Thursday, December 6, 2012

What Ghana can teach the rest of Africa about democracy -

By George Ayittey, Special to CNN
December 6, 2012 -- Updated 1113 GMT (1913 HKT)
Supporters of Ghanaian opposition candidate Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party, in Kasoa, December 1, 2012.
Supporters of Ghanaian opposition candidate Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party, in Kasoa, December 1, 2012.

  • Ghana heads to the polls on December 7
  • It has successfully held elections and transferred power on five occasions since 1992
  • George Ayittey: Free media, civil groups, are secrets of the country's success
  • These factors can ensure free, fair and peaceful elections across Africa, he says
Editor's note: George Ayittey is a native of Ghana and president of the Free Africa Foundation, based in Washington, DC. He is the author of "Defeating Dictators."
(CNN) -- Unlike their Western counterparts, Africans take elections very seriously -- rising up early to queue patiently in line for hours under the hot sun and cast their ballots. Any misguided attempt to nullify or steal their votes will evoke a strong reaction from them. In fact, it explains why the destruction of an African country often begins with a dispute over the electoral process or transfer of power.
In recent years, allegations of electoral fraud have stirred political violence and civil war, causing death and destruction in Ethiopia (2005), Kenya (2007), Zimbabwe (2008), DR Congo (2011), among others.
The adamant refusal of their respective leaders to relinquish or share power damaged or destroyed these African countries: Liberia (1990), Somalia (1991), Rwanda (1994), Zaire, now Congo DR, (1993), Sierra Leone (1998), Ivory Coast (2000, 2011), Egypt (2011), Libya (2011).
George Ayittey
George Ayittey
This largely motivated Mo Ibrahim, the telecoms billionaire mogul, to offer a $5 million prize to any African leader who shows "excellent leadership" and who steps down peacefully when his term expires or loses an election. This year -- and for the third time since the inception of the prize in 2006 -- he found no eligible recipient.
Though none of its leaders has won the prize, Ghana has successfully held elections and transferred power on five occasions since 1992 without imploding -- unlike its Western neighbor, Ivory Coast.
What are the secrets to Ghana's democratic success or maturity that other African countries can learn from?
Four factors account for this. The first is the existence of a free media; in particular, print and broadcast media.

Ghana in mourning after president dies
In Africa, radio is the life and death of information transmission and the proliferation of FM radio stations in Ghana provided an invaluable tool to expose problems, hold government accountable and ensure transparent elections. In the 2000 elections, for example, FM Radio stations sent their reporters to every polling station. Anything suspicious or unseemly was immediately reported on the air, leading electoral officers and observers to rush to the scene and fix the problem on the spot.
They did not have to wait months for a voluminous report to expose the problem, by which time it would have been too late. Thus, the FM Radio stations ensured a level of transparency seldom seen in African elections. So impressed was New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, that he wrote: "Let's stop sending Africa lectures on democracy. Let's instead make all aid, all IMF-World Bank loans, all debt relief conditional on African governments permitting free FM radio stations. Africans will do the rest," he wrote.
Sadly, Africans have not been able to do the rest because, currently, only 10 of the 54 African countries have a free media. In Ethiopia, for example, there is only one government-controlled television network for 83 million people.
The second factor has been the existence of vibrant and vigilant civil society groups and NGOs -- all made possible by freedom of association, of expression and movement, as well as improvements in communication technology such as cell phones and text messaging. There are hordes of NGOs -- promoting a diverse range of issues such as good governance combating corruption, among others. Some have been formed specifically to oversee the December 7 elections.
Nearly all civil society groups, including religious leaders have been preaching peaceful elections.
George Ayittey
One with impressive credentials is the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), which organized the presidential debates. The IEA also facilitated the crafting of a "Political Parties Code of Conduct" and the setting up of a National Enforcement Body to enforce the code. Eight parties have signed on. The code ensures that the political parties behave responsibly and can be held liable for any unlawful or unethical acts they commit.
Nearly all civil society groups, including religious leaders have been preaching peaceful elections. Even former president Jerry Rawlings, the architect of "macho-men" violence in the past, is now campaigning -- not for any political party candidate -- but for peace.
To this group may be added Ghanaians in the diaspora, who have a passionate interest in the affairs of their home country. Last year, they reportedly sent more than $14.5 billion in remittances. They can shape and influence political opinion, as well as support various political candidates. With access to the foreign media, governments and institutions, they can raise a stink over electoral shenanigans in Ghana.
In most other African countries, the space for civic activism is severely restricted. In Ethiopia, journalists critical of the government have been branded "terrorists" and jailed.
There is no privately-owned news media left in Eritrea, the "North Korea" of Africa, and one can be jailed in Zimbabwe for insulting the president.
By contrast, Ghanaian presidents expect to be insulted.
The third important factor has been the maturing of political leaders, which was stupendously displayed in the 2008 elections, which the ruling NDC party won by a mere 40,000-vote margin. Elsewhere on the continent, an election that close would have spelled trouble -- angry calls for a recount and descent into violence. But Nana Akuffo-Addo, the losing candidate and now a contender, graciously conceded defeat.
Having hosted refugees fleeing political violence and mayhem in neighboring countries, Ghanaian politicians and the people are now well aware of the destructive consequences an irresponsible political decision may cause.
Political maturity was also on full display following the death of former president John Atta-Mills in July. Not only was the transition to a new president extraordinarily smooth but Ghanaians of all shades and stripes, buried their differences and came together to grieve over their departed president. A violent and chaotic election this week would dishonor his memory.
A nod should also be given to regional leaders, in particular those of Ghana's neighbors. Borders are porous in Africa and violence in one country can send refugees streaming across the border.
Ghana has hosted refugees from civil wars in Liberia and Ivory Coast. In the past, regional leaders have also helped ensure free, fair and transparent elections in Ghana. For example, for the 2000 elections, the former and late president of Togo, Gnassingbe Eyadema, closed the Ghana/Togo border to prevent some of his citizens from crossing it to vote illegally in Ghana's elections.
The fourth factor has been sheer luck. Ghana was fortunate to have one of its sons, Kofi Annan, serve as the United Nations Secretary-General (1997-2006) and co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
During his tenure, he hop-scotched around the world, trying to end conflicts, douse political flames. He is the first on call when a country implodes to broker a peace deal -- Kenya (2007), Syria (2011), etc. Imagine Annan telling combatants in Kenya and Syria to bury their differences when his own country is on fire with politicians at each other's throat. Kofi Annan has an NGO in Accra and plays an important role in ensuring peaceful elections in Ghana.
Though other African countries may not have a "Kofi Annan," the other three factors are still potent in ensuring free, fair and peaceful elections.
Alarm bells have been sounded over the possibility of massive fraud in the December 7 elections. But, given the current atmosphere in Ghana, it would be foolhardy for any politician to even dream of committing fraud in Friday's elections -- unless he wants to commit political suicide.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Mahmoud Jibril dominates Libyans legislative Elections-africanelections

Final results from the long awaited Libya’s elections puts Ex –Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril’s National Forces Alliance (NFA) party in the lead giving them a commanding position in the new parliament as they won double the seats of their principle rival, the Muslim Brotherhood's Justice and Construction party.

In declaring the 7th July 2012 elections results, the Libya Elections Commission announced that the National Forces Alliance (NFA) and its allies got 41 seats, followed by the Justice and Construction party who had 17seats. In all 200 seats where contested..

The current interim Prime Minister Abdurrahman al-Keib said the announcement of the results was "a time of celebration"

This election is a major step for a country emerging from 42 years of Muammar Gaddafi‘s one -man rule. It also marks the end for the interim  National Transitional Council, which has been ruling Libya with varying degrees and success since Gaddafi was overthrown and killed last year.

Monday, May 7, 2012

France Election Results 2012: Hollande, Sarkozy Advance To Runoff, Far-Right Gets 20 Percent

Reuters  |  Posted: 04/22/2012 2:18 pm Updated: 04/23/2012 12:04 am

By Catherine Bremer and Emmanuel Jarry

PARIS, April 22 (Reuters) - Far-rightist Marine Le Pen threw France's presidential race wide open on Sunday by scoring nearly 20 percent in the first round - votes that may determine the runoff between Socialist favourite Francois Hollande and conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Hollande led Sarkozy by about 29 to 26 percent in reliable computer projections broadcast after polling stations closed, and the two will meet in a head-to-head decider on May 6.

But Le Pen's record score of 18-20 percent was the sensation of the night, beating her father's 2002 result and outpolling hard leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon, in fourth place on 11 percent. Centrist Francois Bayrou finished fifth on less than 10 percent.

Le Pen, who took over the anti-immigration National Front in early 2011, wants jobs reserved for French nationals at a time when jobless claims are at a 12-year high. She also advocates abandoning the euro currency and restoring monetary policy to Paris.

Her score reflected a surge in anti-establishment populist parties in many euro zone countries from Amsterdam to Athens as austerity and the debt crisis bite.

Voter surveys show about half of her supporters would back Sarkozy in a second round and perhaps one fifth would vote for Hollande, making her a potential kingmaker in the runoff.

Jean-Marie Le Pen's 16.9 percent score in the 2002 first round caused a political earthquake, knocking then Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin out of the runoff and forcing left-wing voters to rally behind conservative Jacques Chirac.

Sarkozy, 57, has painted himself as the safest pair of hands to lead France and the euro zone in turbulent times, but Sunday's vote appeared to be a strong rejection of his flashy style as well as his economic record.

If Hollande wins on May 6, joining a small minority of left-wing governments in Europe, he has promised to lead a push for a bigger focus on growth in the euro zone, mainly by adding pro-growth clauses to a European budget discipline treaty.

The prospect of a renegotiation of the pact is causing some concern in financial markets, as is Hollande's focus on tax rises over austerity at a time when sluggish growth is threatening France's ability to meet deficit-cutting goals.


France's sickly growth, along with its stubbornly high unemployment, are major factors hampering Sarkozy's battle to win a second term, despite an energetic campaign against the blander but more popular Hollande.

Sarkozy would be the 11th euro zone leader to be swept out since the start of the bloc's debt crisis in late 2009 and the first French president to lose a re-election bid in more than 30 years. A deep dislike of a manner many see as arrogant and too informal has also driven many people to vote against him.

"France needs a radical change of direction, mainly on the economy," said Jean-Noel Harvet, a public sector worker voting earlier on Sunday in the northern town of Cambrai.

Hollande, 57, promises less drastic spending cuts than Sarkozy proposed and wants higher taxes on the wealthy to fund state-aided job creation, in particular a 75 percent upper tax rate on income above 1 million euros ($1.32 million).

He would be only France's second left-wing leader since the founding of the Fifth Republic in 1958, and its first since Francois Mitterrand, who beat incumbent Valery Giscard-d'Estaing in 1981 and ruled until 1995.

Hollande had called on his supporters to take nothing for granted, mindful of the fiasco for the left in 2002 when record abstention saw the Socialist Jospin pushed out in the first round by the elder Le Pen.

Turnout ended up at a healthy 70.6 percent three hours before polls closed, just below 73.9 percent recorded in the 2007, which was the highest in two decades.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, April 18, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The Peace and Security...

ADDIS ABABA, EthiopiaApril 18, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU), at its 318th meeting held on 17 April 2012, adopted the following decision on the situation in Guinea‐Bissau:
1. Takes note of the briefing provided by the Commissioner for Peace and Security on the developments in the situation in Guinea‐Bissau. Council also takes note of the statements made by the representatives of Côte d'Ivoire, in its capacity as the Chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and Angola, as the Chair of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP);
2. Reaffirms the provisions of the AU Constitutive Act, the Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council, and Chapter VIII of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance on unconstitutional changes of government;
3. Strongly condemns the coup d'état that took place in Guinea Bissau on 12 April 2012, two weeks before the second round of the presidential election scheduled for 29 April 2012. Council stresses that the recurrence of illegal and unacceptable interference of the leadership of the Bissau‐Guinean army in the political life of the country contributes to the persistence of instability and the culture of impunity, hampers efforts towards the establishment of the rule of law, the promotion of development and the entrenchment of a democratic culture, while, at the same time, making it difficult to fight against the scourge of drug trafficking. Council underscores the need for Africa and the international community as a whole, to show firmness commensurate with the seriousness of the acts committed by the perpetrators of the coup d'état and its consequences for Guinea Bissau, the region and forAfrica as a whole;
4. Demands the immediate restoration of constitutional order and the continuation of the electoral process, with the organization of the second round of the presidential election, as well as the unconditional release of the Acting President of the Republic and the other political personalities sequestrated by the perpetrators of the coup d'état. Council holds the perpetrators of the coup personally responsible for the safety of the sequestrated personalities, whose physical integrity and dignity should be imperatively preserved;
5. Endorses the press statements issued on 13 and 14 April 2012, by the Chairperson of the Commission on the situation in Guinea Bissau, as well as the statements made by ECOWAS and the CPLP;
6. Decides, in conformity with the relevant AU instruments, to suspend, with immediate effect, the participation of Guinea Bissau in all activities of the African Union until the effective restoration of constitutional order. Furthermore, and given the frequency of coups d'état in Guinea Bissau, Council requests the Commission, in consultation with ECOWAS and the AU partners, to submit to it, within two weeks, for decision, proposals for additional sanctions against the perpetrators of the coup d'état and their civilian and military supporters, including travel ban, asset freeze and other measures, as provided for by the Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. In this respect, Council reaffirms the relevant provisions of article 25 of the Charter, which states that authors of unconstitutional changes of government will be liable to prosecution;
7. Calls upon the AU partners, particularly the United Nations, the European Union, the CPLP and bilateral partners, to support the measures taken by the AU, and to work together to force the perpetrators of the coup d'état and their supporters to accept the return to constitutional legality inGuinea Bissau;
8. Expresses its gratitude to Angola for its valuable contribution to the efforts towards the stabilization of Guinea Bissau and the reform of the defense and security sector. Council requests the Chairperson of the Commission to initiate consultations with ECOWAS, CPLP, the United Nations and the other partners, for the establishment of a mission that would continue the work initiated within the framework of the implementation of the ECOWAS‐CPLP Roadmap, in particular the aspects relating to the reform of the defense and security sector in Guinea Bissau, including the possible deployment of a new international stabilization operation;
9. Requests the Chairperson of the Commission, in close cooperation with ECOWAS, the CPLP and the United Nations, to take all necessary steps to contact the actors concerned in Guinea‐Bissau, in order to hasten the attainment of the objective of restoration of constitutional order, in conformity with the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. Council urges the stakeholders inGuinea Bissau to take all necessary measures to ensure the organization of the second round of the presidential election;
10. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.