Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Post Election Violence : Hallmark of African Elections

"Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must."

Africa---This year approximately 30 African countries will host or have already hosted their general elections, around half of which will be presidential. The impact of this unprecedented number of elections on the continent's economic, political and social fabric is hard to overstate. While oppressive dictatorships are on the decline, electoral processes remain weak and many of this year's elections will undoubtedly be plagued by allegations of voter fraud, corruption, and intimidation. In the History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides wrote: "Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must."

Post election violence is the aggression that erupts due to disputed election results. The violence may be planned or spontaneous. This violence, that has adverse effects on both the country as well as its citizens, sadly to say has become a common inclination in most if not all of the African states. This violence is witnessed at times even during campaigns, tallying or as results are being compiled to be announced. For instance, from December 2007-early 2008, Kenya, the once oasis of peace in the continent, experienced the worst phase of its history. This political, economic, and humanitarian crisis that erupted in Kenya after incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of the presidential election held on December 27, 2007. Supporters of Kibaki's opponent, Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement, alleged electoral manipulation. The violence peaked with the killing of over 30 unarmed civilians in a church near Eldoret on New Years Day. Tensions in the Rift Valley have caused violence in several previous Kenyan elections, most notably in the 1992 Kenyan Elections.

Following the Uganda’s presidential election of 18th February, the United States and the European Union both issued disappointing statements following these elections. In response to the Yoweri Museveni’s re-election, the EU’s High Representative, Catherine Ashton, “welcomed the peaceful conduct of the elections… which mark a further consolidation of the democratic process, not just in Uganda itself but in the whole region". Museveni must have been expecting a social demonstration after the election results since he filled the streets with police troops to quell any riotous activity.  Perhaps he fears that the Ugandan people have been inspired by the Egyptian revolution and he will be the next long-standing ruler to be ejected by the people.

Recently, the densely populated nation in the continent, Nigeria is undergoing a phase of post election as well. Analysts however said they are heartened by the fact that the poll is being taken seriously, but concerned at the possible repercussions of a north-south divide emerging in the results. Consequently, riots erupted across Nigeria's largely Muslim north on Monday, with the Red Cross saying many people were killed as youths torched churches and homes in anger at President Goodluck Jonathan's election victory. Goodluck Jonathan, the incumbent and first president from the southern oil-producing Niger Delta region has been declared winner of presidential elections. He won 57 per cent of the vote, easily beating his northern rival, ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari in the first round. Final results declared Monday evening, which the opposition rejected, gave Jonathan 22.5 million votes, while Buhari scored 12.2 million votes for 31 per cent. Jonathan’s message to the nation was "As I have always stated, nobody's political ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian."

Post election violence and demand for elections to be nullified have also been experienced in Zimbabwe, Central African Republic and Benin. With this ongoing trend the continent is to watch out for states that are warming up to the polls. Nations such as Liberia (11th October 2011), Madagascar (01 July 2011) and Chad (24th April 2011).Unless this infamous hallmark is scrapped then Africa; the world's second-largest and second most-populous continent will not elevate from its third world state. Kwame Nkrumah echoed that “Africa is a paradox which illustrates and highlights neo-colonialism. Her earth is rich, yet the products that come from above and below the soil continue to enrich, not Africans predominantly, but groups and individuals who operate to Africa’s impoverishment.”

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