Mohamud lost to serving Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo.
  • In Liberia, long time sport legend and a onetime senator George Weah won the elections with 61.5%, defeating his main challenger, Boakai who garnered 38.5 percent. Thus George Weah took over from the country’s first ever female president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and it is worth noting that then president Sirleaf threw her support behind incumbent George Weah.
  • Turning to Zimbabwe, the rule of the independent president of the southern African Nation Robert Mugabe came to an end. A highly disputed poll gave birth to a new regime with Emerson Mnangagwa ascending the presidency of Zimbabwe. The country experienced a change of leadership, though the Ruling Zanu–PF remains the number one political party.
  • Uncertainty still looms in the Central African nation of Cameroon as the country is yet to know the winner of the October 7 presidential election. As of now the opposition has cried foul and has vowed to contest the just ended polls. Some elections have come and gone, other nations are still bracing for presidential elections in the new electoral Year. Notwithstanding, many things remain in the dark.

What remains remarkable with elections in Africa

  • Comparing past and present elections from the above examples, it’s very clear that Africa has made great strides in recent years towards consolidating democracy, enhancing the role of Law, consolidating good governance, improving human security, promoting and protecting human rights. Since the early 90s, many African nations have undergone real transition from one party system to a multiparty form of government or democratic system based on majority rule.
  • These democratic transitions have always been practical through the holding of multiparty elections. Like elsewhere in the world, the conducting of these elections have become a powerful tool for democratic stability, accountability and human development in the African continent. A significant number of elections have succeeded in placing many countries on a firm part to recovery and a peaceful transition, following years of civil conflicts. For example, Elections in Namibia led to independence in 1989, the South African elections that ended apartheid rule in 1994. Other nations like Mozambique cast their ballots in 1994, Sierra Leone in 2002, Liberia in 2005 and the DR Congo in 2006. All these put an end to decades of civil unrest. Africa remains en-route to achieving real political democracy.

Article from Editorial of AFRIC

Credit images: google.com and chude-jideonwo

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