Sunday, December 12, 2010




Posted Monday, December 13 2010 at 00:00

The political crisis in Cote d’Ivoire is the latest manifestation of African leaders’ inability to accept the verdict of the people as delivered in a democratic election.

In a string of elections held on the continent over the past three years, there have been several cases of incumbents refusing to concede defeat and resorting to underhand tactics to stay in power, displaying utter contempt for democratic principles.

The question is, what cripples Africa when it comes to holding a free, fair and peaceful elections and handing over power?

Democracy on the continent has been reduced to a situation where incumbents organise elections but with no intention of respecting the results or the people’s verdict.

Laurent Gbabgbo is the latest example of lack of statesmanship common on the continent, one that could yet plunge Ivory Coast into another costly civil war.

After Alassane Ouattara was declared the winner by 54 to 46 per cent, Gbagbo saw it fit to organise his coterie to annul some votes in the stronghold of his opponents and declare himself the winner.

Bungled elections, starting in Kenya in 2007 and followed closely by Zimbabwe, are now a common feature in Africa.

The African strongman syndrome and life presidency has refused to go away even though multiparty democracy was thrust on African leaders in 1990s following the collapse of the cold War.

Poorly handled elections are not only a threat to peace and security, but a major threat to the economies of the countries involved.

In Kenya, for instance, the country’s economic growth fell to 1.7 per cent in 2008, down from 7.1 per cent in 2007 mainly due to the post-election violence.

The damage to the economy was felt not only in Kenya where close to Ksh4 billion ($50 million) was lost, but also spilled over into Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, where essential products were in short supply as fuel passing through Kenya was unavailable due to closure of roads and violence.

Cote d’Ivoire for instance, has experienced a slump in cocoa production since the civil war started a decade ago.

But the story does not end there. In Guinea, veteran opposition leader Alpha Conde won in a hotly contested run-off against rival Cellou Dalein Diallo.

Mr Diallo immediately disputed the results and went to the courts.

Meanwhile, in Egypt, the ruling National Democratic Party has bulldozed its way to victory forcing its rivals, the Muslim Brotherhood, to withdraw from the remaining contest.In nearby Burundi, the opposition boycotted the polls after complaints of serious irregularities, leaving President Pierre Nkurunziza to contest alone.

In the recent October elections in Tanzania, Chama cha Mapundizi swept the board despite complaints of rigging from the opposition.

The question is, when will Africa build the capacity to hold clean elections?