A look back at the political events that shaped Africa in 2018, as Zimbabweans voted for the first in an election – without Robert Mugabe as a candidate – and Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a historic treaty ending decades of hostility.
HARARE, ZIMBABWE (REUTERS) – It was an election year like unlike any Africa had ever seen, as Zimbabwe went to the polls in 2018.
For the first time in nearly 30 years – Zimbabweans voted in an election – without Robert Mugabe as a candidate after he was forced to resign.
The winner – and Mugabe’s replacement – was Emmerson Mnangagwa, a fellow member of the Zanu PF party.
The result was disputed by the opposition but confirmed by the country’s top court.
But many Zimbabweans said little has changed since Mugabe left.
“They have been failing since 1980 so we can’t expect them to do anything now, these are the same guys the same policies and everything, so I think there should be some change,” said Harare resident John Ngwena.
Ethiopians entered a new political era with the nomination of new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who introduced sweeping reforms including a state of emergency, freed political prisoners, pledged to open up key sectors of the economy to foreign investment and, perhaps most shocking of all, made up with sworn enemy, Eritrea to end decades of war and mistrust.
Abiy has been hailed around the world and at home for his achievements.
“Our country is thirsty for a good person and a good leader. Our country is thirsty for someone who can bring unity and stability,” said Addis Ababa resident Yeshiwas Gebremeskel.
Ethiopia and Eritrea were at war in the 1990s, which led to the killing of around 80,000 people.
The historic reconciliation led to the reopening of the border for the first time in 20 years, raising hopes amongst more than 70,000 Ethiopian citizens of Eritrean origin who in 1998 were wrenched from their families, put on buses and trucks bound for Eritrea, and given travel papers marked “Expelled-Never to Return”.
“I don’t have words to describe the excitement that we feel in the last few days. The people of Eritrea and Ethiopia have seen how the Ethiopian Prime minister was welcomed in Asmara. We also live here peacefully alongside the Ethiopian people. Now everyone can see what the benefit od peace is the benefit, and that the effects of war and conflict, that took away lives, destroyed properties and caused pain to many,” said Eritrean refugee, Henok Asgedom.
In West Africa, Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari’s announced that he would run for re-election was met with mixed reactions.
The Nigerian president faces a tight election battle in February 2019.
Critics said that his long standing anti-corruption agenda has failed to yield any major convictions.
They also say that he’s failed to handle the economy properly which resulted in the country falling into recession in 2016.
The handling of clashes in around nine states in the centre of the country – a region known as the Middle Belt – could play a pivotal role in Buhari’s re-election bid since a number of them are swing states where he won crucial votes in 2015.
“It’s not what we are expect that we are seeing. Yes, what we expect is not we are seeing. Somehow people, we are disappointed in one way or the other,” said Jecintha Eze, a market vendor in Makurdi’s city centre.
On December 19, Madagascar’s former president Marc Ravalomanana and the man who overthrew him in a 2009 coup
Andry Rajoelina faced off in a run-off election.
With election results expected on December 27, the Malagasy people have braced themselves for a tense post-election, following the rejection of official results by Ravalomanana.
With 80 percent of Madagascar’s 25 million population surviving on less than two dollars a day, many had high hopes that these elections would bring about a leader who would lift them out of poverty.
“With every new president, life has become more and more difficult, and that is why I am going to vote, in the hopes that we will have a good president but someone with a vision for the youth,” said one Antananarivo resident, Joseph Rodolphe Solo.
In September, South Sudan’s former vice president-turned-rebel-leader Riek Machar signed a peace treaty with the country’s president Salva Kirr, signaling the end of brutal 5 year civil war.
The East African nation gained independence in 2011 but has been torn apart by an ethnically charged civil war since late 2013.
The violence, including gang rapes and attacks on civilians, has forced a third of the country’s 12 million people to flee their homes. Tens of thousands sought safety as close as they could get to bases housing United Nations’ peacekeepers.
The signing of the peace deal has raised hopes that peace can finally reign in the world’s youngest nation.
“We are expecting that after the celebrations of the peace day that has been designed by the government things will come to normal and everything will change,” said Juba resident Alfonso Albino.
After multiple delays that triggered unrest, fueled militia violence, and lawlessness in Congo’s east and center – authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo said the long awaited polls will take place on December 30th.
However the process leading up to the vote has has been marred by chaos, with electoral officials announcing that certain opposition cities will be excluded from Sunday’s presidential elections, on security and health grounds, prompting calls for protests from angry opposition leaders.
Meanwhile, Congo’s long suffering youth say they are still hopeful that these elections can finally turn the tide in Congolese politics and return the country’s wealth to the people of Congo.
“We are totally rich, that is what they tell us. Now I have never seen that wealth anyway. All I see is sand and sun in my country. I have never seen that (wealth). I have never tasted the fruit of my country. But we hope there will be change with the elections, that it will bring us peace, especially in the East because there is always conflict there, I don’t know why,” said Ahmed, a Kinshasa resident, Ahmed.
The continent is now waiting with bated breath to learn the outcome of Madagascar and Congo’s elections, hoping it can mark a positive end to an eventful political year in Africa