By Lulu White-Raheem,
“This Africa month, one must consider the possibility of democracy and governance for Africa, determined by Africans”
Only Africans can understand the complexities characterised by changing dynamics.
Democracy is good for the continent. In addition, elections offer a better and peaceful method in which leadership can change, bringing about stability, democracy and economic development.
However, this does not mean that democracy, in its current form, is the best alternative for Africa. The current brand of democracy, is one which has been parachuted into Africa. It is democracy that is measured by foreign standards. This is as a result of the fact that Africa does not have a barometer which it can use to determine the checks and balances that may be applicable to the African story.
Therefore, barometers used, such as the Democracy Barometer; funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation in collaboration with the University of Zurich and the Social Science Research Centre of Berlin, skews the West’s view of democracy as expressed on the African content.
Unabated interference of the West in Africa
During the 2007 and 2013 Kenyan elections, Western interference was evident in terms of financial investment and support. However, failure to garner intended outcomes, left the West disappointed. This dynamic was also evident during the 2013 Zimbabwean presidential elections.
Despite the elections being hailed as free and fair, by the African Union Observers, the West remained adamant that the elections were rigged and not reflective of the electorate’s choices. It seems that the global north, cannot resist the urge to determine what is good for Africans.
Unification of the Electoral System for Africa
Reports, such as the Electoral Integrity Report of Harvard and Sydney universities entitled (The Year in Elections 2014) hails South Africa, Tunisia and Botswana as glowing examples of successful democratic processes that resulted in free, fair and credible elections.
However, one is inclined to argue that the absence of violence in countries does not make an election free and fair, or credible. There are other factors that should be taken into account.
In other words, the barometer by which African elections are measured should not depend on whether the particular country is deemed to be a ‘darling of the west’ or not. If the country dances to the expectations of the West, then no matter how flawed the democracy and elections, they would be regarded as; free and fair.
The Continents own Electoral System
This requires the continent to set up its own electoral system that is reflective of the conditions and environment in which elections take place.
An African Elections Barometer will be appropriate for the countries within the continent to be measured instead of one adapted from European and American peers.
Such a barometer needs to balance the weighbridge and set the tone for the effective and unbiased measurement of free, fair and credible elections. Most importantly, this will limit interference and meddling in African affairs.
Africa must find alternative solutions for the challenges it faces. As a continent, Africa must find its own voice, dance to its own tune and not be burdened by requirements and measurements of what the global north deems to be; ‘free, fair and credible’.
Lulu White-Raheem: Is the CEO of the Elections Consulting Agency of Africa (EMCA). She is an African Elections Expert with over 15 years experience in election management. She has worked in various high-profile African organisations. Through her organisation, she aims to unify election processes on the continent, advising on legislative requirements that allow for free, honest and credible elections.
July 21, 2015; Zimbabwe – Presidential election. AP Archive:
December 19, 2014; How Africa views democracy and good governance for development, Devex:
October 21, 2011; Switzerland’s direct democracy. SWI swissinfo.ch – English: