Anxiety on continent as Kenya, Rwanda and Angola prepare for polls
After a rather lacklustre electoral year, the season of big-league African polls is finally here.
July 29 will see parliamentary elections in Gabon as the second and final round of round of Congo Brazzaville’s legislative ones are held the following day.
Despite their importance, the polls in the Republic of Congo and Gabon will be more or less overshadowed by the major league ones to be held in the momentous month of August.
As matters stand, the limelight will be reserved for Rwanda, where a presidential election will be conducted on August 3 and 4.
Already deified by his compatriots and practically given a carte blanche during last year’s constitutional referendum, multi-term President Paul Kagame is virtually guaranteed of a win.
He has been in power for 17 years already.
Less predictable though will be Kenya which goes to the elections the following week.
The Kenyan polls are more critical, going by the fact that the December 2007 ones were steeped in mayhem while the 2013 General Election was alarmingly controversial.
Proceeded by tense campaigns, there are questions as to whether the elections themselves will be peaceful, free and credible.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga are clear favourites. There are six other candidates.
Whatever the outcome, the Kenyan polls will be followed by the Angolan presidential election on August 23.
Already there are serious doubts about the political climate in which the General Election will be held.
Given the health status of President José Eduardo dos Santos, there is genuine anxiety on how his succession will play out.
Pointedly, the long-term and soon-to-retire president has reportedly been rushed to hospital in capital Luanda.
He just landed in the country a few days ago after a prolonged medical sojourn in Spain.
Given the scenario, the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) has been in a quandary amid campaigns for dos Santos’ presumed successor João Lourenço.
Dos Santos is Africa’s second longest serving head of state after his Equatorial Guinea compatriot Teodoro Obiang.
Other countries with such rulers include Cameroon, Uganda, Sudan, and Chad.
The Congo Brazzaville parliamentary first round elections conducted on Sunday were the first ones after the violence-marred presidential poll in March.
The controversial presidential election was held following a constitutional referendum that ended a two-term presidential term limit.
The poll gave 73-year-old strongman Dénis Sassou-Nguesso the green light to remain in power, like a horde of multi-term African leaders.
More than two million voters were expected to cast their ballots in the first round of polling to elect parliamentarians and local councils, with the second round due on July 30.
President Sassou-Nguesso’s ruling Congolese Labour Party (PCT) had 128 candidates running for the 151 available seats.
In a country where the veteran president calls the shots, a number of so-called independent candidates have close ties to the ruling party and are expected to toe the line.
In Gabon, it is expected that 120 members of the National Assembly will be elected in a two-round system, similar to what is happening in neighbouring Congo Brazzaville.
Like the Republic of Congo, Gabon has President Ali Bongo, who was re-elected by fewer than 6,000 votes in August last year for a seven-year stint in office.
Bongo ascended the office in 2009 following the death of his father, the legendary Omar Bongo, who had ruled the country for a staggering 42 years.
The forthcoming Rwanda, Kenya and Angola elections will be followed by a General Election in Liberia, slated for October 17.
The polls will see the election of a new president, as well as members of the country’s House of Representatives and the remaining half of the members of the Senate.
Unlike Angola, where President dos Santos is retiring after almost four decades in power, Liberian President Eileen Sirleaf Johnson, will be calling it a day after serving her constitutional two five-year terms.
In the meantime, the African Union and other observers from around the world will have a busy season operating their “rigometres” in countries like Kenya and Angola.