Concerted efforts are needed for credible polls in Africa – WANEP

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Concerted efforts are needed for credible and peaceful elections in Africa, Dr Chukwuemeka Eze, Executive Director, West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), has said.

He said, “The responsibility of ensuring that elections in Africa are free, fair and credible cannot be shouldered by ECOWAS, African Union (AU) and its member states alone, hence the need for all civil society organisations (CSOs) and willing parties to make concerted effort to ensure a resounding success”.

Dr Eze stated on Thursday at the opening of the Southern Voices Network for Peacebuilding (SVNP) West Africa Regional Conference in Accra.

The two-day meeting is on the theme “Progress and Retrogression on Electoral Processes and Transitions in West Africa: Peace and Security Concerns and Consequences”.

The meeting, which is being organised by WANEP in collaboration with SVNP and other stakeholders brought together high-level representatives of Election Management Bodies (EMBs), ECOWAS Network of Election Commission, CSOs including SVNP members, among others to share knowledge on the current state and status of electoral processes and transition in West Africa, as well as analyze capacities and gaps of existing mechanisms, institutions and structures for the management of electoral processes and transition in West Africa.

WANEP is an Associate member of the SVNP, which is a continent-wide network of African policy and research organizations that works with the Wilson Center’s Africa Programme to bring African knowledge and perspectives to the US and international policy on peacebuilding in Africa.

Dr Eze citing Mrs Hillary Clinton, a former United States Secretary of States, said: “To be considered democratic, a country must choose its leaders through fair and competitive elections, ensure basic liberties, and respect for the rule of law”.

The Executive Director said however, in many African countries today, they were merely checking boxes, adding that uneven playing fields were being deployed in the election arena and systems were being manipulated to ensure the win of political leaders.

“This portends a dangerous loop that threatens the essence of any elections; transparency, inclusiveness and accountability,” Dr Eze said.

He said as succinctly put by Mr Kofi Annan, “Democracies without credible elections are no elections at all”.

Dr Eze noted that the wave of hope that democratic elections presented in the early 1990s as a means of exiting intractable conflict, institutionalized marginalization and corruption as well as inequality in all forms and ramifications had become surreal.

“Today, we are walking the slippery slope of citizens and pundits calling for enlightened authoritarian leadership (drawing from examples on the continent where it appears to be producing results,” he said.

“Some still hold the view that democracy is not for Africans. This raises concerns about an emerging pattern of retrogression from a genuine commitment to democratisation to perceived exclusion of the vast majority of the citizenry in the political process which further generate grievances and recourse to violence”.

He said the fierce competitive nature of politics had been a factor threatening stability in the region largely because there was a perception, against a backdrop of palatable inter-ethnic tensions, raises the stakes and risk for all those involved.

With regards to the Accra meeting, Dr Eze said the conference was significant coming in this period when eight West African countries would be holding presidential and parliamentary elections.

Dr Emmanuel Akwetey, the Executive Director of the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG), who said the African continent from the early 1990s to date had made significant progress in democratic governance; also cited Ghana as a shining example of democracy in Africa.

He said democracy was a work in progress, which could be used to lift the people out of poverty.

Dr Monde Muyangwa, Director, Africa Programme, Woodrow Wilson Centre, said SVNP was a network of 23 African organisations that were spread across the African continents, of which majority were in West Africa.

She said the goal of the network was to bring African knowledge and analysis on key issues relating to peacebuilding in Africa.

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