Africa is the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent. At about 30.3 million km (11.7 million square miles) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth’s total surface area and 20.4% of its total land area. With 1.2 billion people as of 2016, it accounts for about 16% of the world’s human population.
Deadly election related and communal violence in northern Nigeria following the April 2011 presidential voting left more than 800 people dead, Human Rights Watch said. Nigeria’s state and federal authorities should promptly investigate and prosecute those who harmonized and carried out these crimes and address the root causes of recurring inter-communal violence.
This policy offers insights for policymakers regarding strategies to prevent and manage electoral violence. It is based on a study on the experiences of the conflict-ridden province KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.
We perceive of electoral violence as a sub-category of political violence, which deserves special consideration from Indeed, electoral violence has received increasing international attention in recent years due to the devastating effects of outbreaks of violence in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan around elections. Efforts by local and international actors include electoral assistance, peacekeeping and monitoring missions, civic and voter education. Yet, understanding of the consequences of specific strategies and how their returns can be maximised, remains limited. Analysis for policy needs to take into account the social divisions and potential conflict lines in society. If electoral violence is not addressed it can have longstanding consequences for social cohesion and the legitimacy of democracy.
Elections are key elements of democratic processes. They provide for transparent and peaceful change of government and distribution of power. For this reason, a strong emphasis on democratisation as a means to durable peace emerged among international policy circles in the early 1990s.
The notion of supporting peacebuilding in placement with democratisation developed as a consequence of the recognition that political repression and discrimination often is the very reason groups took to arms in the first place. Hence, democratisation does not only open up for manifestations of political rights, but is also seen as a response to addressing the root causes of conflict. Support to strengthen institutional capacity to promote democratic norms and to ensure democratic rule of law is now seen as crucial for peacebuilding. As is it said “he that beats the drum for the mad man to dance is no better than the mad man himself”.
Elections and democracy promotion have thus become central strategies to build peace in countries shattered by violent conflict. Some of this conflicts can be recommended by:
Do not forget the victims of violence:
How violence is perceived – whether it is politically motivated or not varies, depending on where you sit and how you are affected. An argument sometimes invoked in relation to violence around election times, is that it is in fact not at all related to the election but instead due to common criminal activities. However, if people believe that violence is politically motivated, it will have political consequences. When voters are targeted during registration or around elections, the consequences may be that citizens refrain from voting, or vote for a certain political party out of fear, rather than as a free choice. When electoral violence takes place, adequate support is vital for the development of a well functioning democratic society and for durable peace. Strategies to prevent and manage electoral violence mainly focus on the perpetrators of violence, and the perspectives of the victims of such violence are often neglected. A united approach to support the victims of violence is important so that those affected can cope with the consequences of violence. Strategies directed towards the victims of electoral violence can also prevent violence from negatively affecting the attitudes towards democratic politics, a necessary condition for sustainable peace.
Monitoring and education should be continuous activities:
Violence related to electoral processes often begins way ahead of elections. In some places, politicians are always potential targets of political violence. Citizens at large may feel constrained to openly and freely voice political views, engage in public debates, and organize themselves politically. In addition to restrictions of political rights, the consequences of such an insecure environment include difficulties in holding politicians accountable.
Coordinate activities to avoid overlap and identify gaps in peace building:
The multiplicity of actors involved in prevention and management of electoral violence requires great coordination and role division among local and international actors and among international actors. The prevalence of involving different actors in electoral security and conflict management means that there is a risk of overlap. It is unfortunately no guarantee against some areas being neglected. Such gaps are often due to a lack of coordination in the planning and division of tasks and areas of importance for violence management. There are several positive examples where electoral monitoring has been coordinated among international, domestic agencies and hundreds of civil society organizations to successfully monitor an election. If an independent electoral commission has capacity and legitimacy, such an agency is particularly suited for such coordinating activities. However, the lack of sufficient coordination remains a challenge in many situations of electoral violence.
For instance, the deployment of security forces may be necessary in an election, resulting in reinforcements arriving in areas in which they have no prior knowledge about the local context. For this reason, it is important that initiatives to promote security take into account existing networks of knowledge and capacities, and are carried out in collaboration with other actors working in the same or related area.
In conclusion to a re-evaluation of conflict management and preventive strategies and highlights some recommendations:
Victims need to be better taken into account and cared for.
Monitoring and education are activities that need to be carried out on a long-term basis;
Conflict-mitigation measures should be included in the electoral process design;
To ensure security, a balance between deterrence and confidence building has to be found; and
To improve peacebuilding around election times, the multiple actors involved need to coordinate activities to avoid overlap and to identify policy gaps