Elections 2018: Africa's bumpy road ahead

Tuesday March 13 2018

Congolese Police face off with anti-Joseph Kabila protesters in the capital Kinshasa. AFP

Congolese Police face off with anti-Joseph Kabila protesters in the capital Kinshasa. As the country heads to elections later in the year, it is teetering on the precipice, again. PHOTO | AFP 

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Kenya’s divisive election in August last year replays a new trend in Africa: An electoral crisis that rapidly metastasizes into a constitutional one.

President Uhuru Kenyatta won an October 2017 repeat election ordered by the Supreme Court after it nullified an earlier one held in August. Raila Odinga, Kenyatta’s chief opponent, boycotted the re-run, dissatisfied with Kenya’s electoral management body, the IEBC.

He calls Kenyatta illegitimate and has had himself sworn in as “the people’s president.” Kenyatta bristles at the charge and has taken to strong measures.

Recently he shut down free-to-air TV, mainly to black out live broadcast of Mr Odinga’s “swearing in.” He has arrested Mr Odinga’s allies and, against clear court orders, deported a citizen who officiated at the ceremony, Miguna Miguna, to Canada arguing that he isn’t Kenyan.

It is a familiar story. Controversial elections followed by violent protests and constitutional crises. This script, increasingly common since the mid-2000s, reflects a growing claw-back on political freedoms reform. Is Africa on the cusp of a democratic reversal?

With 24 elections scheduled, this year should help answer that question. Of these elections, nine are presidential contests. A tenth presidential election, in South Sudan, has been called off. DRC’s 2016 election was re-scheduled to this year. It may not take place.

Controversy, perhaps even violence, is expected in many of these contests. What follows is a brief outlook of six countries: DRC, Sierra Leone, Egypt, Madagascar, Cameroon and Mali.