The International Foundation for
Electoral systems (IFES) says it is working with African countries to enable
their electoral commissions to gain independence to ensure free and transparent
elections on the continent. IFES, which is a Washington based nongovernmental
organization, seeks to entrench democracy worldwide by providing expert advice,
providing tools to run effective democratic elections as well as working
closely with civil society organizations to push for reforms in their various
countries. Four experts from IFES appeared at the VOA briefing room yesterday
to discuss elections and political challenges in the countries IFES works.
regional director for Africa Almami Cyllah tells reporter Peter Clottey that
Africa has a great potential to transform its image into a democratic
Africa, I am hopeful. We have had setbacks of elections, but it's not the
elections in many of those instances. It's mostly the announcements of the
results after those elections. And as I said earlier, many African leaders
would not want to leave power and we've been used to election results coming out
in favor of those who are in power. If you look at the election in Zimbabwe, it
is was stolen. But it's not the election itself. It's the result that the
government or the leaders dictate and so there has to be a separation when
people talk about elections," Cyllah noted.
said IFES is working hand in hand with electoral bodies across the continent to
gain independence from the executive.
terms of the assistance that IFES for an example has been giving to electoral
commissions, these electoral commissions have been doing well. But then it gets
to the point where also the governments in power or the leaders in power sort
of control these elections basically. That is why IFES is really working with
electoral commissions not only giving them the technical support, but also
encouraging them to advocate for their own independence. We see a very good
independent electoral commission in Ghana," he said.
said IFES is working to strengthen civil societies in individual countries to
push for changes in they want.
are working with electoral commissions themselves alongside with civil society
that we have been working with. You see, it's not only elections. IFES does a whole slew of electoral
developments. For example, IFES provided a lot of support to the electoral
commission in Liberia for the 2005 elections alongside other international
organizations. But after the elections, IFES then went in to begin to work with
civil society and the elected officials themselves to get them to understand
the independence of an electoral commission. So we saw a lot of legal reforms
so to speak in the electoral process," Cyllah pointed out.
said the lack of independence of electoral bodies in African countries
undermines their effectiveness.
lack of independence of these commissions.
For example they don't have financial independence. Every month, there
are many of these commissions who would have to go to the ministries of finance
to get their salaries for their staff. Therefore, you see a lot of exertion of
power over them by the executive," he said.
said IFES often encourages various heads of the electoral bodies across Africa
to share their experience with other countries.
also have what we call shared experience for example when the Sierra Leone
elections were being held. We took the commissioners from Liberia and we
invited other commissioners from Cote D'ivoire for an example to go and observe
the elections in Sierra Leone. But not only to observe the elections in Sierra
Leone, but to also give support to the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone so
that they know that we are all commissioners and we give each other support.
That is a start. So this is what IFES does to make sure that the transfer of
knowledge takes hold," Cyllah noted.
said IFES is also working with officials of the African union to establish the
continental body's own electoral monitoring system.
example with the Association of African Electoral administrators, we at IFES
are working with them to be sure that they share experiences like the African
Union office that we do have, which is helping the African Union develop not
only an electoral observation unity, but also electoral administration
professionals that would be able to look at various electoral processes and
help those commissions to move forward," he said.