Managing Elections, Democracy and Development towards Political Stability in Africa (2)

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By Ambassador Usman Sarki

Returning to the issue of elections in Africa and the entrenchment of credible democratic governance across the continent has become inescapable, especially in the wake of unconstitutional changes of power in some African countries. Sudan, Chad, Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso have been affected by this virus and others such as Niger and Guinea-Bissau have narrowly escaped contagion. It is not certain that this phenomenon will not spread to other countries as an unwanted epidemic, because the complacency of governments and the mismanagement of opportunities are invitations for the emergence of negative tendencies and tendencies.

In this second part on elections and democracy in Africa, attempts will be made to highlight the shortcomings and improvisations that lead to the phenomenon of unconstitutional changes of government, and the mechanisms that have been put in place by regional institutions to prevent this from happening. , At least in theory. Poor governance, complacency and a general lack of a sense of inclusion by large segments of the population in many countries explain the easy acceptance of military involvement in politics.

Come rain or shine, the people are there to vote but only for the votes to be hijacked and usurpers to emerge. Why don’t the people rejoice when another group of usurpers replaces the original usurpers when a coup occurs. It is not illogical!

Otherwise, there would have been widespread repudiation and resistance to the military in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso following the insurrection against their elected governments. Instead, we have witnessed the disturbing trend of jubilation in the streets of these countries’ capitals, where opposition parties and so-called civil society have hailed the return of the military to politics. Patriotism can be both useful and odious, and when military usurpers drape the national flag and tie the belt of patriotism, it takes on the specter of a costume party, but with a deadly seriousness that easily tramples all civil liberties. .

The ambivalence of the population and the fickle feelings of the masses towards politics contribute to a large extent to the instability of many African countries. When there is no sense of collective ownership of a process, but a mixed sense of indifference to all things governance and the way things are done in a given country, it becomes a matter of time before incidents are fabricated or engineered to bring about certain developments that would be cheeky to our sensibilities.

Volatility of passion and unstable temperament are usually the combustible mixtures that undermine civil rule and democratic dispensations everywhere, more so in inherently unstable systems that are subject to fluctuations in temperament and circumstances such as can be obtained in Africa. When conditions are not deeply rooted and the mindset and attitudinal frameworks are rather disparate and disjointed from commitment to ideals and ethos, it will be difficult to expect prolonged traditions of governance based on established principles and constructions.

The failure of African political elites and institutions to develop and entrench frameworks and attitudes of accountability and good governance for several decades after independence has affected our dispositions towards governance itself and the democratic tradition in general. To reverse this trend and engender a positive vision of civil rule, collective observance and adherence to the principles of good governance will become indispensable.

This becomes even more urgent and significant when considered in relation to the universal culture of peace, responsibility and development, which constitute the fundamental objectives of governance today and also underline the interrelationships between and among nations. and the peoples. It is therefore important that Africans realize that they are only doing themselves and no one else a favor by immersing themselves in both the spirit and the letters of the world’s best practices in democratic governance. and liability under the law.

Is South Africa a different story?

Gen El-Sisis, the strong man of Egypt

Without it, we will remain perpetually mired in our own incompetence and structural inadequacies which have thus far contributed to our relegation to the hinterland of universal progress and civilization. We must not underestimate or delude ourselves about the relevance of responsible government and democratic rule in our countries. Democracy is no longer a distant or foreign project that concerns only one people or one race, and which has no importance for our collective well-being and happiness. It has now become a worldwide phenomenon although practiced in different forms and from various situational perspectives and idiosyncrasies.

Nonetheless, it is the foundation of collective good in terms of inclusiveness and participation in shaping the destinies of our peoples and nations. Some of the practical challenges to our democracy in Africa stem from both institutional weaknesses and the lack of strong and credible political party organizations in many of our countries. The ephemeral nature of political organizations and the lack of deep roots in their respective communities have created a sense of impermanence in our democratic practices.

Apart from a few countries where political parties have become more or less permanent elements of governance frameworks, such as South Africa, there is little or no active awareness of the existence of structures that could shape generations after generations of politically active, articulate and attentive people. people. The demoralizing and debilitating effects of endemic corruption and general insecurity in many African countries, particularly in the Sahel region, have served to instill in people a lingering sense of hopelessness that leaves little or no room for thinking about issues such as democracy, good governance, human rights and freedoms, etc., as people have been reduced to meticulous attachment to the day-to-day cares of existence.

Apathy and fear, driven by uncertainty and exacerbated by corruption and indifference, have always been the bane of good governance and accountability. These have become so entrenched in Africa that they now pose the greatest and most insidious challenges to the successful entrenchment of democracy on our continent. However, it is not entirely impossible for Africans to perfect their democratic systems and create the conditions for good governance to flourish across the continent.

Under the right conditions and attitudes and in an environment conducive to its establishment, democracy will take root in Africa and become the norm rather than the exception. The fundamental principles and values ​​necessary for the entrenchment of democracy have already been articulated and established in some normative and governance frameworks in Africa, as already mentioned. The African Union and ECOWAS, for example, have been particularly aware of the importance of advancing the democratic process in their member states.

They have particularly repudiated unconstitutional or forced changes of government, as evidenced by the numerous declarations and decisions of their various organs and procedures. They have also taken a decisive stance against the lengthening of terms by unconstitutional means or by subtly instigating constitutional amendments in favor of sitting presidents, as has happened in several countries, and have become a source of discontent and of instability. Such attempts have invariably created tension in the countries involved and polarized their communities through artificially induced instability.

From the above, it becomes necessary to recall the different frameworks that exist in Africa and which aim to entrench democratic governance and avoid an unconstitutional seizure of power in our countries. Some general references to these mechanisms within the African Union (AU) and ECOWAS will be made, particularly with regard to the paramount issue of elections, which normally constitute the first pillar of any democratic regime and the harbinger of controversy. and instability.

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