Saturday, June 4, 2011

Ethiopian Election Africa Day - Reflecting on need for self-regulation, accountability

Trevor Maisiri

AS we mark Africa day this year, the continent is faced with gripping challenges that have become more projected given the social, economic and political terrain prevailing within and outside of its domain.

Politically in the last year, Africa has seen the blazing revolutions in North Africa, the ravaging war in Libya, the electoral feud in Cote d'Ivoire, the coalition government tension in Zimbabwe, the political inferno of Madagascar, the controversy of elections in various countries and the general insinuation of global political complexities that have entangled the African Union (AU).
In the last year, there has been some controversy surrounding various elections in some countries. In Rwanda, Paul Kagame retained the presidency for his second and final term with 93,08 percent of the votes.
His party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, was however accused of being in the forefront of political violence and intimidation of opposition members.
In this election, the vice-president of the opposition Democra-tic Green Party, Andre Kangwa Rwisereka, was beheaded in the run-up to the election while a journalist, Jean-Leonard Ruga-mbage, was also killed.
The Sudan general election of April brought back Omar Al-Bashir and his National Congress Party with 68,24 percent of the vote.
This election was characterised by a controversial and unplanned two-day voting extension period within which opposition claimed the rigging machinery was rigorously employed.
In Cote d'Ivoire, the elections went into a run-off where the contestation between Laurent Gbagbo and Allassane Ouattara became topical until the recent capture of the former, which led to the settlement of the six-month old election dispute.
In Burundi, Pierre Nkurunzi-nza was retained as President in an election in which he was the sole candidate after the withdrawal of opposition. There were massive allegations of fraud and intimidation of opponents.
The People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) won with 99 percent vote in the Ethiopian election held in May last year. Though the results were disputed by the opposition, the courts upheld them.
In Nigeria, controversy also surrounded the electoral process leading to some unprecedented delays in concluding the polls.
In Uganda, the opposition disputed the electoral victory of Yoweri Museveni. This led to protracted post-election tension which resulted in the incessant arrest and assault of the opposition leader, Kizza Besigye.
Relatively peaceful and acce-ptable electoral processes were however, observed in Mauritania, Somaliland, Togo, Tanzania and Guinea in the stated period.
As the AU grows of age there is however, a need for a greater institutionalisation of the electoral processes on the continent to create a uniform approach towards democratisation.
The AU has to strengthen its implementation and monitoring mechanisms for the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) in order to ensure its materialisation.
The pockets of disputed elections and undemocratically installed governments must find their way into extinction given the highlights of some of the elections that have taken shape in the last year.
The AU must also realise that reforms are viewed as the standard formulation to state-building especially after any social, economic or political misfortune or conflict. Continuously, Africa has become the ground upon which international ideological standpoints find their battlefront.
In such circumstances, the lack of a coherent African approach to political reforms therefore seems to play into feeding this international milieu.
The lack of both a military and judicial instrument to enforce justice and security sector alignment in Africa which was highlighted earlier in this paper, has widened the exposure for other international functionaries to continue justifying filling in those supply gaps.
Whereas Africa's autonomy and sovereignty is a primary need, the lack of capacity by the AU in enforcing these outlined matters nearly always silently invites global intervention in African affairs.
The effects of globalisation have also exhibited a trend where if one corner of the globe is left to deteriorate either socially, economically or politically, it will obviously cause ripple effects across the world.
In as much as there is that respect and need to invest in the sovereignty of states and regions, it is however, the critical balance between the global subtraction from deteriorating conditions within states and the pending effects to the totality of the international community that has become of concern.
If Africa is to fully consolidate its sovereignty, then this must be done through the full institutionalisation of mechanisms that hold African states and their leaders to fully account by other African bodies.
As long as there are gaps and incapacities that the world adjudges to have negative effects on the global scale, there will always be justification for what many African leaders have termed as interference in the affairs of the continent.
For example, the reform agenda in Zimbabwe is also connected to the Africa-wide failure by SADC and the AU to themselves reform.
Without a functional military and judicial institute, the AU and SADC can therefore not enforce whatever is termed as the best ideals for governance in Zimbabwe.
The reform of African nations must therefore be driven from the institutional reform of regional bodies and the AU.
The case of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)'s intervention in Libya is one case to note. The primacy of that intervention was based on the need to support the United Nations resolution 1973.
However, due to the absence of an African unitised military institutions or force, the onus had to fall on NATO. Africa's military vulnerability was exposed.
For sure such a military institute would cost money, which Africa may not have, but it is the rising levels of conflict where unreformed security sector units are being abused against their own people that makes this an urgent issue for consideration.
If Africa really needs help, it is help to build a sustainable military mechanism under the charge of the AU and its regional bodies to be able to enforce and capacitate security sector reforms in transitional states as well as build capacity for democratic enforcement.
Even if resources are still an issue, it is the intention to build towards such capacity and inclination that is immediately more compelling and therefore needs a spirited consideration.
One writer, Williams, supports the idea of a collective regional security apparatus and he points towards the Central African region as being in urgent need of such an arrangement. This is against the instability experienced in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.
The AU also has no functional and effective legal arm in order to legitimise the primacy of law and order. The creation of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights has not yet been fully ratified by the member states of the AU.
In the same regard, the court also lacks clout in that it is only mandated to hear cases brought against states and does not therefore prosecute individuals in violation of the justice and human rights stipulations.
Africa therefore has no credible military and judicial instruments for application within its member states where such need arises.
Though the case of resource scarcity may be sighted as the contributory factor, we also need to interrogate the willingness of African states in instituting self-governance and monitoring mechanisms.
The African Peer Review Mechanism, though being an attempt to infuse an African-owned self-regulation system, still relies on the voluntary willingness of subjective countries to undergo the process. It also seriously lacks follow-up mechanisms and has limited scope for civil society participation.
Therefore, as we celebrate Africa Day, we must be able to call upon our African pride and collective sense of a high self-esteem. We must realise that it is only us who can aid the prosperity of our continent.
Our resolve needs to be motivated by the desire for the identity we have as an African people. However, in order to fully realise our African aspirations, our continental body, the AU, must seriously consider the institutionalisation of all such efforts for better self-regulation and peer accountability of our leaders and countries.

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Prof. Muse Tegegne has lectured sociology Change &  Liberation  in Europe, Africa and Americas. He has obtained  Doctorat es Science from the University of Geneva.   A PhD in Developmental Studies & ND in Natural Therapies.  He wrote on the  problematic of  the Horn of  Africa extensively. He Speaks Amharic, Tigergna, Hebrew, English, French. He has a good comprehension of Arabic, Spanish and Italian.