The 2011 presidential elections in Nigeria and Liberia

As of October 2010, it is foreseen that next year in one out of every three African countries presidential elections will be held, in 18 countries to be precise. In 9 more African countries parliamentary and/or local elections will be held too. This is a near-unprecendeted high number. Given the uneven distribution of Africa’s population over the continent it is hard to tell how many people are involved in this democratic upsurge. My estimate would be that in total this may affect the lives of about 500 million people, slightly over half the total population of the continent. Three countries alone – Nigeria, Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo – account for over 300 million, a striking illustration of the uneven distribution of the population over the continent.

Presidential elections are going to be held – apart from unexpected postponements – in one North African country: Egypt, in 6 West African countries: Benin, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, in 5 Central African countries: Cameroun, Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sao Tomé & Príncipe, in three East African countries: Djibouti, Seychelles, Uganda, and in Madagascar, Zambia and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa. Before readers of this blog will accuse me of diffusing misleading information, I will immediately add that the number of ‘truly democratic countries’ can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Many countries have seen the tenure of office of the sitting president repeatedly prolonged, and the rulers of four countries even are among the longest serving African presidents: Hosni Muburak in Egypte (29 years), Paul Biya in Cameroun (28 years), Yoweri Museveni in Uganda (24 years) and Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe (officially since 1987, de facto head of state since the country’s independence in 1980). To call these countries democratic countries would be besides the truth. The same applies to a number of other countries mentioned above though I will not dwell on this issue.

I will focus on two countries where in 2011 presidential elections will be held: Liberia, where Africa’s first democratically elected female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, aspires a second term, whereas in Nigeria the successor of president Yar’Adua, a ‘northerner’, who died in office earlier this year, Goodluck Jonathan, a ‘southerner’ hopes to be become elected as the leader of Africa’s most populous country. The reasons why I selected these two countries out of the 18 where presidential elections will be held in 2010 are, first of all, that this blog is dedicated to events in Liberia, and secondly, because Nigeria – second in rank as Africa’s most important economy – is going to be an economic superpower, comparable to the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) that impress us nowadays.

Last week when I was in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria – inspired by the capital of Brazil since 1960, Brasilia……

To be continued

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