Raila: Africa must invest in transparent management of elections
CORD leader Raila Odinga has called on African countries to invest in management of elections and ensure respect for presidential term limits if the continent is to sustain the gains made with the coming of competitive politics in the 1990s.
While addressing the first Africa and Israel Policy and Leadership Conference at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Odinga said failure to manage elections and refusal to respect term limits are becoming rampant in the continent and could be pointers to a slow but steady return to the old order of Presidents for life.
The CORD leader said most of Africa has simply failed to better manage the quality of elections leading to doubts, uncertainties and trepidations in elections.
He noted that most elections in Africa lead to controversies and violence of some scale.
“Unlike Europe or the US, Africa’s elections are increasingly different, mostly in worrying ways, from country-to-country and election-to-election in form, content and quality. One would have thought that after about a quarter century of conducting competitive elections, Africa’s electoral commissions would be able to deliver better organized, more transparent, verifiable and credible, free and fair polls,” the former Prime Minister said in his address on Governance Deficit in Africa.
“Our elections are getting more chaotic and more prone to manipulation. They are more likely to produce bitterly contested results that create divisions rather than unite the nation. Elections are failing to peacefully aggregate people’s preferences in the choice of political leadership. Incumbents are using them to confirm themselves to power or tear apart their nations,” he said.
He called on the continent to urgently address the question of how to make elections promote social cohesion, create rather than undermine political legitimacy and ensure inclusivity rather than entrenching exclusion.
“Africa must invest in enhancing electoral governance if the march towards democratization is to be sustained.”
He decried the emergence of a trend where leaders are revising their constitutions to remove presidential term limits warning that it could destabilize Africa in the coming years.
“These quests for extensions are often couched in a language that portrays a leader’s desire for more time in office as a response to popular demands. It has already exploded in Burundi. Blaise Compaoré’s attempt to seek a third term in Burkina Faso was stopped by popular protests that forced him not just to back off, but to leave the country,” added the former Premier.
He warned that Africa might be relapsing to the early years when coups and natural death were the predominant ways in which power changed hands in Africa.
“We have been there before. We must not go there again. Presidents for life must become a thing of the past in Africa.”
Africa, he said, is beginning to send mixed signals, raising doubts whether the momentum for change was being sustained.
He said the continent’s march to democracy is increasingly getting fragile and contestable arguing that the few countries making steps forward are being pulled down by others trying to revert to the past.
He singled out Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast as some of the countries putting their acts together but lamented that as these countries rise, “some neighbours are embracing old troubles.“
He cited the military coup in Mali in 2012, Blaise Compaoré’s 2014 ouster through a citizen’s protest, the attempt by General Gilbert Diendéréto take over in Burkina Faso after throwing out the interim leadership that had taken over from Compaore only for the general to be trown out within the week as troubling signs.
The conflicting trends, Odinga said, are eating into the institutional capacity of would be democratic structures like Parliament and the Judiciary, paralyzing accountability bodies like the Office of the Auditor General, the Ombudsman and anti-corruption institutions.
“Even worse, the reversals are aiding the return of big time corruption. Corruption in turn necessitates and aids the reversals. Corruption is swallowing our potential and financing our failure.”
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