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Few surprises in 2018 Africa presidential poll

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By FRED OLUOCH
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Eight African countries held presidential elections in 2018, with almost predictable outcomes where most incumbents were re-elected. There were a few opposition wins though.

Very few elections led to violence despite widespread complaints of intimidation and rigging by the incumbents.

The year began with a major development in South Africa, where the ruling African National Congress recalled president Jacob Zuma over corruption or what was known as “state capture.”

Mr Zuma was succeeded by Cyril Ramaphosa, who beat former African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Ramaphosa, 65, was formerly Zuma’s deputy president.

The once-troubled Sierra Leone led the way when Julius Maada Bio won the elections in a run-off against ruling party candidate, Samura Kamara.

Bio — who briefly headed a military junta in 1996 after ousting Valentine Strasser —won with 52 percent on the Sierra Leone People’s Party ticket against Mr Kamara’s 48 percent running under the ruling All People’s Congress.

It was a smooth transition where outgoing president, Ernest Bai Koroma, handed over.

Sierra Leone was followed by Egypt the same month at a time when the country was experiencing a surge in terrorist attacks, especially in the Sinai region that significantly affected its tourism industry.

This was the third election since the 2011 Egyptian revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak, who ruled the country for 30 year.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi comfortably won the elections held on March 26, amid a crackdown on the civil society and the media.

President al-Sisi was facing a weak candidate, Moussa Mostafa Moussa, the chairperson El Ghad party after all the high profile contenders withdrew from the race due to intimidation and described the exercise as a “masquerade”.

In Mali, presidential elections held in July was supported by the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali, which provided logistical support, transported electoral materials across the country and helped to secure the polling stations.

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was re-elected for a five-year term after winning a landslide victory in a runoff ballot.

President Keita, 73, picked up 67.17 percent of the vote against 32.83 percent for opposition challenger and former finance minister Soumaila Cisse, 68, who also ran against Keita in 2013, the government announced. Turnout was low, at 34.5 percent.

The same month, Zimbabwe held presidential elections after the military overturned the long ruling Robert Mugabe towards the end of 2017.

Former interior minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zanu-PF, who became the president in an acting capacity won the disputed elections with 50.8 percent of votes against Nelson Chamisa of MDC Alliance who got 44.3 percent.

Mr Chamisa, whose petition was dismissed by the courts, later declared himself “the people’s president”.

In October, President Paul Biya, 84, who has been in power for 36 years, was re-elected at a time when scores of people were being killed by security forces in the English-speaking southern region of Cameroon.

The separatists had declared their own country of Ambazonia, a self-proclaimed republic independent from the majority French-speaking country.



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