>> The more dramatic election episode in this year’s second round begins in Rwanda on Friday, followed by the tight race in Kenya next week, and Angola later on in the month
Dar es Salaam. On Friday, Rwanda sets off the more dramatic episode of round two of Africa’s election season. In East Africa, the Rwandan vote ushers in the anxiously awaited elections in Kenya.
After the August 3 and 4 presidential election in Rwanda, a General Election will be held in Kenya on August 8.
In Rwanda, President Paul Kagame, who won 93 per cent of the vote in 2010, will be seeking a third term that would see him extending his 17-year reign.
The incumbent is revered for stopping Rwanda’s genocide and engineering what admirers call an economic miracle, but his critics see a despot who crushes all opposition and rules through fear.
The 59-year-old former guerrilla fighter is seeking a third term in office after voters massively approved a constitutional amendment allowing him to run again and potentially stay in office for another two decades.
Kagame frames his run as a duty to his country, however the move angered international allies whose patience has worn thin with a man once held up as a shining example of successful post-colonial leadership in Africa. Yet the president of the East African Community member state has become one of Africa’s most powerful and admired leaders. His counterparts, inspired by Rwanda’s turnaround, have tasked him with reforming the African Union.
His close friend Tony Blair hails him as a “visionary leader” for the remarkable development he has brought about.
August 8: Kenya poll
Kenya’s election campaign also entered a tense final week yesterday, with a tight race between incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta and his rival Raila Odinga leading to intensified personal attacks and rigging accusations.
The longtime political foes face off at the polls for a second consecutive time on August 8, and Kenyans are on edge after an acrimonious campaign marked by the opposition’s deep distrust of the electoral commission.
The vote comes 10 years after Odinga claimed an election was stolen from him and the country plunged into two months of politically-motivated ethnic clashes, which along with a police crackdown on protests left more than 1,100 dead and 600,000 displaced.
The violence traumatised the nation and stunned observers.
Voting in Kenya largely takes place along communal lines, and both Kenyatta and Odinga are heading formidable alliances of different ethnic blocs with closely matched numbers, meaning turnout will be crucial to either side’s success.
While campaigning has largely been peaceful, the run up to the vote has been marred by the murder of a top election official charged with overseeing the electronic voting and tallying system.
Additionally months of attacks by pastoralists invading private land in the Rift Valley has been blamed on politicians seeking to displace populations ahead of the vote.
Elsewhere in the country Kenyans have moved from cities to their hometowns, both to vote and as a measure of security.
August 23: Angola
The Angolan General Election follows on August 23. The presidential election will result in the exit of incumbent José Eduardo dos Santos, who has been in power for 37 years.
Joao Lourenco, Angolan presidential candidate who appears set to win next month’s election, launched his campaign last week with a speech vowing to tackle corruption and spread wealth.
Defence minister Lourenco, 63, is the chosen successor of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, whose decision to not contest the August 23 vote will bring to an end his 38 years in power.
“Corruption is a great evil that will not go unpunished,” Lourenco told thousands of ruling MPLA party supporters in Huambo, Angola’s second city.
Promoting his campaign slogan “Improve what is good, correct what is wrong”, he also promised to distribute “national wealth more equally” and to improve the business climate.
Dos Santos’s rule has seen the end of civil war and an investment boom in the oil-rich country.
But he has been criticised as secretive and corrupt, with authorities crushing dissent and Angola’s citizens suffering dire poverty as his family became hugely wealthy.
October 10: Liberia
Africa’s first female president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia is also expected to step down after two terms in office.
Liberia’s 20 presidential candidates, including a former warlord, footballer George Weah and a former fashion model, started campaigning last week to succeed Africa’s first female head of state in October’s election.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is stepping down and there is no obvious frontrunner to lead the fragile west African state. The Nobel Prize-winning Sirleaf was elected to run in 2005 following a long civil war which left deep scars on Liberia’s economy and social fabric.
Elections for the presidency and House of Representatives take place on October 10 -- the first time since the end of the conflict in 2003 that the country will hold a vote without UN peacekeepers providing security.
Ahead of candidates opening their campaigns, the UN appealed for the ballot to go ahead smoothly, urging all “to spare no effort in their pursuit of peaceful elections.”
Among the final president/vice-president tickets published by the National Elections Commission (NEC) on Monday last week, key figures from the civil conflict loom large.
Senator Prince Johnson -- a onetime rebel fighter filmed drinking beer during the notorious murder of former president Samuel Doe in 1990 -- is standing for president for the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction (MDR).
Football superstar and Senator Weah will stand for the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) with Jewel Howard-Taylor, 54, the ex-wife of Charles Taylor, as his vice-president pick.
Weah told AFP he was “fully ready to take the presidency this time,” following a failed bid for the job in 2005.