Africa is a beautiful continent with a lot to be proud of interms of history, culture, tourism, mineral wealth, sporting exploits, spirituality etc. Elections are one of those things that have either enhanced her existene or threatened to setback the progress of the continent by decades if not centuries. In recent years, governments, civil society and the international community have played major roles in ensuring peaceful elections across Africa.
Some elections in Africa have been characterised by the following descriptions.....stuffing of ballot papers, multiple voting, thugs snatching ballot boxes, arm men intimidating voters, hijacking of results, refusing the final virdict etc. Despite these challenges, African nations are beginnin of to show good leadership, dedication and the will power to ensure that elections are conducted in a peaceful atmosphere and the lives of its citizens protected.
Some notable examples of good electioneering in Africa are worth mentioning. Nigeria in 2011 demonstrated to the world that Africa`s most populated nation can conduct itself in a responsible and peaceful manner and elect Goodluck Jonathan to the presidency without resulting in excessive violence. The elections was reported in the international media as having run smoothly with relatively little violence or voter fraud in contrast to previous elections.
The Zambian elections in 2011 was also a great improvement on previous polls conducted.Though some skirmishes were reported in the run up to the polls, electoral observers said that the election was "generally well administered," but that there was not equitable access to resources, resulting in the lack of a "level playing field" in the campaign. This is a challenge that can be overcome by good electorial reforms.
The people of Liberia also in 2011 conducted what many believed to be the most orderly and peaceful polls conducted in Africa`s oldest republic.President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf winning another 6 year term with diverse economic opportunities for more investments in Liberia.
Senegalese were proud of a peaceful election after opposition leader Macky Sall won the polls. With the incumbent Abdoulaye Wade accepting defeat, the overwhelming feeling was one of great relief not only in Senegal but across Africa. Earlier in the evening, as the local media were still tallying the vote, Mr Wade, made a personal phone call to Mr Sall and congratulated him_the ultimate sign of a mature democracy. Such moments are worth celebrating giving the lives that have been spared by that sigular significant gesture. A similar move by Laurent Gbagbo of Cote D`ivoire could have save the nation the bloodshed and destruction.
In Guinea Bissau, elections were held in a peaceful manner with observer missions from ECOWAS, UN and international partners pleased with conduct of the polls.Our expectation is that the runoff poll on 22nd April, 2012 would be a resounding success.
These peaceful elections not withstanding, still had their own challenges such as pre and post election tension, acussations of vote rigging etc.What is most important in these elections was the determination and the commitment by stakeholders to arrive at a peaceful end.
Ghana will go to the polls in December 2012. A new biometric voter registration system is currently in place to ensure transparency and reduce multiple voting.Continual voter education is essential to ensuring a tension free process. knowledge, skills and relevant information is necessary to fosteriig a peaceful electioneering campaign and easy decision making on the part of the electorate.Patience and tolerance from voters and politicians must be preached again and again. All politicians must tone down on the use of language interspersed with threats, insults and incitement to commit violence. Let us all walk the talk.
As a famous political thinker says.....
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”
—Thomas Paine, 1777.
Peaceful elections in Africa is possible. It is the way to go.We invite God`s presence in the affairs of Africa. We pray that hearts and attitudes be changed so that a more peaceful Africa emerges.
Africa has Hope Because Africa has you!