Latest News

Navigating Elections in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities

The upcoming elections throughout Africa in 2024 present a critical juncture for democratic processes across the continent. In this blog Dr Adeelah Kodabux, Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Middlesex University Mauritius, and Patrick Godi, Youth Representative at the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC) South Sudan, shed light on the challenges and opportunities facing the African countries as they endeavour to conduct timely and fair elections.

Dr Adeelah Kodabux and Patrick Godi bring together the expertise of a seasoned academic in international relations and a youth representative actively engaged in monitoring and evaluation efforts in South Sudan.

How can elections be held on time? What processes or institutions have the biggest role in keeping African countries on track?

Dr Adeelah stated that in democratic settings, consistency in election cycles is a good governance practice. Although the expected year of elections may be known, many African countries do not establish fixed election dates. Incumbent governments are generally in control of the election timing. Scheduling electoral calendars with fixed election dates is one way of aiming for elections to be held on time. It reduces the risk for a government in office to gain political advantages, such as relying on the absence of fixed dates to initiate snap elections. It is one means of respecting regularity in election cycles. It also enhances the opportunity for political parties to compete fairly in the electoral process.

Monitoring electoral integrity is necessary to improve electoral processes. Within a country's domestic context, a free press, civil society organisations, and an independent electoral commission are essential in holding political actors accountable. While an independent electoral board with substantial institutional autonomy and capacity is ideal, data from the Ibrahim Index of African Governance reveal a declining trend in public trust in the electoral commission. Consolidating domestic legal frameworks to guarantee civil liberties and media freedom remains indispensable to keep African governments on track. Any regime that suppresses these fundamental rights is paving the way to abuse their power and from being held accountable.

Challenges in South Sudan:

Patrick shared information about the challenges South Sudan is currently facing. In South Sudan, historic polls are promised for December 2024. The nascent Republic has known no elected government since gaining independence from Sudan in 2011. Instead, the country has been under perpetual transitional governance. Post-independence elections planned for 2015 had to be postponed due to conflict and extended indefinitely.

The peace agreement of 2018 includes plans for democratic elections at the end of the transition period. This is significant, as it will give over 74% of South Sudan's population under 35 a chance to have a say in the outcome. However, with less than ten months until the election, there are several uncertainties and concerns. The transitional unity government has fallen short of meeting important benchmarks, including legal and institutional frameworks, the constitution, security, dispute resolution mechanisms, and clarity on the type and number of elections, voter registration, boundary delimitation, and the participation of IDPs, returnees, and refugees. These issues need to be resolved through political decisions to ensure an inclusive, peaceful, and credible election.

It remains clear that the South Sudanese overwhelmingly want a chance to decide their future and that of their country through elections without further delays. Just another extension will only race the state into a constitutional crisis, and events challenging the government's legitimacy will derail progress towards democracy, peace, and stability.

As Africa braces for a wave of elections in 2024, the need for transparent and inclusive electoral processes has never been more pronounced. By addressing institutional deficiencies and upholding fundamental rights, African countries can foster democratic resilience and pave the way for a brighter future. Stakeholders across the continent must work together to navigate the challenges ahead and uphold the principles of democracy for generations to come.