Tana Forum: The road to elections in these African countries are uncertain

The second largest and second most populous continent in the world, Africa is set to witness over 15 elections this year. Just like other years, Africans are still skeptical if these elections would go through the right process in order to strengthen their democracies.

According to a survey conducted by Afrobarometer, only 25 percent of Africans believe in their national electoral commissions and the quality of their elections. These set of people believe that votes during elections are counted fairly. Around 40 percent of Africans in 36 countries believed that the last elections in their country were free and fair.  35 percent said that there is rampant bribery, media bias, and often times voters were threatened with violence at the polls.

Violence during elections should not be seen as a forgone situation, because about 90 percent of violence takes place before elections. African leaders and security experts that are getting readying to meet for the seventh edition of the Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa should see this as a huge cause of concern in order to save the continent from being on fire.

Currently, elections in Mali, Guinea Bissau, and Togo are really uncertain as these countries are struggling with insecurity which could make them postpone their elections.

Guinea-Bissau

Since 2015, One of the world’s poorest countries, Guinea Bissau has been going through a power struggle. This crises started after the Prime Minister Domingos Simoes Pereira aka DSP was dismissed by the President of the county,  Jose Mario Vaz aka Jomav. Since then, both men have been at loggerheads with each other.

According to reports, their relationship turned sour after international donors pledged more than €1 billion ($1.23 billion) to fund DSP’s programme to overhaul the country’s economy. When DSP returned from the Brussels fundraiser, Jomav allegedly asked him to hand over the money, believing that his foe carried the cheque in his pocket. Insiders report that the president was keen to earmark cash for private agricultural projects in his home village of Calequisse, in the west of the country, but that DSP resisted the power grab. Spooked by the ensuing instability, donors withdrew their pledges.

Jomav has also been left alone by his party and he is surrounded by 15 dissident PAIGC MPs known as the grupo dos quinze. All of these people are against him and are united with DSP.

Several attempts by ECOWAS to meditate on this issue has not been fruitful. Vaz had also proposed fresh talks to find a way out of the crisis but opposition parties objected to the plan.

Guinea-Bissau has been plagued by military coups and instability since its independence from Portugal in 1974. President Joao Bernardo Vieira was also assassinated in 2009 alongside General Tagme Na Waie.

Parliamentary elections are supposed to be held by April/May this year and the cost of legislative and presidential polls in Guinea-Bissau is estimated at $7.7 million, but so far just $1 million has been mobilized by the government but it is crucial to first resolve the political delay in the country.

Togo

The president of Togo Faure Gnassingbe has been under pressure to resign by an opposition coalition since August 2017 when thousands of people in all parts of the country protested calling for an end to the  Gnassingbe family rule of 50 years. Gnassingbe has been in power since 2005 when he took over after the death of his father, General Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled Togo for 38 years.

At least 16 protesters have been killed while over hundred others were arrested, injured and jailed and the country also cut off internet connectivity. In October 2017, the 14 party opposition coalition also protested again accusing the government of not responding to their request. The “Faure Must Go” protest also took a new turn with a national shutdown call which was observed in the capital Lome and other parts of Togo.

In a bid to launch a referendum on term limit and a two-round poll, Faure promised to engage in a national dialogue but the opposition refused to be a part of it because of the many failed attempts in the past.

Apart from demanding that  Gnassingbé to resigns, the opposition are also calling for a return to the 1992 constitution, revisions to the electoral framework, and diaspora voting rights in order to prevent Gnassingbe from running again.

The country’s election is scheduled to hold in June or July but yet there is still tension in the country. In view of this African leaders need to work quickly to put an end to this crisis.

Mali

In Mali, local elections scheduled for December 2017 were postponed to April 2018 and yet the country is still faced with an insurgency in its northern region since 2012.

Insecurity in Mali, which is known mainly by the persistence of terror threats, has made the country lose control of large parts of northern and central Mali. The implementation of the 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation between the state and rebels to end the conflict in the north has also stalled.

Looking at these issues on the ground, it is highly unlikely that the country will be able to effectively run this election. The security conditions in Mali also make it difficult to have a conducive environment for voting and the acceptance of results from the ballot.