Review: Notable Events That Shaped African Politics in 2021



2021 was a year of presidential elections on the continent. In January Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni was re-elected for a sixth term amid intense and deadly opposition protests.

In Niger, it then took two rounds to give the country a new leader when Mohammed Bazoom beat his opponent and former President Mahamane Ousmane for the top post.

And in Benin it was a coastal ride for Patrice Talon, who was re-elected for a second term in the very first election round largely boycotted by the opposition.

In the Congo, President Sassou Nguesso extended his rule. A fourth term victory amid a sad event – the death of his opponent Parfait Kolelas to Covid.

Then Idris Deby from Chad was re-elected, but that victory was short-lived as the strong man died fighting jihadists shortly after declaring his election victory.

In August, an opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema ousted Edgar Lungu of Zambia in his sixth attempt to take over the presidency in a fiercely contested poll. The victory was a landslide that sparked cheers in the country.

And that of Gambia – Adama Barrow kept his power under control after defeating his opponent Ousanou Darboe, who received about 28 percent of the vote.

A wind of change blew over Sao-Tome and Principe and Cape Verde as the opposition candidates in the island states won the elections. And in the Horn of Africa, the elections in Djibouti were largely peaceful as President Ismael Guelleh extended his two decades in power.


Although it was still a pandemic year, major summits were held on Africa. These include the China-Africa summit in Dakar Senegal, the Paris-based summit on the financing of the African economy, attended by many African leaders among the 30 or so who attended in May.

In October, hundreds of activists from young African entrepreneurs and civil rights activists gathered in Montpellier for a one-day Africa-France summit

In November, African leaders called for more action from rich nations at the Cop 26 climate summit


Since 2010, the number of coups in Africa has been steadily decreasing. But that break was tested this year.

A coup in Guinea overthrew President Alpha Conde, ending the 83-year-old’s seizure of power in a controversial third term. Insurgent soldiers, led by Mamadi Doumbouya, led the coup to the great cheer of the population.

In Mali, Assimi Goita consolidated the power of his regime by ousting his civilian partners and staging a coup in a coup.

There would have been more coups, but it failed in Niger Madagascar and Sudan, where there is still no political solution to the power relationship between Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s civilian government and the military. At least 50 people have been killed so far.


And in South Africa, deadly protests against the conviction and imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma for corruption resulted in widespread looting.

In neighboring Eswatini, too, there were riots with the young population, who were frustrated by the monarchy of King Mswatini

Demonstrations rocked Tunisia and worsened when President Kais Saied suspended parliament and frozen laws in July.


The armed conflict in North Kivu deepened and saw the assassination of the Italian ambassador, Luca Attanasio, his bodyguard and driver.

Deadly attacks in the Sahel in Mali and Burkina Faso continued while the civil war in Ethiopia took many dramatic turns between Tigray rebels and government forces, forcing Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to the front.

Tensions between Morocco and Algeria reached a peak not seen in more than 25 years when Algeria accused the northern kingdom of setting forest fires and other hostile acts against Algeria.


Tanzania’s President John Magufuli died in April at the age of 61. Mr Magufuli had not been seen in public for more than two weeks before his death and rumors of his health were circulating.

One of Africa’s best-known coronavirus skeptics, he called for prayers and herbal-infused steam therapy to counter the virus

He reportedly died of heart complications in a Dar es Salaam hospital, but it is widely believed that he died of Covid.

In June, Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s founding president and liberation hero, died in a military hospital in Lusaka, where he was being treated for pneumonia.

Former Chadian President Hissène Habré, who was serving a life sentence in Senegal for war crimes and crimes against humanity, died in August at the age of 79.

FW de Klerk, the former president of South Africa and the last white man to rule the country, died in November at the age of 85.


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