The Chronicle Gambia

Memo To African Opposition Parties On The Freeness And Fairness Of Elections

President Buhari and Condeh in Banjul 2017 in efforts to break Yahya Jammeh's resistance to quitting power

So Trump declared victory twice and demanded that counting be stopped, but the counting is ongoing and no one paid much heed to poor Trump’s declaration of victory. Later, Trump’s Justice Department said it’s ok to send armed US Federal security forces to ballot-counting locations so they can “investigate” voter fraud. A nice and perhaps legal way of doing Trump’s bidding by trying to intimidate ballot counters. Like any autocrat, Trump will do anything to stay in power because his freedom and the freedom of so many around him, hinges on Trump remaining president. But enough of this US election already! Ok, not totally enough because I want you to imagine if Trump was an African incumbent!

In Africa, as in many other places, the acceptance, or lack thereof, of any election results depends on the degree of the unfairness of the elections and the degree of acceptable human rights abuses. The threshold of cheating and abuse is very high for African incumbents. Hundreds or thousands will have to die before fellow Africans care enough. The more tolerable the unfairness and abuse, the more the world will “diplomatically” ignore any post-election complaints and subsequent clampdowns. So, if the incumbent kills less than a hundred people, chances of anyone coming to the aid of the opposition is very unlikely. And that’s because killing a few people during elections is just not enough to shock the conscience of the AU. Until many more people are killed, no one cares enough to do much of anything. They may “urge restraint” but that’s as far as it goes. Ask the opposition of Guinea Conakry or Ivory Coast.

If the opposition leaders are harassed, as is obtaining in Uganda, that’s also acceptable because the harassment is somehow meant to “maintain law and order”. Or, as dictator enablers call it, to maintain the “peace and security” of the nation. That harassment of opposition party leaders itself is not a means to peace, and violating human rights

Adama Barrow unexpectedly flew to Bamako in 2017 after holding crisis talks in Banjul with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, Liberian leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Ghana’s John Mahama

compromises the security of any nation, is astonishingly lost on the enablers! Therefore, any post-election complaints are likely to remain just that: complaints!  Some spineless legal luminary will ensure the complaint is aborted in court or incubated in some courtroom with a highfalutin, robed and colonially-wigged judge till eternity. What Africa lacks in inventors, it makes up for in spineless lawyers who will do anything to ensure the legal abuse of their own people. Yahya Jammeh did not write the decree that allowed him to arrest anyone at any time and keep you in prison indefinitely without having to charge you with any crime! Kwame Nkrumah called his abuse mechanism the Preventive Detention Act and he could lock up people for up to five years without any trial! It was African lawyers that legalized these abuses!

The theft of elections hardly ever takes place on the day of voting itself. The theft of elections is a process that often starts in the months and years before any actual voting takes place. That’s why Africans in opposition must remain vigilant and be on the front foot at all times. Opposition parties must anticipate the incumbent’s avenues of approach and ensure they are in a position to waylay any proscribed machinations. Almost all African intelligence services I am aware of, have units or departments dedicated to political activities. A lot of the intelligence they gather is based on the activities of the opposition parties and given to the incumbent president. There are very few things, if any, that African opposition members do, that the incumbent is not aware of. Any opposition party that is reactive on matters of electioneering is already doomed to be outwitted by the incumbent.

Dictators and aspiring dictators are mastering the dance around the border of cheating, and how to abuse the opposition just enough to claim “legitimacy”, without provoking the ire of potential interveners.  We’ve seen the farce of an election in Guinea Conakry, Ivory Coast, and Tanzania. People have died and others imprisoned in all these countries due to the recently held farcical elections. We see what’s happening in Uganda and we see what’s going on in Zimbabwe.  Unlike the USA, in Africa, once the incumbent declares victory, it’s often game over for the opposition. Refusing to accept the results or even speaking out against the process will see the incumbent send security forces after you for some crime some spineless prosecutor will dig out somewhere.

The opposition will be seen as the ones disturbing the peace and the incumbent will claim that they will not “compromise on the peace and security of the nation.” And the gullible will be quick to declare the incumbent “democratically elected” or a government based on “constitutional order”, whatever that means! The opposition will be left reeling and wondering what could have been. Well, at least they cannot say “Alagie didn’t warn us.”

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