In most African countries, violence during elections is a common phenomenon. It is like an option on the popular TV show; "One Thousand Ways To Die". From politically motivated assassinations to snatching of ballot boxes, thuggery, and other deviant acts, hardly would an election be complete without bloodshed. If this ugly trend must be reversed, we have to understand why elections are violent in Africa.
Since 2000s, an estimated number of 80,000 lives has been lost in election related violence across the continent. Kenya is a significant slaughter house during election period. It accounts for 12,000 in two major elections while several thousands are displaced.
Sociologically speaking, crime will continue to persist when the elements of social control are weak. In other words, when political preconditions do not fail to bring to book perpetrators of criminal acts aren't prosecuted. If the political will to fight election violence is not present, the broken windows theory thrives - a situation where there's a gradual deterioration of order because we fail to deal with it at the onset.. like a garbage piling up in the street.
Prior to the 2019 elections, in Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered security agencies to deal ruthlessly with thugs at the polling booths and ballot box snatchers, saying that such individuals would pay the ultimate price of death if they don't stay away. Immediately, public condemnation trailed the President's directive, saying it was in fact, another illegal way to fight illegality. By implication, more bloodshed is most likely to follow if governments toll that line.
The political class in Africa are indeed the culprits. They purposefully ignite their supporters by whipping up ethnic and religious sentiments, making use of violent diatribes to cause divisions. The greed for power in Africa is demonic by every standard, a devisive plot to murder peace.
A free, fair and credible election is not only desirable, but inflammatory remarks must be dealt with. It will suffice to say that the era of social media makes censorship herculean to avoid the suspicion of cracking down on free speech. The social media is today a potent weapon to set a country on fire literarily. It only takes a viral fake news to incite another violence yet again. Hopefully, it won't happen.
Apparently, an uneducated electorate is toxic to any democratic process. According to the late Stephen Biko, "the greatest weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." When the electorates understand not to be used, when they are aware that the children of the politicians giving them peanuts are living large in other countries, with the best education, then we will be sure that African future can be salvaged by the distractors of its own species.
Header Image Credit: DEMOSH via Flickr Creative Commons