African States, including The Gambia should draw lessons from the post election violence in Nigeria and in other parts of the continent and ensure that such unfortunate incident does not repeat itself, Rights Activist Leo Igwe has said.
Igwe, the representative of the International Humanist Ethical Union (IHEU), was presenting a paper on “Post Elections Violence” at the 49th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, in Banjul on May 2, 2011.
Violence is increasingly being associated with elections in Africa and it is an “ill wind” that blows no democracy any good and should be prevented from undermining political stability in countries across the region, he said.
He recalled that in recent years, some African countries like Zimbabwe, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Togo, Gabon, and Nigeria have all witnessed cases of political violence, crises and instability in the aftermath of elections.
According to him, the violence that occurred in Nigeria following the presidential elections left at least 500 people dead and several thousand injured and displaced.
Such was similar or worse in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Ivory Coast and many analysts are getting worried by this emerging trend in Africa democracies and politics.
“We all know that this crisis often occurs after presidential elections, so what is wrong with some sitting presidents in Africa and African presidential elections that make post election periods prone to so much tension, instability and conflict,” he quizzed.
“It is important that other African countries, including Gambia to understand the factors that led to the violent eruptions in Nigeria and in other African countries and take measures to prevent or address them before it is too late.”
Igwe charged that States should endeavour to organize credible elections and tackle electoral fraud. In many African countries, most elections are rigged in favor of the incumbent president, the incumbent’s party or the incumbent’s choice. Elections are hardly free and fair even when they are adjudged to be so.
He outlined that political violence is actually a reaction to what people perceive as electoral fraud of their mandate and voice. It is an expression of opposition to an imposition of a candidate on the people through election.
“Those who contest in presidential elections should be ready to lose and accept defeat, even if they are sitting presidents. African governments should learn to tolerate opposition and criticism of their policies and programmes.” He said.
On North Africa, he said the popular revolution sweeping across the region and is a demonstration of the popular opposition against presidents who intends to rule for life and holding of elections that always return the incumbent to power against popular opinion and choice.
He added that a situation where presidents groom their sons, family members to succeed them, where presidents run the country like a Kingdom, and an election where people are not presented with the option of “voting out” their president or “voting in” a new president of their choice, is a “sham”.