Electoral processes in most African countries have been characterized by fierce political contestations and electoral malpractices sometimes ending up in blood-letting violence. It’s worth noting that ethnic groupings is a very key phenomena in the African setting that African politicians always cash on to gain mileage. It’s this reason that makes it almost impossible to separate between Politics and Ethnicity in most African countries. These ethnic communities each have varied and competing interests-political, social and economic- which according to popular opinion can only be achieved by having one of their own at the highest rank in the country’s political leadership so that those communities who will not have one of their own in power and in control of the tools of power will stand a chance to loose. The zero-sum, game where the winner takes all comes into play hence ethnic communities literally fight to marshal sufficient numbers to have their own in power hence resulting in ethnic conflict and violence in most instances.
This notwithstanding, it’s important to laud ongoing efforts aimed at effecting a paradigm shift. Some African states have started putting efforts to ensure political processes are free and fair and that such processes are not a cause of violence. In Kenya for instance following the 2007/08 post poll violence and the subsequent findings on the root causes of the violence and recommendations thereafter, there have been quite a lot of structural, legal and institutional adjustments including a new constitution, the set-up of independent bodies to oversee elections as well us setting out guidelines to dealing with electoral mal practises or disputes. This largely contributed to a relatively peaceful poll in 2013 such that even though there were disputes, the aggrieved parties activated the non-violence way of having their grievances amicably addressed by constitutionally recognized mechanisms including the judicial system.
2015 is here and is set to define how electoral processes are going to be conducted moving forward. Several African countries are expected to go into elections this year with Africa’s largest country, Nigeria, preparing for presidential vote on the 28th March after it was postponed in February due the Boko Haram Islamist threat, a militant group that has carried out sectarian killings in the North and threatening to disrupt the election. It has already been reported that most northerners who are non-Muslims have begun exiting the area to safer places for fear of attacks during the elections. The two main contenders the incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan who is Christian from the south and his rival Muhammadu Buhari a Muslim from the North have signed a pact promising to respect the outcome of the election . The two have asked their supporters to maintain peace and order and refrain from any kind of violence which is a really good sign of their commitment to a peaceful process. Political pundits have however expressed fear that if Goodluck Jonathan wins the presidency then the Islamist group Boko Haram which wants to establish the use of sharia laws might be charged to attack and seek to take control of others states besides those in the North. Nonetheless, a peaceful and successful election will mean that Nigeria will have an opportunity to concentrate more on maintaining her position as Africa’s strongest and largest economy and deal with issues of concern such as inequality bedevilling the oil rich country.
Other African countries on the election line-up include Burundi, Sudan, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, Ivory Coast and Tanzania.