It's a busy time for elections in Africa, with countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Zimbabwe and Kenya gearing up for the polls. And as elections increasingly become the legitimate way to acquire political power on the continent, winning votes has become a matter of life and death for the political elite in many countries.
Contentious election campaigns, manipulation of electoral processes in favour of incumbent candidates and disputed election results are some of the problems that have sparked election-related conflicts, as highlighted by the 2015 UN peacebuilding review. Violence that marred elections in Kenya in 2007/8, Zimbabwe in 2008 and Côte d'Ivoire in 2010 come to mind.
There are already signs of electoral conflict in the DRC, where President Joseph Kabila continues to cling to power after completing his constitutionally mandated two terms, and presidential and parliamentary elections have been delayed by violence in the Kasai-central province. This raises concerns about what lies ahead for the country when elections are eventually held.
Zimbabwe, whose history is rife with election-related violence, is another hotspot as it approaches elections expected to be held in July 2018.