SOMALIA’S just-concluded election has resulted in a change of guard: the president-elect is Mohamed Abdullahi ‘Farmajo’ Mohamed, a 55-year-old former prime minister with a reputation for independence and competence.
Incumbent president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud conceded defeat.
But the poll has elicited mixed reactions. Some see it as a small but necessary step on the road to democracy. Farmajo was seen as a progressive technocrat, and a relatively clean candidate who heralds a new beginning for the country.
The vote had to be delayed four times because of the country’s tenuous security situation, corruption and political infighting, which meant that the government wasn’t ready to hold a nationwide election.
But despite Farmajo’s win, the whole process has also been described as a milestone of corruption: investigators estimate that at least $20 million has changed hands during parliamentary elections.
The central governments influence depends largely on outside donors; Turkey, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar are widely believed to have been buying off presidential candidates to land juicy business deals.
But Somalia’s poll is only the first of what will be a very busy election year for Africa.
In neighbouring Somaliland, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud, who goes by the name Silanyo, has said he will not stand for another presidential term.
In Angola, too, Jose Eduardo dos Santos has pledge to stand down after 38 years in power, and has named defence minister Joao Lourenco as his successor. But dos Santos will remain the leader of ruling party MPLA, and his family’s wide business and political interests remain intact.
In Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will similarly not vie for re-election after completing her mandated two six-year terms. She has endorsed her deputy Joseph Boakai as her successor, but the final decision will rest with voters.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila’s mandate has expired, though he remains in office. A transitional deal reached late last year slated elections for late this year, though this depends mainly on the country’s ability to marshall the resources and political will to hold the election.
Rwanda is another country where an incumbent has extended his term, this time through a constitutional referendum held in December 2015. The upcoming election in August this year will be Paul Kagame’s third seven-year term, and the amendment also allowed him to vie for two more five-year terms after this one, which means he could potentially stay in power till 2034.
And another big one to watch will be Kenya, where there are more than 1,900 electoral posts in contention for county assemblies and governors, the Senate and National Assembly, and the presidency. Uhuru Kenyatta hopes to remain in State House for another term. Opposition line-ups for the elections are still being finalised, but his most likely main opponent is Raila Odinga, a former prime minister.