News / Africa

Africa’s Many Elections Reap Few Rewards

World-renowned Senegalese singer Youssou Ndour announced that he was running for president against incumbent Abdoulaye Wade in February 26 elections, (File).
World-renowned Senegalese singer Youssou Ndour announced that he was running for president against incumbent Abdoulaye Wade in February 26 elections, (File).

Much like in 2011, there will be many elections across sub-Saharan Africa in 2012, including presidential polls now scheduled in Ghana, Senegal, Kenya, Mali, Madagascar, Sierra Leone and possibly Zimbabwe. Oil-rich Angola is working on setting up legislative elections, with the leader of the winning party becoming president.  Some analysts say they believe these elections often reap few rewards for voters.

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Supreme Court recently confirmed results in the last of many presidential elections in sub-Saharan Africa in 2011.  The high court rejected opposition complaints of widespread fraud, and confirmed the victory of incumbent President Joseph Kabila.

Kabila has been in power since taking over after his father’s assassination in 2001, promising to modernize and rebuild the mineral-rich country after years of corruption and conflict.

But development experts, human rights activists and corruption watchdogs believe little is changing in the DRC, even though Kabila has had an elected mandate since 2006.

Leonard Wantchekon is the founding director of the Benin-based Institute for Empirical Research in Political Economy.

“Elections in itself are great, having several political alternatives to choose from, different parties to choose from, that is great,” he said.

But he says there are concerns across Africa that democratic progress is not leading to enough social change.

“The disappointment is that it is not clear whether holding more elections improves education outcome, health outcome, whether the countries are better governed and whether there is less corruption, actually, now there is more corruption than there used to be,” Wantchekon stated.

Other presidential elections in 2011 took place in Benin, Cameroon, Cape Verde, the Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, the Gambia, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, the Seychelles, Uganda and Zambia. Also, a 2010 presidential poll in Ivory Coast finally came to a bloody resolution last year after months of unrest.

Gnaka Lagoke, who runs the widely read African Diplomacy website, is another analyst who is both hopeful but also concerned with all these elections. “It is good to see that even though there are wars and people are fighting over elections, at least it is good to notice it is vibrant and the African masses are practicing freedom. But we still see the West is doing everything possible to control those elections,” he said.

Lagoke alleges that Western governments and non-governmental organizations apply different types of pressure to get what he calls the good for business-as-usual candidate elected or re-elected, such as Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who won a new mandate last year.

“They have several methods. In the case of Liberia, for instance, when they give a Nobel Peace Prize to a candidate [2011 re-elected President Sirleaf], a sitting president, it boosts the popularity in the country, that is one way," said Lagoke. "The second thing we can say is that all of those observers who go to Africa, the non-governmental organizations, all of them, they will say in chorus the elections were fair because the West has decided a particular candidate they favor is supposed to be the leader."

Lagoke says that what he calls the business-as-usual leaders retain military and economic arrangements suitable to Western interests and existing African political elites. He says even when Western powers and donor nations criticize an election, they do nothing to change the situation, beyond a promise to push for progress in future elections.

Western embassies repeatedly deny interfering in African elections. Election winners in Africa often respond that those who complain about elections are being sore losers, looking for any excuse to justify a defeat at the polls.

These debates, accusations and even violent clashes between political camps are very likely in 2012, with high-stakes elections being held across the continent.

An early contest will be next month, with popular singer Youssou N'Dour now joining many other opposition candidates trying to defeat the incumbent octogenarian leader Abdoulaye Wade in Senegal's February 26 presidential poll.

You May Like

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs