Africa’s elections have either been improving or regressing. It largely depends on who you ask.
Doubters say a recent outbreak of coups and coup attempts suggests low belief in elections as a means of choosing leaders.
Proponents argue that the frequency of elections shows that people and politicians are now more confident about being subjected to routine tests.
This year, Africa expects to hold up to 24 different polls, from presidential to local ones. Presidential elections are significant because they determine new heads of state and policy directions to be taken.
Africa’s most populous country heads to the polls next month. And starting with presidential elections, Nigeria will also hold senate and state governorship elections early in March, completing three weeks of electioneering.
The polls are important because they could determine the new policy for the country’s counter-terrorism. President Muhammadu Buhari, who is ending his two-term tenure, has struggled with banditry and terrorism, with gangs attacking villages or being neutralised almost every day.
The Nigerian polls are so massive the government will be deploying 10,000 more police officers to guard 176,846 polling stations. The country’s police service has about 300,000 officers. Authorities have indicated they will also draft defence forces to guard the vote but primarily provide locals with confidence to head to polling stations without fearing attacks from bandits or terrorists.
The Democratic Republic of Congo excited the world when in 2019, it witnessed the first peaceful handover of power from one civilian leader to another since independence. But now the elections due on December 20 will punctuate that progress as the country faces old problems with rebels and other insecurities.
This will be President Felix Tshisekedi’s turn to defend his presidency. He promised security in 2019 and reached out to neighbours - Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda - to improve relations, the lack of which had been cited for the continual presence of foreign rebel groups on DRC soil. He also joined the East African Community (EAC).
Today, however, his relations with Rwanda have soured over a blame game on rebel support, and the menace of violence in eastern provinces has snowballed, attracting regional forces from the EAC.
Zimbabwe is later in October expected to hold its presidential, Senate, House of Assembly and local elections. But the country will be watched for its presidential polls. President Emmerson Mnangagwa replaced longtime leader Robert Mugabe who was ousted in 2017 and later died.
But Mr Mnangagwa has been a good political student of Mugabe, changing laws to restrict space for opposition groups. The country has also been unable to free itself from Mugabe-era sanctions imposed on it for violating civil rights, including the forceful take-over of white-owned farms.
Defiant President Mnangagwa has been lobbying the African Union to help free his country.
Other key presidential polls
Liberia’s President George Weah will face re-election against a backdrop of accusations that he travels out of the country a lot and has looked on as the country’s economic problems soar. He recently went on a trip that lasted seven weeks.
Gabonese President Ali Bongo will seek re-election in this year’s general election even though his health has been a subject of public debate.
Sierra Leone and Madagascar are also scheduled for presidential elections.
Other countries such as Sudan and Libya had planned elections for this year, but a dispute over the structure of those polls, financial needs, and security situation may delay the vote altogether.