Polls source of conflicts in Africa

ELECTIONS in most African countries have largely been the source of conflicts, divisions and antagonism apart from polarizing societies because of the failure to manage diversity, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has observed.

And the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has warned that lack of credibility in an electoral process could easily cause violence and lead to the destruction of property and human lives.

Economic Commission for Africa Southern Africa director Said Adejumobi said rather than bring people together and be an exercise of fanfare as well as create social harmony, elections in Africa were exacerbating the challenges of diversity.

Speaking at the launch of the third Africa Governance Report at Pamodzi Hotel yesterday, Mr Adejumobi said elections in most African countries were being used to promote sectarian identities of ethnic, regional, gender and religious forces.

Mr Adejumobi said elections had become combustive tools in the electoral process in some African countries with debilitating consequences for the management of diversity in Africa.

He said there was need to reform the electoral system in many African countries, advising that the preference of many people was a shift from the” first past the post” system to mixed form of proportional representation.

“Elections have become more regular in Africa, but no less problematic. Elections by and large exacerbate the challenge of diversity as mobilization of sectarian identities of ethnic, regional, gender, and religious forces are undertaken especially at the election period to win votes. Elections have become combustive,” Mr Adejumobi said.

He said African countries should put in place affirmative action so as to promote the inclusion of minorities and vulnerable groups in the electoral process.

Mr Adejumobi said African countries must ensure that the integrity and credibility of the electoral system must never be compromised, adding all political players must repose confidence in the electoral system and the electoral authority.

And ECZ chairperson Justice Irene Mambilima said elections in most African countries had been controversial.

Justice Mambilima said elections could either build or destroy countries depending on how they were managed and cautioned that less than credible elections had the potential to cause violence and destroy property as well as human life.

She said levels of intolerance among political players in the electoral process were worrying adding that divergent opinions were largely not being accommodated.

United Nations resident coordinator Janet Rogan said democracy in Africa had remained fragile because of the weaknesses and challenges in the electoral systems.

Meanwhile, Home Affairs Minister Ngosa Simbyakula said elections were vital to the democratic governance and effective management of diversity in pluralistic societies.

“However, if not properly managed, they can turn out to be costly liabilities rather than opportunities. It is for this reason that Zambia has since 1991 been committed to holding regular, free and fair elections based on secret balloting, respecting fundamental freedoms and human rights and exercising power in accordance with the rule of law,” Dr Simbyakula said.