General Elections in Egypt, Sierra Leone, Mali, Cameroon and Democratic Republic of Congo. Possible political instability in South Africa. Crucial year in Gabon.
In North Africa, one of the main challenges is the improvement of the situation in war-torn Libya and more particularly of the situation of the Sub-Saharan migrants who are victims of the slave trade. During 2018, should be implemented a plan launched at the Abidjan EU-Africa summit of the last 29 and 30 November by the European and African Unions and by the U.N. to improve the conditions of migrants and refugees in Libya, to provide them with the appropriate assistance and to facilitate their voluntary repatriation to their countries of origin, as well as durable solutions for refugees.
In Egypt, everyone is focused on the presidential election, scheduled for March or April. The final list of candidates is expected to be published in February 2018. Former Egyptian Prime Minister an ex-air force pilot Ahmed Shafiq, said by last November he planned to run. But there is no certainty, he will be allowed to do so since his hosts, in the United Arab Emirates, a close ally of Egypt, have barred him from traveling. In such circumstances, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who is expected to seek a second term is considered as the likely winner, by all pundits.
The first local elections since the Jasmin Revolution of 2011, should take place in Tunisia on the 25 March 2018. This is a much awaited event since the town councils were dissolved in 2011 and were replaced by provisional “special delegations” which faced difficulties to manage the main cities of the country, as showed problems in the collection of wastes and deficient infrastructures.
The first scheduled event of the year in Morocco will be the African Nations Championship (CHAN 2018) which will take place between the 12th January and the 4th February. Morocco was a last minute’s choice after the Confederation of African Football, the governing body for soccer in Africa, voted unanimously to award to the Kingdom the tournament, after it confirmed it would be stripping Kenya of the tournament ‘in light of accumulated delays from reports of the various inspection missions conducted in the country.’
In neighbouring Algeria, everyone is expecting President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s announcement that he will run again in 2019, despite his uncertain health condition. Preliminary indications have been given in late 2017, that such should be the scenario, with Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia’s statement that he would support President Bouteflika if the latter wants to run for a fifth term.
In West-Africa, Sierra Leone, general elections will be held on the 7 March 2018 to elect the President, the Parliament and local councils. The three major presidential candidates in the 2018 are current foreign minister Samura Kamara who is the ruling All People’s Congress party candidate, former Sierra Leone military Junta ruler retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, who is the candidate of the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and former United Nations senior official Kandeh Yumkella, who is the candidate of the newly formed National Grand Coalition (NGC), formed by disgruntled SLPP former members. One problem is that the election falls outside of the five-year term plus three months limit.
Elections are also scheduled in Mali where the jihadist threat and the separatist movement which struggles for the liberation of the northern Azawad territory are still very present. The presidential election should take place in July and the parliament elections are due in November. The suspense there is, whether the incumbent President, Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita who scored 77.6% in 2013 will be re-elected or not. Over the last months, a number of his allies have defected.
In Guinea-Conakry, local elections are scheduled on the 4 February 2018. They should have been organised in February 2017 but they were postponed, fuelling the anger of the opposition which still demonstrated in September 2017 to urge the Electoral Commission and the government to make the necessary steps to hold these elections. These are likely to take place in a tense situation. During the last quarter of 2017, there were violent demonstrations in Boké, in Western Guinea, where the inhabitants protested against power cuts.
In Eastern Africa, the main event on the agenda is the parliament election next February in Djibouti, which President Ismail Omar Guelleh’s party is likely to win, largely because of the divisions on the opposition side.In Central Africa, parliament and presidential elections are scheduled for the second half of 2018 in Cameroon. By end 2017, ten candidates announced that they would run, including former barrister Akéré Muna and Bernard Ndjonga, who is supported by small farmers associations. The opposition Social Democratic Front is also expected to present one candidate, either its historical leader John Fru Ndi, or the party’s vice-president, Joshua Osih. Everyone expects 84 years old President Paul Biya to run for another term. The big suspense is, whether or not, the elections can take place in the English-speaking Western part of the country where authorities imposed a curfew in October. The region has become the stage of a cycle of violence and repression, opposing pro-independence activists and the military. It should be also difficult to hold elections in Northern Cameroon, where Boko Haram militants are still active.
The year 2018 will be crucial in neighbouring Gabon, where parliament elections are due in April. In principle, they should have taken place in December 2016, but they had to be postponed, owing to the tense situation that followed the controversial presidential election, which President Ali Bongo’s rival, Jean Ping, described as rigged. There are still clouds on the horizon however. Opposition politicians including Dieudonné Minlama Mintogo are sceptical about the possibilities to organise free and fair elections by April. Several electoral reforms must indeed be implemented beforehand, including a reform of the constitution and of the electoral law, the appointment of an independent electoral commission and the registration of the voters, in little more than three months.
In the DRC, the main issue will be whether the legislative and presidential elections, which were scheduled by the constitution for end 2016, will take place on the 23 December 2018 as announced in November 2017 by the Independent National Electoral Commission. This is the second postponement of the elections which were due to be held by end 2017, according to an agreement sealed by the government and the opposition under the aegis of the Roman Catholic episcopal conference. The opposition does not believe that President Joseph Kabila genuinely wants to hold them since he is not allowed to run for a third term by the constitution. So far, he has declined to state that he will not run, despite Congolese bishops’ requests.
In Burundi, the main issue will be the consequence of the International Criminal Court’s decision to open a preliminary investigation for crimes against humanity committed since April 2015 by rebels, members of the presidential party Imbonerakure militias and by state agents. The list includes the killing of more than one thousand people, illegal detentions, tortures of thousands of citizens and the displacement of 413,000 refugees. The question is whether the investigation can make progress in a country which withdrew from the ICC in October 2017.
There is also concern about possible political instability in South Africa. President Jacob Zuma, who is facing charges for corruption, might indeed have to resign before the official end of his mandate in late 2019. The succession war is raging within the ANC between Zuma’s ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamani Zuma, who has the support of her ex-husband and ex-trade unionist, Cyril Ramaphosa.