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Democracies, Dictatorships and Elections in Africa: Why is the gap between Anglophone and Francophone Africa widening?

17 mars 2020

Democracies, Dictatorships and Elections in Africa: Why is the gap between Anglophone and Francophone Africa widening?

Régis Marzin, independent journalist and researcher, Twitter : @Regis_Marzin

March 17, 2020

Read english PDF version

Modified and enriched extracts from the study of March 11, 2020 for translation into English

(french version + french PDF version) :

Democracies, dictatorships and elections in Africa: 2019 review and 2020 outlook

Since 2016, democracy continues to decline in Africa

in number of countries but not in population size

and this despite a very good election year in 2019’



Introduction. 2

  1. 2019 review: Changes in political regimes and type of regimes. 3
  2. Africa map of political regimes, democracies and dictatorships 2019. 4
  3. The advance of English-speaking Africa over French-speaking Africa in terms of democratization. 5

3.1 Evolution of the quality of electoral processes from 1990 to 2019 according to colonization. 5

3.2 A structural gap established since 1990 due to the persistence of post-colonial regimes. 6

3.3 2019: the stall of the former French colonies in 2018 continues in 2019. 7

3.4 The beginning of a crisis of democracies in Southern Africa. 8

3.5 The use of constitutions for personal objectives, a Francophone specificity?. 9

  1. Elections: inversion of presidential results: common in French-speaking Africa, inconceivable elsewhere?. 12

4.1 2019 review of non-democratic elections in Africa. 12

4.2 Inversions of results at compilation of minutes and official announcement: a Francophone specialty. 13

4.3 In 2020, the continuation of the difficulties in the former French colonies and in French-speaking Africa?. 14

Conclusion. 15




Between 1950 and 1990, 54.04% of elections in Africa were organized as single-party and 41.70% as multi-party elections under more or less democratic conditions. The multiparty system was then much more resistant in the former British colonies. In the former British colonies, 107 out of 170 elections (61.17%) were multiparty elections, compared with 64 out of 201 (only 31.84%) in the former French colonies. There were more than twice as many single-party elections in the former French colonies as in the former British colonies between 1950 and 1990: 136 versus 58. Single party elections affected 19 out of 20 former French colonies and only 9 out of 20 former British colonies.


Thus, from the point of view of democratic culture, before the end of the Cold War, ‘English-speaking’ Africa was well ahead of ‘French-speaking Africa’ comprising moreover 3 former Belgian colonies in complex and difficult situations. Then, between 1990 and 2005, democratization in the former British colonies progressed faster than elsewhere, and in 2005 the number of confirmed democracies was 11 in the former British colonies against only 4 in the former French colonies. Between 2005 and 2016, the gap narrowed to only 3 countries ahead, with 11 and 8 countries respectively.


Since the classification of political regimes in Africa is, it seems, a matter for experts, since colonization is a subject that is increasingly considered to be confined to the historical field, the idea of making an objective comparison has probably disappeared. Have the gaps that existed between 1950 and 1990 and then between 1990 and 2005 been forgotten? Has the gap, which is perhaps a very big gap, at the level of democratization not even become taboo? Has it not become taboo to compare French and British influences in Africa in order to distinguish what history causes from later statistical and political divergences or what current relations change in different ways? It is still necessary to have common statistics between English and French-speaking research areas. Do Anglophone researchers have a sufficient understanding of history and politics in Francophone Africa and vice versa? These spaces certainly speak to each other but do they understand each other around equivalent concepts and methods? Are the political realities behind the data very divergent or on the contrary easily comparable?


According to this research, in 2018, the gap between many democracies has risen to 6 countries ahead of the former English colonies. In the same year, the gap between the number of well-identified dictatorships increased from 3 to 5 more for the former French colonies. In 2018, it became difficult not to see that two ‘Africas’, depending on the language of colonisation, were once again diverging.


In 2019, a further decline in democracy in the former French colonies is confirmed in the Comoros, Benin and Guinea. To a lesser extent, in English-speaking Africa, flaws are beginning to appear in the northern part of the Southern African bloc of democracies, Malawi and Zambia. Overall, the gap between the two blocs continues to widen.


If there is a taboo, isn’t it especially in French-speaking Africa? In many countries, research is subject to constraints and censorship imposed by politicians. The diplomatic approach, often taken up by journalists and researchers, is to remain positive or falsely optimistic in the face of electoral crimes. The period is one of mistrust in the face of external interference. Actions in support of democracy, for example European ones, are increasingly framed and neutralised where they could really be useful. The African Union serves as a screen for the solidarity of the heads of state who are holding on to power through electoral crimes.


However, the facts are stubborn and behind the statistics on the quality of the regimes and the quality of the electoral processes, these facts continue to speak. One day we will have to accept to evoke features of historical continuity in European influences in Africa, after colonization and undoubtedly more and more after neocolonialism.

Régis Marzin

Paris, March 17, 2020


Methodological note:

The terms ‘Anglophone Africa’ and ‘Francophone Africa’ are used for convenience even though they do not correspond to specific linguistic and geopolitical realities to distinguish the blocks of countries grouped together for comparative statistics. It is considered that Francophone Africa includes the 20 former French colonies and the 3 former Belgian colonies and that Anglophone Africa includes 20 former British colonies and Namibia considered as a former colony of South Africa. The figures cannot describe all the complexity and diversity of the reality, but in the statistics by blocks of countries divergences appear, the causes of which can be sought.



1.   2019 review: Changes in political regimes and type of regimes.


In the ranking of this study, in 2019, 7 countries changed category, positively, Sudan, Algeria, Niger, and, negatively, Comoros, Benin, Zambia and Malawi.

4 out of 7 regime type changes took place in the ex-French colonies compared to 3 in the ex-British colonies.

Colonization Region Positive evolution in 2019


Negative evolution in 2019


French West Niger (back to normal) Benin
Southern Comoros
North Algeria
British Est Sudan
Southern Zambia, Malawi

Changes are distributed throughout Africa except in Central Africa, which is still stable. West Africa’s 2018 regression stopped as another started in southern Africa.

In 2019, in Benin and the Comoros, the rapid dictatorization of 2018 continued, making democracy disappear completely in about 2 years. These concomitant falls have something exceptional in the history of Africa because the two presidents involved came to power democratically in 2016.


Mass protests have resulted in the fall of irremovable heads of state in Sudan and Algeria. In both countries, the dictatorial game over the number of mandates logically led to the departure of the dictator, in Algeria after a ‘drop to one of the presidential mandate counter‘ in dictatorial way when the limit was added in the constitution in 2016, and, in Sudan, after the presumptuous attempt to remove the limitation on the number of terms of the constitution. On the Sudanese and English-speaking side, a transition to democracy has started.

In Niger, the surprising arrests of 2018 stopped and all the opponents were released. The preparation for the next elections does not seem to return to a conflict in the undemocratic electoral process. The support displayed by Mahamadou Issoufou to the limitation of the number of mandates in the constitutions in West Africa, in particular in front of Alpha Condé, was noted positively.

In Malawi, following the 2019 presidential election, institutions for legal remedies demonstrated their independence from the executive branch by cancelling the election in early 2020. 2019 was a conflictual year due to the frauds that the Constitutional Court attributed to the electoral commission. The organisation of a new election could restore the democratic regime, which had been weakened from time to time, unless Peter Mutharika decides otherwise, as he appears to do by arresting on 8 March 2020 the leaders of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), the leaders of the protest.

In Zambia, the trend towards the erosion of democracy that began with the contestation of the 2016 presidential election continues in a project of constitutional amendment strengthening the presidential power and which increases the tension, in an increasingly irreversible way.

In addition, negatively, the crisis due to dictatorization has worsened in Guinea: President Alpha Condé, a former licensed democrat deprived of this title, leads his country to an electoral and constitutional conflict more and more serious because of his obsession to carry out a 3rd mandate according to personal objectives.

Overall, these changes affecting the nature of the regimes correspond to a gap that continues to widen between the former British and French colonies, to the benefit of the former British colonies, as in 2018.


2. Africa map of political regimes, democracies and dictatorships 2019

To understand this map, see also on the blog R * E
the slideshow of the evolution of the regimes from 1989 to 2019[1]

This map should be analyzed in contrast to the 2018 map in the study of February 13, 2019[2], and before with the 2017 map in the study of January 14, 2018[3] and again before with the last card in the series from 1990 to 2016 in the study of April 27, 2017[4].


3.   The advance of English-speaking Africa over French-speaking Africa in terms of democratization


3.1 Evolution of the quality of electoral processes from 1990 to 2019 according to colonization

(French, British or other)

Review of quality of electoral processes from 1990 to 2019 according to colonisation

Number of electoral processes

and percentage for each quality








Other : Colonization

It + Be + Pt + Es + South Afr or without

Elections : correct 78   – 34,97% 136 – 60,44% 50   – 37,31% 264 – 45,36%
Elections : doubtful 7     – 03,14% 10   – 04,44% 7     – 05,22% 24   – 04,12%
Elections : masquerades in TCII 19   – 08,52% 2     – 00,89% 22   – 16,42% 43   – 07,39%
Elections : masquerades in dictatorship 119 – 53,36% 77   – 34,22% 55   – 41,04% 251 – 43,13%
Total 223 – 100% 225 – 100% 134 – 100% 582 – 100%


Evolution of the quality of electoral processes from 1990 to 2019 according to colonization: French, British, or others: Italy + Belgium + Portugal + Spain + South Africa and without colonization

582 elections including 45 elections of the President or Prime Minister by the parliament

Since 1990, undemocratic elections have been much more numerous in the former French colonies than in the former British colonies: 138 (119 in stable dictatorship +19 in TCII) versus 79 (77+2). Conversely, correct democratic elections are more numerous in the former British colonies than in the former French colonies: 136 versus 78. The rate of correct elections is 60.44% in the former British colonies and 34.97% in the former French colonies. The rate of undemocratic elections in stable dictatorships (masquerades on graph) is 34.22% in the former British colonies and 53.36% in the former French colonies. As the process of continental democratisation has been stalled since 2005, the situation has not changed much since this year, and democratic experience is accumulating faster in the English-speaking part of Africa than in the French-speaking part.

Probably randomly, some years, on the contrary, peaks of undemocratic electoral processes in the former British colonies reverse the trend: 1990 (+1 in the former British colonies than in French ones), 1996 (+5), 2000 (+6), 2006 (+1), 2008 (+1), 2010 (+2), 2015 (+4).

3.2 A structural gap established since 1990 due to the persistence of post-colonial regimes

The structural gap between French-speaking Africa and English-speaking Africa can be seen in the inventory of countries without any alternation for 30 years.

Hard core of the 10 dictatorships in Africa without alternation since 1990 (out of 24 stable dictatorships)

Cumulative years without alternating president (and family) and ruling party at the end of 2019

With the disappearance of Sudan from the hard core of countries without alternation since 1990, only one ex-British colony, one ex-Italian colony and one ex-Spanish colony remain in this core, against 6 ex-French colonies, 5 of these 6 ex-French colonies occupying the first 5 places of this ranking.


Population of the States according to the arrival in power of the Heads of State or their families,

In Millions, 52 countries without 2 monarchies, Population 2016

Among the populations concerned by the lack of alternation of power in terms of numbers, only the Ugandan population (Museveni 1986) stands out in the midst of the populations of the former French colonies, Togo and Gabon (family since 1967), Djibouti (family 1977), Congo B (Sassou 1979), Cameroon (Biya 1982), Chad (Déby 1990) and a former Spanish colony, Equatorial Guinea (Nguéma 1979).

3.3 2019: the stall of the former French colonies in 2018 continues in 2019

Since the creation of Southern Sudan, there are 20 former British and 20 former English colonies (without Namibia counted as colonized by South Africa). This makes comparison easier.

Stable dictatorships according to colonization from 1988 to 2019

With the disappearance of the dictatorship of Omar El-Beshir in Sudan, the rapid dictatorization of Benin and the Comoros not composated by the protest against the dictatorship in Algeria, the gap continues to widen between the former British colonies and the former – French colonies at the ‘dictatorship’ level. The dictatorships of the former French Empire now form half (12) of stable dictatorships in Africa (24), compared to less than a quarter for the former British colonies (5). 11 and 6 in 2018, 12 and 5 in 2019, the gap is widening in 2 countries in 2019, after 2 countries in 2018, i.e. 4 countries in 2 years. On this point, it is obvious that Brexit does not harm Africa!

Democracies according to colonization from 1988 to 2019

In terms of the number of democracies, 2019 is more favorable for the former French colonies due to a return to normal in Niger, the fraudulent election in Malawi and tensions in Zambia. The gap narrows from 2018 to 2019, 6 and 9 democracies against 5 and 11 in 2018.

Overall in 2018 and 2019, the gap is widening in both directions. The major regressions took place in 4 ex-French colonies (2018: Guinea, Morocco, 2018 then 2019: Comoros, Benin: maximum setbacks) in 2 British (2019: Malawi (provisional or not), Zambia) and 1 Belgian (2018: Ground floor). Progress took place in 1 ex-French colony (2019: Algeria), 2 British (2018: Gambia, 2019: Sudan) and an Italian (2018: Ethiopia). The quality of the developments shows strong regressions on the side of the former French colonies (Guinea, Benin, Comoros) and major progress on the side of the former British (Sudan) and Italian (Ethiopia) colonies. The democratization-dictatorization situation is deteriorating on the side of the former French colonies only.

3.4 The beginning of a crisis of democracies in Southern Africa

The classification of countries in geographic areas is questionable: Comoros is classified in southern Africa while they are mainly islands separated from Africa by sea. Kenya, in difficulty in 2017, is classified in East Africa while its history ties it much to southern Africa.


Number of countries by type of regime per year in Southern Africa

Southern Africa has been the most democratised region in Africa since 1990, but because of the Comoros, Zambia and Malawi, difficulties are emerging in this region. The institutions in South Africa have resisted an unpacking of corruption. The effect of the reversal of results at the compilation of the minutes and the official announcement of the DRC’s results in late 2018-early 2019 is probably stronger in Southern Africa than elsewhere.


Number of democracies by region from 1988 to 2019

West Africa has 15 countries and southern Africa 14, making comparison possible. In 2019, the difficulties of southern Africa and a certain return to normalcy in Niger allow West Africa to display for the first time since 1992-1993 a greater number of democracies, according to the accounts of this study. The number of dictatorships remains higher in Southern Africa (5) than in West Africa (4). A return to normal for Malawi, which is still hypothetical, would not allow southern Africa to return to balance. More Anglophone Southern Africa (7/14) loses democratic leadership against the more French-speaking West Africa (8/15), despite francophone dictatorships in Ivory Coast, Togo, Guinea and Benin.


Percentage of democracies by region from 1990 to 2019

This percentage graph on the same data confirms the observation that the current difficulties in Southern Africa are causing it to lose the leadership it gained in 1994, at the time of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda.


3.5 The use of constitutions for personal objectives, a Francophone specificity?

Limitation of the number of presidential mandates in constitutions: comparison of former French and British colonies

Francophone and Anglophone spaces in Africa do not currently seem to have the same understanding of what a constitution is in practice. Reforms and changes of constitutions for personal interests are currently more frequent in the Francophone space while they are rarer in the Anglophone space. However, since 2005, the use of term limits has been broadly similar in the former French and British colonies. They are more frequent in the dictatorships of the former French colonies because they are more numerous (12 against 5) and in the democracies of the former British colonies because they are also more numerous (9 against 6).


Trends in the number of presidential term limits in African constitutions from 1987 to 2019 by type of regime in 2019

Look out! Misleading graph: the type of plan each year is not that of the year but that of 2019.

While in 2019 the number of countries with a mandate limitation reached its highest level ever of 39, some consensus on the application of mandate limitations could be expected. Quite the contrary! Political conflicts over the number of mandates continue to provoke popular mobilization and repression. The last two limits have been added in well-established dictatorships, in Chad in 2018 and Togo in 2019.


The news in 2019 on the limitations on the number of mandates was very rich:

  • 2019 +: Togo: addition of a 2×5 limit during the 3rd mandate with resetting of the counter by the national assembly after a long conflict between 2017 and 2019 and boycott of the legislative opposition at the end of 2019,
  • 2019 : Algeria: Fall of Abdelaziz Bouteflika after his attempt to serve a 5th term of office after he has reduced to 1 the mandate counter when the limit was added to the constitution in 2016,
  • 2019 : Sudan: Fall of Omar El-Beshir on 11.4.19 after massive demonstrations started because of his attempt to remove the term limit in the constitution,
  • 2019: Egypt: modification of the 2×4 limit to 2×6 with setting at 1 of the counter by constitutional amendments adopted by referendum of 20-22.4.19 which allows Abdel Fattah al-Sissi to run again in the presidential election at the end of his second term in 2024 and to stay until 2030,
  • 2019: Côte d’Ivoire: beginning of conflict on counter number of term Alassane Ouattara after declaration on his idea to run for third term and then abandonment of Alassane Ouattara during 2019.


The year 2019 ends with a major crisis on a number of mandates in Guinea. Alpha Condé tries to change the constitution to impose a third term. The limitation would remain at two terms (Article 40) but 6 years instead of 5. This would be the second time, after Egypt with Abdel Fattah al-Sissi in April 2019, that an African president would lower his term count to 0 or 1 without changing from a constitution without limit to a constitution with a limit on the number of terms. This means that Alpha Condé can still try to set his mandate counter at 1 and not at 0 in the manner of Abdel Fattah al-Sissi. The mobilisation against the modification of the constitution for personal needs is intense: about ten deaths during demonstrations in October 2019, about thirty or forty deaths in 2020, and in total because of the dictatorship probably « 140 deaths since 2014« .


In Egypt, in April 2019, for the first time, a president, Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, gives a mandate counter to 1 without doing it on the occasion of an addition of limitation, he does so on the occasion of change of term of office : 2×6 instead of 2×4. It is almost no longer a compromise. At the end of 2019, Alpha Condé seems to want to imitate him. These two cases evolve towards a height of the appropriation of the constitution for a personal goal and in a certain ‘provocation’ of the population, but in the 1st case, the dictatorship is the strongest and repressive of Africa and in the 2nd case, it is a fairly weak and recent dictatorship, that the population refuses to see degenerate and settle permanently.

Alassane Ouattara abandoned in 2019, at the latest at the end of 2019, the idea of ​​risking a new conflict in a third term. By the way, Alassane Ouattara favored in 2018 and 2019 the maintenance of the dictatorship in Togo and the transformation into a dictatorship in Guinea by sowing confusion in the ECOWAS on the mandate counters, and the possibility of resetting them to 0 or 1, then that this contradicts all democratic principles defended on the basis of respect for the constitutions as a guarantee against the abuse of personal power.


Conflicts particularly concern the mandate counter, which dictators reset to zero (more rarely to 1) against the popular majority opinion. The balance of power that is then created reflects the functioning of the regime in question: there may be strong mobilization and strong repression or a population that fears repression and therefore avoids demonstrations.


The resetting to zero of counters when adding limits is done mainly in the former French colonies, in 7 cases out of 12 – 1970 Senegal, 1991 Gabon, 1992 Madagascar, 1996 Cameroon, 2000 Burkina Faso, 2018 Chad, 2019 Togo -, against only 3 in the former British colonies – 1993 Seychelles, 2005 Sudan, 2013 Zimbabwe, – and 2 elsewhere – 2010 Angola, 2011 Equatorial Guinea, – (Not counting 3 cases of resetting the counter to 1 in 1992 in Togo, 2016 in Algeria). The only two recent cases after 2013 were in the former French colonies of Chad in 2018 and Togo in 2019.


Respect for constitutions considered as guarantees against the abuse of personal powers is a factor of distinction for democracies, as is the separation of powers. On the contrary, the resetting to zero – in a few rare cases to 1 – of the mandate counter has become a criterion for classifying regimes into dictatorship, because it reflects the will to appropriate a constitution for personal interests in the manner now characteristic of undemocratic regimes.

The topicality of conflicts over the number of mandates is more important in French-speaking Africa. The constitutions seem to be better respected in the period of the British ex-colonies than in the space of the French former colonies, although Egypt provides a counterexample in 2019, knowing that the blocks are not homogeneous on the aspect of post-colonial European influences and that since the 1950s certain countries have evolved in more autonomous logics and sometimes linked to the geopolitics of the Middle East. Respect for the constitutions and the rejection against modifications with a personal aim of maintaining power is combined with respect for the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary to give a certain advance to the former British colonies in Africa to build, maintain or protect the democracy.



4. Elections: inversion of presidential results: common in French-speaking Africa, inconceivable elsewhere?


4.1 2019 review of non-democratic elections in Africa

In 2019, four presidential elections were won by heads of state in stable dictatorship, in the Comoros and in Mozambique, by a hijacking upstream of the process, in Mauritania by an inversion of the result in the compilation of the minutes and the official announcement of the result, and in Algeria by a diversion of the electoral process upstream with boycott which is specifically a boycott of candidacies even more than a boycott of the vote itself, knowing Abdelmadjid Tebboune is currently in power in a period of intermediate instability (TCII) on a structural basis of dictatorship with the possibility of positive or negative development.

2019 is therefore another year of concentration of the diversion of electoral processes into a dictatorship (or unstable assimilated regime in Algeria) in the former French colonies with 3 out of 4 cases.


4.2 Inversions of results at compilation of minutes and official announcement: a Francophone specialty

In the case of a an ‘inversion of the real result at the time of the compilation of the minutes and/or the publication of the official results‘, « an electoral process is abruptly interrupted, either during the compilation of the results or at the time of the official publication of the national result, in order to reverse the actual result of the ballot and/or fraudulently attribute a victory to a candidate, at the end of the electoral process when there is already a different actual result, just before the compilation of the non-fraudulent protocols, whether or not the party or parties affected by the reversal are able to estimate this actual result. » (Definition, R.Marzin 2018)


In practice, a candidate’s score is strongly inflated, from 10, 20, 30, 40, 50% to be moved from less than 50% to more than 50% in case of 2 rounds. In some cases, the result is invented and does not refer to minutes, in others, a large number of minutes have been modified. We speak of inversion of the result to express the idea of the inversion of the order of the candidates in relation to the real result at the exit of the ballot boxes.


Inversions of results to the compilation of the minutes and to the publication of the official results are generally done with prior frauds which cause a mixture of frauds at three levels, frauds in the upstream organization, in particular voluntary frauds around the file electoral, fraud on the day of the vote in particular ballot box stuffing, then, finally, modification of the results at the time of the compilation of the minutes, after the closing of the polling stations, during transport, in the departmental compilation centers or regional and especially in the end in the national compilation center, often at the National Electoral Commission called Independent (Céni), and sometimes quite simply before the official announcement.


The years 2016 and the electoral process of the presidential election in the DRC in 2018-2019 clearly showed it: impunity is total with regard to the inversions of results to the compilation of the minutes and the official announcement in French speaking Africa. In late 2018-early 2019, Joseph Kabila innovated by inventing the inversion in favor of an opponent returned just before the election in conjunction with the majority inversions of the legislative and provincial governments. During the summer of 2019, Mohamed Cheikh El-Ghazouani succeeded in inversing a result by eliminating a second round with alliance and probable victory of the opposition in the 2nd round, without this being noticed too much. In February 2020, in Togo, a fifteenth reversal of the result in the compilation of the minutes and the official announcement of the result is committed by Faure Gnassingbé, still eliminating the 2nd round where an alliance of the opposition was likely.


The list of the 15 inversions of result at the compilation of the minutes or at the official announcement in Africa since 1990, noted in this study, shows that they are concentrated in the ex-French colonies: Cameroon (Paul Biya, 1992), Gabon (Omar Bongo, 1993), Benin (Mathieu Kérékou, 1996), Niger (Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara, 1996), Togo (Gnassingbé Eyadéma, 1998, 2003, Faure Gnassingbé, 2019), Djibouti (Ismail Omar Guelleh, 1999, 2016 ), Zimbabwe (Robert Mugabe, 2008), Gabon (Ali Bongo, 2009, 2016), Congo Brazzaville (Denis Sassou, 2016), Idriss Déby, RDC (Félix Tshisekedi, 2018, multiple inversions), Mauritania (Mohamed Cheikh El-Ghazouani , 2019). Only Zimbabwe and the DRC are not former French colonies. The family dictatorships of Gabon (3), Togo (3) and Djibouti (2) already count 8 out of 15 cases.


The inversions of the results at the compilation of the minutes or at the official announcement have been abnormally tolerated since 2016 in the French-speaking area, whereas they are probably hardly conceivable in the area of ​​the former British colonies outside the countries with harshest regimes like Zimbabwe. Even if there are diversions of electoral processes upstream and / or on voting day that are also very serious, in terms of feelings, inversions are even more difficult for the populations to accept because the existence of a real score implying the departure of a dictator is close to the departure of the latter and that defeat is only more difficult to accept.

The inversions also highlight the difference between English-speaking and French-speaking Africa on the value of legal remedies and the value of responsible courts and tribunals, on the separation between executive and judicial power, in cases where appeals go through a court rather than by a Constitutional Court. This situation shows above all that the gravity of electoral crimes is much higher in the former French colonies than that observed in the other countries and in particular in the former British colonies.


4.3 In 2020, the continuation of the difficulties in the former French colonies and in French-speaking Africa?


Ex-colonies Democratic electoral processes


Electoral processes in non-democratic regimes Total
Présidentials Legislatives Total Présidentials Legislatives Total Pres. Lég. Tot.
French 3 4 7 3 4 7 6 8 14
Belgian 0 0 0 1 1 2 1 1 2
British 3 2 5 1 2 3 4 4 8
Portuguese 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Italian 1 (reportée ?) 1 (reportée ?) 2 ? 0 0 0 1 ? 1 ? 2 ?
Spanish 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Without 1* 1 1+1* 0 0 0 1* 1 1+1*
Total 7+1* 8 15+1* 5 7 12 12+1* 15 27+1*



Out of 28 elections in 2020 (26 likely without Libya, 24 without the Central African Republic and Libya), 14 will take place in the former French colonies and 16 in French-speaking Africa with Burundi, compared to 8 in the former British colonies. Among the 16 electoral processes in a democratic framework, 7 will take place in the ex-French colonies and in French-speaking Africa against 5 in the ex-British colonies. Of the 12 electoral processes in an undemocratic framework, 7 will take place in the former French colonies, and 9 in French-speaking Africa with Burundi against 3 in the former British colonies.

In the former British colonies, the undemocratic elections will be noticed in Tanzania and Egypt. In the former French colonies, they will be noticed in the Comoros, Guinea, Cameroon, Togo, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire. On the French-speaking side, there will be also the elections in Burundi. The concentration of electoral crimes and conflicts will continue in the former French colonies in 2020. This should normally reinforce the perception of an increasing gap between French and English-speaking Africa in terms of nature of political regimes and quality of electoral processes.

Regarding the reorganization of the presidential election in Malawi, it is also important not to confuse the fraud of misappropriation of electoral processes in a well-established dictatorship and the fraud on conflicts about scores close to equality which can quickly build up tension in more democratic regimes. And, in this case, it is also important to consider that a conflict in the event of scores close to equality can lead, if they are not resolved well, as a result, to a much more serious process of dictatorization, like a disease that degenerates if left untreated.





A regression of democracy in English-speaking Africa now seems to appear in Malawi and Zambia, after Kenya in 2017, but this regression is not comparable to the brutal regression of certain ex-French colonies in 2018 and 2019, in particular in Benin, in the Comoros and Guinea. Zambia has been in difficulty since 2016 and, in Malawi, the contestation of the presidential election finally led to its cancellation in early 2020. Even if the stakes are high, especially when the scores are close to equality and the risk of worsening is to take into account, for the moment, these difficulties on the English-speaking side highlight sorts of adjustments to be improved in more structured and credible institutional systems than in those present in French-speaking Africa. Disputes and appeals by legal means to independent institutions seem increasingly possible in English-speaking Africa and still completely impossible in most French-speaking countries that would need them.


At this stage, regarding electoral processes, it becomes difficult to compare English-speaking and French-speaking Africa according to the same criteria. Moreover, the international conceptualization of electoral processes is dominated by works in the English language, which facilitates the task of non-democratic Francophone regimes that easily succeed in ending the diversion of electoral processes by judicial masquerades in false Constitutional Courts according to a criminal method hardly conceivable in the Anglophone space.


On March 4, 2020, the philosopher Achille Mbembe wrote in the newspaper Le Monde about Cameroon: « By publicly admitting that he had intervened in the liberation of the main opponent of the regime in power, he (Emmanuel Macron) would have trampled on the sovereignty of a country which, in sixty years of independence, has shown nothing but contempt and disdain for those of its children who once sacrificed themselves for their liberation from the colonial yoke … This is how the rogue states of Central Africa function, monstrous creatures of the Fifth Republic and the last avatars of Françafrique, this Faustian pact which will have linked France to its former colonial possessions since the 1960s, and which, seemingly nothing, has become a stinking bullet for France … In the eyes of many indeed, France having been so deeply involved in the consolidation of tyranny in Africa, that the advent of democracy, the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms and the realization of the pan-Africanist dream will only be possible at the cost of a radical break in ties with the former colonial power. This is particularly the case in Cameroon, where a breathless kleptocracy is actively trying to instrumentalize anti-French resentment with the aim of re-gaining a minimum of legitimacy and consolidating its impunity. » The gap between French and English electoral reviews undermines the legitimacy of a French influence in Africa, and, Cameroon became, in 2019, the symbol of the persistent malaise in the relationship between France and Africa because French and English speaking spaces coexist in this country.


How far can French-speaking Africa afford to lag behind without suffering globally, politically, economically and securely from this delay? Professor Nic Cheeseman of the University of Birmingham spoke on March 5 in The Economist, 2020 of a « growing democratic divide » as demands increased in some countries and repression increased in others. This “growing democratic divide” is associated with the widening gap between English-speaking and French-speaking Africa because dictatorial regimes are more and more concentrated in the French-speaking world, that constitutions are less respected there, and that methods of diversion of electoral processes which are practiced there are at a much higher level of criminality, as evidenced by the 14 inversions of results at compilation of the minutes and official announcement of the result out of 15 since 1990 which have taken place in Africa French-speaking, including 13 in the former French colonies.


Régis Marzin,

Paris, March 17, 2020

Excerpted and enriched extracts from the study of March 11, 2020 for translation into English.

Others articles by Régis Marzin in English :

February 28, 2019 – Democracies and dictatorships in Africa : 2018 in review and prospects for 2019
December 14, 2018 – First elections in Africa between 1792 and 1947, evolution of the suffrage and historical personalities
December 5, 2018 – Letter to EU : Negotiation of the Agreement ACP-Ue … and the democratization of Africa
August 12, 2018 – Comoros: constitutional coup and reversibility of the democratization process
August 5, 2018 – Zimbabwe: Is it a question of elections or a question of political regime evolution?
May 16, 2018 – Interview of Nic Cheeseman
September 15, 2017 – Kenya: discrepancies between electoral technique and external political discourse