Pan African Parliament (PAP) has embarked on building a vibrant and inclusive democracies in Africa without trepidation.
This was evident during a workshop chaired by Rule’s Committee Chairperson Hon Vinitu Kalyan Santosh in the Chamber at Midrand Gallagher Estate on Thursday geared to sensitize PAP members about the danger of undemocratic revolutions that are counter revolutionary to democracy and peace in the continent.
It was however also agreed that principles and laws on democracy must be adhered to by leaders, the African Union (AU) must demand adherence by member states, and this should become the protocol of the AU. And that the electoral reform and democracy in Africa are important and should be reviewed carefully going forward.
Job Ogonda of Open Society Foundation (OSF)added that the AU should observe elections and take note of what is missing in order to infer honest recommendations and feedback to member states and Political parties should participate fully in the political system and ensure that they themselves have regular elections.
PAP also called for the freedom of acceptance for political parties and finally encourages political parties to safeguard political systems that give power to electoral systems because in Africa it is better to see political parties as democratic internally before adhering to democracy and democratic processes in electing its leadership.
Despite that the above mentioned matter will still be digested further during the PAP plenary sessions in May, Honourable Martin Niteretse from the Rule’s Committee acknowledged that indeed that there are so many countries in Africa that change their constitutions to stay in power. Parliament should be strong enough to reject processes of term elongation.
It was also proposed that the AU observer mission should come up with a new strategy for elections observation. What is missing from the discussion is the role of the judiciary as an electorate body given the roles of supreme court in determining results after contestation.
Ogonda said: “PAP notes that there has been an evolution in elections in Africa. Seen through the measures adopted by AU to put an end to Coup d’état’s and violent actions to gain power. The same measures need to apply to ensure that leaders don’t stay in power for more than two terms. The same laws must be applied to everyone at member state level- this is the only way to promote democracy.”
“Against the backdrop of the limitation and criticisms of AU elections observer missions, the Pan-African Parliament should rise to the challenge and an elections observer in African elections. AU needs to adopt a strategy that will promote member states to use its effectively and should have the authority to impose its will on member states. Further urges Africans to view democracy as a way of life rather than an ideal.”
Earlier, Patricia Nyaaundi, a researcher from Kenya during her presentation which was also well received said: “The politics of non-inclusion is not entirely a new concept in the continent, it was first introduced and popularized by the colonialists. In their scramble and partition of Africa resource allocation became a prominent tool of governance. Communities that embraced colonialism and were rewarded. They had Schools and roads built for them, their children given scholarships, and some were rewarded with government jobs and other goodies. Resisters on the other hand were met with brutal force, majority killed, some imprisoned on flimsiest ground and did not benefit in any way from government programs.”
She said however that electoral conflicts in Africa have often been characterized by physical assaults of civilians leading to loss of life or serious damages and body harm. “Many people have reported body harms inflicted by members of security agencies, armed militia groups and fellow citizens. This has often happened during security operations, demonstrations and or in political rallies. Politicians too have been accused of inciting their supporters against those of his rivals,” Nyaundi said.
“Arson attacks to key public infrastructure and private installations. Its during electoral period that many government properties, roads, rail, bridges and even schools have been destroyed by angry mobs. This is often in an expression of dissatisfaction with results or decisions they do not agree with.”
In conclusion; she recommended that political parties should be the champions of the rule of law and strong advocates of the existing electoral conflicts resolution mechanism. Judiciaries can only be bolder and independent if they have the confidence of all political players.
“Political parties should develop and enforce their own internal code of conduct so as to regulate their members and ensure that they are not instigators of violence. Political parties should develop internal affirmative action policies that will ensure women and other marginalized groups are adequately included in the political processes,” Nyaundi remarked.
“Political parties should develop policies aimed at fostering inclusivity especially in resource distribution when they form governments. The AU Commission and RECS should urge member states to strongly adhere to the principles of the African Union charter on democracy, elections and governance as a way of eliminating non-inclusivity and conflict in electoral processes
By MPHO DUBE