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Africa: A democracy in the process of failing…

Jammeh leaving for exile to end political impasse in Gambia

Democracy is not a perfect system of government. As a result, all democracies in the world, including the USA and India, are democracies in the process of making and they are thriving towards a better system. But African democracy seems to be taking a different path altogether from the rest of the world which does not lead towards the making of a better political system, rather towards system failure.

Yesterday, the world experienced an unprecedented practical contrast between African and American democracy. Coincidentally, we had an African President, Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia, refusing to step down to allow President, Adama Barrow to replace him after losing elections in December 2016, while in the USA, they had a peaceful transition of presidential powers between Presidents Barak Obama and Donald Trump. And in attendance was Hilary Clinton who had lost the November Elections and conceded defeat right away.

But was there really anything unorthodox about African democracy that Yahya Jammeh did as he disputed the ballot until the barrel of the gun was pointed at him? Absolutely no!

Election results in Africa are usually disputed. Losers always reject results, accusing winners of rigging, and incumbents attempt to cling to power. Let me give just a few examples: In Kenya at least 1300 citizens died in post-election violence in 2007 after Raila Odinga and his supporters refused to have lost to incumbent President Mwai Kibaki. In 2008, bloody post election violence followed disputed elections results between President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai in Zimbabwe. In 2010, serious post-election violence consumed hundreds of lives of citizens after Alassane Quattara disputed election results having lost to incumbent Laurent Gbagbo. Just last year, post-election violence erupted and some people were killed in Gabon following disputed election results after incumbent, President Ali Bongo won against Jean Ping. Ping claimed Bongo had rigged.

Examples are countless, but let me bring you to my beloved Malawi, where despite the absence of bloody post-election violence, Politicians always dispute Election results just like Jammeh and other African political leaders.

Votes of the recent past tripartite Elections of 2014 were nearly recounted and another voting exercise unconstitutionally called upon by the out-going President Joyce Banda after MCP and PP disputed the results. It even took longer to announce President Mutharika as the winner because the Opposing Lazarus Chakwera and the incumbent Banda were refusing to have lost.

The MCP which has never won elections since the dawn of Democracy in 1994 is well known for disputing Election results and always accuses winners of rigging against them. This has been so common of MCP that any Malawian can confidently predict that should MCP lose in 2019, they will reject the results and accuse which ever party shall win of rigging against them. In other words, MCP believes that they have always won every elections against the clear fact that they always lose.

But it is not only MCP that suffers from the undemocratic tendency of refusing to concede defeat after losing elections in Malawi. I have personally had face to face talks with about 10 Members of Parliament from different parties that lost elections in 2014, some of them lost during primary elections. All of them say that they won and claim that their opponents rigged and stole votes from them. Its like, no body loses elections in Malawi, votes only get rigged against them.

Unfortunately, this problem is not only a challenge of African Politicians. Party supporters too and mostly youths, also always fail to accept that their candidate has lost fair and square. In fact, it is party supporters that take to the streets and ignite violence when their candidates have lost. For instance, until today 3 years after the 2014 Elections, MCP supporters still fail to accept that they lost. They still always accuse DPP of rigging Elections especially on social media each time they are confronted with political debate or when they have simply nothing to say but still want to start a conversation.

But whose fault is it that democracy is failing to take root among Africans? Why do African politicians keep disputing election results and plunge their nations into violence, chaos and fear? And why are Malawians while obsessed with democracy, still fail to rise up to the challenge and take some responsibility?

Is it because African democracy is still tender or, Africans just don’t have the DNA of democracy in them?

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