Africa must manage elections better – VJ


WE are sick and tired of disputed elections which result in conflicts and have the potential to undermine peace and stability, says Vernon Mwaanga.

The veteran politician says the voting process and the system for declaring results must be open, transparent and credible to avoid accusations of rigging or bias.

“African countries must learn to manage elections better, so that our continent can enjoy peace before, during and after elections,” he said in a write up on Saturday. “Where there are genuine election grievances, the courts of law must be left alone to hear and determine election petitions in accordance with the law, without any interference from those in power, particularly in countries where the ruling elites have become corrupt or incompetent and want to cement their stay in power, for fear of being prosecuted for their ill-gotten wealth once they leave office.”

Mwaanga said the rule of law and constitutionalism must always be strictly observed and respected. “Citizens must enjoy the freedom of speech, choice and movement, which are guaranteed in most constitutions. Democratic governance, with all its shortcomings, remains the best form of government,” he said. “The alternative is dictatorship and autocracy, which have no place in the 21st century.”

Mwaanga argued that one of the most common sources of conflicts in Africa, was the curse of disputed elections.

He said elections were about power and must therefore be taken seriously by both the electoral bodies charged with the responsibility of conducting elections and those participating in them.

“The history of elections has not always been a happy one even in the established democracies of the world,” Mwaanga noted.

He also noted that the African Union, ECOWAS and SADC, have all adopted guidelines and declarations for holding elections, which generally meet international standards.

Mwaanga said the media and particularly the public media, gets very special mention in terms of the impartial role they are supposed to play before, during and after elections.

“Regrettably, there are very few or no enforcement mechanisms for countries which honour these statutes, more are in breach,” he said.

“It is an undeniable fact, that we have had at one time or another, disputed elections which have resulted in the loss of lives. Whether it is in North Africa, Horn of Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa or Southern Africa. This shows that we are not learning best practices on how to conduct credible elections from each other and particularly from relatively new democracies like South Africa, which have had a commendable history of conducting credible elections.”

Mwaanga said African countries had a lot to learn from the way South Africa conducts elections.

“It is critically important that electoral bodies are seen to be independent and impartial, which must additionally enjoy the confidence of the citizens of each country for starters,” said Mwaanga.

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