Thursday, June 20, 2024
 
 

Africa will watch the DRC’s elections with bated interest

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2023 and 2024 are going to be busy years as far as elections in Africa are concerned. About two dozen elections will occur in the next 24 months.

Some important polls have been conducted in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Madagascar, amongst others. Next year, Ghana, Senegal, and other African nations are also set to cast their ballots.

With the exception of Gabon, where elections led to a military coup that ended the 56-year dictatorship of the Bongo family, many of the countries in West and Central Africa have had relatively peaceful processes that either kept the incumbent in power or changed the leadership without any violent outbursts.

Liberia is the last country where a running incumbent lost in a remarkably peaceful transfer of power. With regard to the Gabonese case, was also the eighth successful coup to occur in West and Central Africa since 2020, including a July 2023 Russian-backed putsch in Niger that saw the pro-Western elected government replaced with a military junta that is closely allied to and supported by Moscow and Beijing.

While all elections in Africa have ramifications for the democratic consolidation of the continent, some countries carry more weight due to population size, economy, and regional clout, the elections in Nigeria, and how they turn out, mean a lot for the continent, one of the most anticipated elections in Africa will be the December polls in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is commonly known by its acronym, the DRC.

The importance of the DRC elections

The DRC occupies a special geographical space matched by very few countries in Africa. The country, at the center of the continent, has nine immediate neighbors with which it shares common boundaries. As the second-largest country in the whole of Africa, the stability of the country has obvious ramifications for the region.

An anti-government demonstrator wears a Democratic Republic of Congo flag after clashes with the country’s security forces in the run-up to the December 20, 2023 elections.

Many states in the region already face internal security challenges, some of which are linked to the broader insecurity in the DRC, which has led Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Central African Republic to face active or potentially dangerous security situations. In Angola, one of Africa’s wealthiest nations due to its natural resource supplies, a separatist movement in the Cabinda exclave, which borders the DRC, has not withered.

There have been escalations in violence in the DRC’s restive east as the country inches ever closer to the December 20 elections.

The last elections saw an unprecedented peaceful transfer of power, with the opposition having unsuccessfully challenged the results. This year, the parties that are opposed to the incumbent, Felix Tshisekedi, are mainly backing the candidacy of businessman Moise Katumbi.

The country’s vast resources and the interests of the main global powers further complicate the DRC’s internal dynamics and make the impending elections even more crucial. The tendency for the government and opposition elements to court the support of global powers and the eagerness to respond to them cannot be overlooked.

The people of the DRC — a country with the fourth largest population in Africa — have the most at stake in the elections. The majority of Congolese live in abject poverty. To them, this election and its aftermath are consequential.

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An international relations and security expert who previously served as a special assistant to the Vice President of Ghana and a research assistant to the office of the President. He is currently a senior analyst for the Conflict Research Consortium for Africa.

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