Promising elections does not mean holding them



In West Africa, 2023 was marked by various “troubles”: military coups, internal disturbances, terrorist attacks, etc., but it seems that even this year, Africans do not intend to live peacefully.

A year ago, West Africa was recognized as the main «belt of instability» in the world: starting with military coups and political crises, and ending with increased terrorist and climate threats.

Chad, Mali, Guinea, Togo, Burkina Faso and Gabon are now in the spotlight. But this is not the end. Who knows what will change in the minds of other African leaders before the end of 2024? However, first things first.

CHAD: On March 23, 2024, Chad’s opposition group Wakit Tamma called for a boycott of the elections, calling them a «masquerade» that would perpetuate a «dynastic dictatorship». Wakit Tamma called the National Electoral Management Agency (ANGE) and the Constitutional Council «bodies of fraud subordinate to the junta». This sounds alarming, especially after the death of one of the incumbent’s main rivals, Yaya Dillo Djerou, who was killed on February 28 during an attack on the headquarters of his Socialist Party Without Borders (PSF). The death raised serious questions about the political climate in the country on the eve of the elections. A month later, Chad published the lists of candidates: ten applications were approved, ten others were rejected (not all for objective reasons). The uniqueness of the upcoming elections is that both the incumbent president Mahamat Idriss Déby and his prime minister Succes Masra are represented among the candidates, which is an unprecedented case in Africa. There are also questions about the electoral process itself: not long ago, a new electoral code was published that limits electoral transparency by eliminating the public display of results at polling stations and restricting political parties’ access to judicial processes. In addition, the Constitutional Council rejected ten presidential candidates, including two staunch opponents of the ruling junta. The icing on the cake was the restriction of media freedom, some of which were forcibly shut down by the authorities.

MALI: In Mali, the situation is getting more interesting by the day. In this West African country, the transition period ended on March 26, after which elections should be held, but the authorities remain silent. At the beginning of April, calls for holding elections and quick return to the constitutional order became more frequent in the society. Supporters of the authorities are trying to justify the current situation by the «legal vacuum».

The postponement of the presidential elections in Mali is a decision with serious consequences for the country, because in this case, using the discontent of the population, one group of the military will oust the other in power, once again playing out the coup scenario. Things became more complicated on March 11, when the current leadership decided to suspend the activities of political parties and associations. Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga, Minister of Territorial Administration and government spokesman, explained his decision on political and security grounds. How this affects the security of the country is difficult to say. Probably indirectly. Rather, it may affect the stability of the current government by depriving potential opposition of legal status. So what happens next, we’ll see.

GUINEA: Presidential, parliamentary and local elections are scheduled for 2024 in Guinea, but before that, a referendum on a new constitution must be held. A preliminary draft of the new constitution was scheduled to be made public last month, but this has not happened. This suggests that the military intends to prolong its stay in power as much as possible. The National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (FNDC), which was dissolved by the government in 2022, posted a countdown to the announced end of the country’s political transition on its website at the end of January 2024, but it appears they will soon lose count, as Guinea’s Prime Minister Amadou Uri Ba has admitted that the military in power should remain there until at least 2025.

TOGO: In Togo, President Faure Gnassingbé has once again postponed parliamentary and regional elections that were to be held on April 20. They have been postponed indefinitely. The postponement followed the head of state’s demand for a second reading of a law to revise the constitution, which is being challenged by the opposition and civil society. In response, the opposition announced its intention to organize street protests against the postponement of the elections and constitutional reform. Among the proposed changes to the future Basic Law, which are opposed by its opponents, is the transition to parliamentary tracks (parliamentary republic), the leader of the country and the government will be the head of the party that has won a majority in Parliament. The president of Togo will be elected for six years. In Togolese terms, however, this looks more like a usurpation of power with hereditary features: in 2005, Faure Gnassingbé succeeded his father, who had been in control of the country for almost 38 years.

BURKINA-FASO: In Burkina Faso, the situation is not related to the elections, but is no less intriguing because security and human rights issues are escalating by the day. Facing a more than precarious social and security situation, the transitional authorities have decided to extend the «general mobilization» order for another year. This measure, adopted on April 19, 2023, was introduced for 12 months. The extension of the «mobilization period» is allegedly part of the fight against terrorism in order to «restore security and ensure the protection of the population and its property from threats and terrorist actions». In addition, the Burkina Faso government is withholding 5% from ministers’ salaries to fight terrorism. That is, it turns out that those dissatisfied with the government are becoming more and more numerous — from ordinary citizens to high-ranking officials. War is war, but everyone wants to live in prosperity.

GABON: Gabon has also made a non-trivial political move. Seven months after the military coup, Gabon’s new ruler, General Brice Oligui Nguema, opened a National Dialogue in early April to prepare for elections in 2025. According to the idea, this process should help the country to smoothly approach democratic rule in accordance with all internationally accepted canons. The dialogue is intended to allow participants to discuss the political, as well as economic and social organization of Gabon for the future. But already at the beginning of this process, the authorities acted ungentlemanly. According to the locals, the Dialogue will only pave the general’s way to the presidential elections. In addition, locals claim that the Dialogue lacks fairness, as many representatives of different groups were not even allowed to participate. Given that the Dialogue is due to be concluded on April 30, as early as May the outcome will become clear.

Thus, there is reason to believe that West Africa will continue to occupy the palm of the world instability ranking. Hence, the logical question follows — what will happen first: will one of the above-mentioned countries go up in flames, or will another «hot» place emerge? We’ll see.