Africa’s smallest nations are proving that the continent can achieve democracy if leaders, opposition parties, civil groups, and unions played their roles without prejudice or malice.
With most nations in Africa caught up in election disputes that have led to wars, discontentment and a range of other ills, Africa might be viewed as a cursed continent. But not so fast. The region has not lost it all when it comes to democracy, at least not with the smaller nations like Comoros, Benin, and Cape Verde.
The three states continue to show that there is hope for Africa’s democracy.
On Wednesday, Comoros is set to hold a partial re-run in 13 constituencies, of the disputed second round of the presidential poll held on April 10.
The re-run which was ordered by the country’s constitutional court following irregularities in the second round vote will give the country a president without so much of the hullaballoo witnessed in other African countries like Uganda.
Uganda’s disputed February elections which gave President Yoweri Museveni another term to add to his 30 years of rule in the east African country has been opposed by the opposition. It is almost two months down the line, and there are no signs of a re-run to settle the doubts.
Comoros has just under 800,000 people and has in the past experienced instability and guerrilla wars. Since attaining its independence from France in 1975, the country has experienced more than 20 coups or attempted coups. While the nation is still grappling with poverty, it still should be emulated by the rest of Africa as pertaining elections and dealing with political disputes.
Following the April elections, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended the Comorian people for maintaining peace while fulfilling their civic duty by taking part in the second round of the elections for President of the Union of Comoros and for Governors of Grande Comore, Anjouan, and Mohéli.
A month before Comoros’ presidential polls, Benin held its elections. The latter was lauded for conducting orderly polls in March.
Benin’s businessman Patrice Talon won the presidential seat with just over 65 percent of the vote, and without so much ado, his rival, Lionel Zinsou conceded defeat a day earlier when provisional results were released. The election was praised both by winners and losers who termed the process as smooth.
Princeton professor, Leonard Wantchekon told RFI he was thrilled to see democracy play out in his country.
Although Prof Wantchekon, a pro-democracy student activist in the 1970s and 1980s, fled Benin after 18 months in prison, he expressed optimism that Benin was headed in the right direction.
“For me, is really personal,” he said. “I think this process should be praised. It proves that things can be done well, in an extremely orderly and peaceful way, in Africa.”
Benin’s democracy was not handed to them on a silver platter. No. The strong opposition and civil society groups have had to play their role to ensure that the leaders are accountable to the citizens. The incumbent president tried to change the constitution, but the plan did not see the light of day, as the opposition, unions, and other groups fought against it, Wantchekon said.
“There were also rumors that his predecessor wanted to do the same thing, but his ministers opposed it. This shows how deeply-rooted democracy and democratic principles are in Benin. I think the credit for this success has to go to the people of Benin”.
It went down in history that Cape Verde’s opposition party, the Movement for Democracy, won a majority of the votes, overthrowing the African Party for Independence of Cape Verde, in the parliamentary polls in March.
After the elections, the chairman of the ruling party, Janira Hopffer Almada, gracefully conceded defeat, once again portraying a good image that should be matched by other nations.
Cape Verde is expected to hold its presidential election later in August. The country is hailed for its stability and has lived up to that reputation in the past polls, and is hoped to maintain the same come the presidential polls later in the year.
The tightly contested election in Comoros saw a former coup leader Azali Assoumani win with 40.98 percent of the vote while his close rival Vice-President Mohamed Ali Soilihi garnered 39.87 percent.
The re-run which will be held on the island of Anjouan might reverse last month’s results.
The court has said that the new president would be sworn into office by March 26.
Image credit: AFP
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