Wanted: A revamped elections model for Africa
By Akpo Ometan
Across the weekend, elections were held in Djibouti, Chad and the Republic of Benin. And quite predictably, the incumbents are clearly coasting home to victory even in the midst of disquiet and complaints over the integrity of the processes.
Quite predictably however, the African Union elections observation mission would very likely endorse the outcome of the polls at the close of the day and urge ‘losers to follow the laid down processes in seeking redress over their complaints.’ The incumbents would tighten the levers of control and coercion. And fortress democracy would have lost once again in Africa. It is a familiar pattern.
Going forward however, the continent has to find new ways of ensuring that the object of popular, civic representation that elections promise do not continue to e subverted under the jackboots of strong men. It is important that new ways and methods be found for ensuring the sanctity of the vote, the ballot and popular will.
One way to do this is to restructure the overall infrastructure of governance in-country so that winners are structurally limited in terms of their capacity to overwhelm the entire system. Under the rules of contest in many of the nations of Africa, what obtains largely is that big parties emerge that tend to sweep votes across the countries after getting into dodgy alignments and agreements with sub-regional warlords or just outrightly using the instruments of state and coercion to bludgeon their way through any opposition. At the end of the day, you have a ruling party and government that has control of the instruments of state but no real empathy with the mass of the people in whose name they rule. This is plain and simple #StateCapture.
What we need in the alternative is a widespread devolution of power that permits for the diffusion of national power in such a way that the sub-sets check on the totalitarian capacities of the superstructural state. This should also be complemented at the continental level through a wholesale review of the role of the African Union in country elections from being a toothless observer to now being a more engaged playmaker that pays even greater attention to process fidelity and better regulated outcomes. To do this would require getting the continental parliamentary and judicial bodies to be more vibrant and resolutely committed to the enforcement of the relevant statutes of the AU regarding the fidelity, proper working and dominance of the democratic process in the continent.
Chair, AU Council of Heads of States, President Felix Tshisekedi of Democratic Republic of Congo