Election related violence according to Ladan (2006) could be categorised into physical and psychological. Physical election violence including physical attack, resulting into assault, battery, grievous bodily harm or death, disruption and other campaign, use of abusive language and other forms of violence inflicted on individuals and groups. Psychological election violence include indiscriminate pasting of campaign posters, chanting slogans (particularly the use of local poets and singers to attack and abuse opponents), intimidation of public servants and businessmen for opposing the status quo or the incumbent administration, use of the media (especially state owned) to inflict psychological violence on the opposition and the denial of access to such media by the opposition parties, reckless driving by those in a procession to campaign rallies, which intimidate other road users and the use of traditional ruler to intimidate the masses into electing particular preferred candidates.
Democratization has soared on the continent of Africa. Democracy has been embraced by all and sundry. Democracy has given the power to rule to the people. A fundamental bed rock of democracy is the election of political leaders through the electoral box. (Henry Quaii,2015)
Electoral process gives the citizenry the sole right to elect their preferred political leaders. As if this is not enough, electoral process in Africa have most often been characterized by violence at various stages, from pre-election, during elections and post elections. This electoral process which give rights to the people to govern themselves is been challenged by the threats to security, peace and development.
Electoral violence in an African election can be seen manifested in various forms as physical assaults, arson (the illegal use of fire to destroy a house, building or property), snatching of ballot boxes and murder.
Can Africa boast of a stable democracy for ones? One might be quick to ask; what are the factors that might instigate all these electoral violence?
Again, it could be captured across the streets of Africa that electoral violence is been instigated as a result of the culture of impunity. The ineffectiveness and malfunctioning of the security forces also give people the impetus to stage electoral violence. The ineffectiveness especially on the part of the police service is a major factor which encourages electoral violence. Pre-electoral violence is often associated with killings but the police service always fails to get to the root of those killings. This failure seems to be creating a culture of impunity and motivation for recurrence of crimes and violence in our society.
Electoral violence is not been met with strong criminal codes in Africa. Weak penalties or punishment for violators of electoral process also give room for more crimes to be committed. Penalties or punishment are intended to achieve correction, retribution and deterrence. Most countries in Africa lack legislation against perpetrators of certain electoral offences. This poses African election to all forms of crimes and violence.
Weak governance and corruption can also instigate electoral violence. Corruption can set the stage for structural violence. Weak governance and corruption make people feel desperate enough to seek any means of revenge against political authority including violence. Small arms proliferation in African countries is on the increase. Possession of arms leads to the perpetuation of violent conflict and the creation of new cycles of violence and crime.
Leadership must come and go the Africa is a continent that should prepares succession through the preparation of second and third layer leadership. I agreed with the position of mystic philosopher of the Zhou dynasty, Lao Tzu, when he said, “To lead the people, you have to walk behind them”.
The real trick to good governance is to place the needs of the masses above everything else; to lead not just with words but with action. Actions define priorities. It’s the only way politicians can successfully bring us the long sought dividend of democracy.
Hence to resolve political violence, accountability, social justice, transparency, rule of law, gender equality and due process must guide governance and leadership in Africa. Electoral reforms must include other things as mass education. There must be some level of education for the citizenry to know who is a registered and considered as an eligible voter under the laws of the land.
I dreamt of Africa that would one day have one currency one President and one government which will preside over this continent. Because in any way we are one, this borders of Africa were imposed on us by the colonizers, we need leaders who are going to lead us to that drain where there would be one Africa.
BY: SAIDINA ALIEU JARJOU
The Ghetto Spokesperson