November 24th 2017

Opinion / Commentaries

Two rigged elections in August show African democracy's soft underbelly

Museveni, one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, won 60.8 per cent of the vote in presidential elections, while the main opposition candidate, Kizza Bisigye, secured 35.4 per cent, according to the country’s electoral commission.

By Phillip MuleeThursday, 01 Sep 2016 18:18 EAT

There is an undeniable recession of democracy in Africa. Two disputed presidential election results on the continent in just fifteen days show the difficulties that African reformers will have to surmount to see power pass from incumbents to opposition challengers. The Western world which previously safeguarded democratic elections watched vote rigging without uttering a word in Zambia and Gabon.

Thousands of angry protesters of Gabon took to the streets of Libreville yesterday August 31, accusing the Ali Bongo government of stealing the election after the president was declared the winner by a razor-thin margin over rival Jean Ping.

Gabon's opposition leader Ping said security forces killed two people and injured 19 more at his headquarters early today, as violence erupted after the election results were announced.

Gunfire crackled across the city and plumes of smoke billowed from the torched parliament building as anti-government protesters clashed with heavily armed security forces.

The election results gave Bongo 49.8 per cent to Ping's 48.23 per cent (a gap of less than 6,000 votes), but were immediately rejected by Ping’s team which started protesting.

Mid last month, Zambia's incumbent President Edgar Lungu was declared the winner of a closely fought presidential election, but the result was immediately challenged by his main opponent Hakainde Hichilema.

Lungu, leader of the Patriotic Front (PF), won 50.35 per cent of vote, against 47.67 per cent for Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND), the Electoral Commission of Zambia announced.

The Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, early this year extended his 30-year rule amid deep controversy as his main opponent was placed under house arrest and international observers dismissed the election result as a sham.

Museveni, one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, won 60.8 per cent of the vote in presidential elections, while the main opposition candidate, Kizza Bisigye, secured 35.4 per cent, according to the country’s electoral commission.

Besigye immediately demanded  an independent audit of the results saying they had witnessed the most fraudulent electoral process in Uganda.

These protests show that all is not well with democracy in Africa.Democracy which was fronted by the Western donors led by the US after the end of Cold war in 1991 has become compromised every day.

In the early 1990s, donors began to show interest in promoting political change in addition to economic reforms. Democratic political reforms were emphasized as key factors in the determination of future economic assistance for Africa.

The Development Advisory Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is on record in support of "participatory development," which includes democratization, improved governance, and human rights.

However, one wonders what has gone wrong since the same donors are now watching as democratic institutions such as electoral bodies sing to the tune of the incumbent and consequently declare them winners of fraudulent elections.

Civil society groups which had been given a new impetus of life by the donors to champion for true democracy are no longer visible while others do not make any impact as was the case before.

That is why many are wondering what has forced the donors have drastically shifted their focus to only having their interests served irrespective of whether democracy was in force or not. Democracy in Africa is now being manipulated by state machineries and the incumbent political elite.

On 19 April, this year, former United Nations Secretary General Koffi Annan urged African leaders to leave office when their time is up, or risk coups and uprisings. But are they willing to leave as has been shown by Museveni, Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe), Joseph Kabila (Democratic Republic of Congo) among others?

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