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Increasing Influence: China in West Africa

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This edition of West Africa Insight reflects on the ways China is extending its influence across West Africa. Tobi Oshodi and James Barnett start by providing an overview and analysis of the role Confucius Institutes, of which there are now 15 in West Africa, are playing in support of China’s soft power agenda in the region.

The focus on China’s efforts to extend its influence in more indirect ways is also discussed in pieces by Emeka Umejei and Solomon Elusoji. Both look at the ways in which China has sought to gain a foothold in the media space in West Africa through providing content and supporting media houses and journalists, and to what extent these efforts are impacting reporting with a specific focus on Ghana and Nigeria.

Folashadé Soulé switches the focus of attention to China-Benin military relations in a piece that seeks to better understand how and why such cooperation is being forged and with what impact. Finally, Adedayo Bakare offers an analysis of how Sino-West African trade relations might adapt to, and benefit from, the African Continental Free Trade Area as it becomes operational.

How Youth Can Reshape Political Participation in Nigeria

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By Chris Olaoluwa Ògúnmọ́dẹdé

Can Nigeria’s #EndSARS protests evolve into a force that can restructure electoral politics? Or will the protests, which culminated with the state opening fire on its own citizens in Lagos, simply become a dramatic, but ineffective interlude, to the status quo?

If recent electoral contests held in Lagos, Imo, Bayelsa, Plateau and Abia are an indicator, the civic awakening that seemed apparent at the height of the demonstrations in October 2020, has thus far failed to spill over into the electoral realm. Voter apathy, which typifies Nigerian elections, has been a notable feature of these polls. But as the 2023 elections draw closer amid a gloomy political and economic outlook, Nigeria’s young voters and activists are yet again being pushed to consider their role in politics while trying to navigate the relative power of protest and electoral politics as modes of civic participation.

Activists and organisers who participated in the #EndSARS protests must decide between redoubling their efforts or stepping back from all contentious political activity; whether, and how, to change tactics; what issues they should focus on; or if abstaining completely from electoral politics would be the most powerful statement. These questions are particularly pressing for Nigeria’s so-called “s’oro s’oke generation” or what I like to call the “70 Percent Club” – the cohort of Nigerians believed to be 30 years old or younger.

In a country as large and heterogeneous as Nigeria, these young people come from all walks of life and have different experiences, but they also share some important commonalities. They have no little to no memory of Nigeria under military rule, they increasingly reject the respectability politics that govern intergenerational social interactions, and they are very online. #EndSARS was undeniably their moment; their introduction to the world as a social force to be reckoned with.

Fresh voices

#EndSARS as a struggle in the public square coincided with the takeover of the virtual one, much of it driven by this “70 Percent Club”. Even as the protests gathered steam in early October 2020, the overwhelming majority of Nigeria’s print and broadcast media – whose ownership structure is largely concentrated in the hands of political entrepreneurs with close links to government officials and the Nigerian state – gave little to no coverage to the protests. But in a country where 61% of the population has access to the internet, these attempts to stymie the protests proved to be a miscalculation. Young Nigerians do not rely on newspapers, television and the radio for news and information to the same degree their parents and grandparents do.

According to 2019 findings by NOI Polls, 70% of Nigerians aged 18-35 have access to the internet compared with 56% of those aged 36-60. Roughly 20% of the Nigerian population has a Twitter account, with young people again the more likely users. WhatsApp and Facebook have even more significant numbers of users. During the protests, social media users got the #EndSARS hashtag trending globally. The millions of unique impressions on Twitter and other platforms, gained the attention of international celebrities and the Nigerian diaspora. Online spaces and new media platforms like Pulse Nigeria, Zikoko and The Native quickly worked to fill the gaps left open by legacy media.

The digital prowess young Nigerians displayed during the #EndSARS protests played a huge role in its reach, fundraising, coordination and message discipline. They used online platforms to share information in real-time, coordinate activities with protesters across the country, fight misinformation and document important events such as attempts by hired thugs and pro-government forces to subvert the protests and the fatal shootings in Lekki on 20 October. Women were at the heart of this movement, with The Feminist Coalition playing a critical coordinating role, alongside SARS victims’ mothers’ groups, in demanding transparency and accountability for victims of police brutality. 

The challenge now is how to institutionalise the vibrant online activism demonstrated during the #EndSARS protests into electoral politics and broader civic participation. The protests did a lot to dispel the myth of apathy among so-called “lazy Nigerian youths”, who have been forced to provide social goods and services for themselves amid a weak state incapable of meeting their basic needs. The immense strides the ICT and creative sectors have made in the last decade largely reflects the ingenuity and entrepreneurialism of the “70 Percent Club”. Far from being frivolous and lazy, young Nigerians have simply lost hope in institutions that do not serve their interests or reflect their preferences. Their low participation rates in electoral contests reflecting disenchantment with the ruling elites and the systems of governance they oversee.

But this disillusionment with the political system and the lack of trust in civic norms and institutions represents the best opportunity to reshape political participation in Nigeria. There is a need to shift Nigeria’s civic culture from one skewed overwhelmingly towards elections as the primary means of participation, and towards a system inclusive of mass civic activism designed to trigger long-term political development and social change. This effort must start with building the kinds of “mediating structures” Alexis de Tocqueville argued strengthened democracies by providing alternative loyalty bases and sources of information for citizens. These mutually reinforcing online and offline entities would serve as a bulwark against dominant political forces, and as intermediaries between citizens and the Nigerian state, who are socially distant from each other.

Learning from the past

A crucial mistake made after the collapse of military rule and return to civilian democracy in 1999 was the failure to connect institutional politics – understood narrowly as represented by political parties and elections – to the participatory ethos that energised the pro-democracy movement of the 1990s. Electoral politics returned to being the crown jewel of civic participation in Nigeria’s civilian democracy, with many democracy activists – some of them erstwhile politicians – running for and winning elected office, or getting appointed to government and party positions.

At the same time, civil society organisations (CSOs) arguably did not, and still do not, serve as intermediaries between citizens and state, acting more as entrenched, professional middle-class interests or even as an extension of the political class. Many CSOs rely on international donors for funding – when they are not covertly funded by political figures – and have come to prioritise access and closeness to government and foreign donors, raising questions among their critics about their ability to be effective intermediary institutions. The weakness of the rule of law and a culture of opacity in government, combined with the aforementioned tendencies, makes contemporary organised CSOs incapable of, and unsuited to, being a credible mouthpiece for young, socially-networked Nigerians.

Leaderless and decentralised

Historically, organised activism in Nigeria leaned towards centralised representation, usually in the form of professional organisations, trade associations and farmer, labour and student unions. The #EndSARS protests were structured differently, resembling the many “leaderless” movements that have emerged across the world in recent years. Although Lagos served as a sort of symbolic capital of the movement, the protests were decentralised away from any one geographic location or group and were truly national in scope. Nigerians in 21 of the 36 states participated in demonstrations, along with diaspora supporters in London, Johannesburg, Washington DC and elsewhere.

Time will tell whether this format of mass activism will become the norm in Nigeria, but its spontaneity, message discipline and organisational prowess caught the Nigerian establishment by surprise. This in part explains the violent crackdown that brought the protests to a halt, as well as the continued repression by state authorities against key organisers and ordinary protesters. Many demonstrators remain detained, with the whereabouts of more than a handful an open question. Others saw bank accounts frozen or had their passports seized.

Making engagement meaningful

Given the varied manifestations of poor governance across the country which the #EndSARS protests sought to challenge, it stands to reason that localised organising which reflects the reality of Nigerians in their immediate communities should drive the establishment of mediating structures. But if the broader trends which emerged during the protests are to have any significance during the 2023 elections, the demands of Nigerian political organising should not be directed solely at centres of power like the major cities and state capitals.

Although the #EndSARS movement drew on a cross-representation of Nigerians, the most dominant narratives and visible organisers emerged from Lagos, which served as the protests’ centre of gravity to a large extent. The emergent forums and collective platforms which formed during the protests demonstrate the necessity of broader inclusivity of Nigerians across different income groups, regions and communities. Mediating structures must be designed to broaden constituencies and bring in voices who may not be well-represented among Nigeria’s online population. The problems of governance in Nigeria might have similar dimensions across the board, but they manifest themselves differently everywhere and these mediating institutions ought to reflect these nuances. Solutions that might work in Abia might not be replicable in Zamfara, and vice versa.

With the myriad of challenges bedevilling Nigeria, efforts to resolve them cannot wait until 2023, and neither should Nigerians. While young people should be encouraged to register to vote and join political parties and other organs of institutional politics, these efforts should be coupled with a commitment to building long-term civic institutions that give youths a means of engaging political systems and actors beyond election day. More civic participation by youths will not guarantee better governance outcomes, but it does raise the odds of bridging the significant gap between those deciding policy and those who have to weather its effects. And that is a useful point of departure. 

Chris Olaoluwa Ògúnmọ́dẹdé is a foreign policy analyst, writer, editor and political risk consultant specialising in comparative authoritarianism, regional integration in the West Africa region and transnationalism in African diasporic communities. He is also an editor at The Republic, a pan-African global affairs publication. Follow him on Twitter at @Illustrious_Cee.

Editor’s note: This is the seventh article in a nine-part series in which leading thinkers and practitioners explore key questions and themes about the current state of electoral democracy in Africa. You can click to read the sixth, fifthfourththirdsecond and first.

Deradicalizing Rehabilitating and Reintegrating: Building Peace in Nigeria's North East

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Since 2009, Boko-Haram’s violent activities have ravaged Nigeria’s north-east – primarily Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states – leading to the death of over 30,000 civilians and the forceful recruitment of youths, women, young girls, and school children among other human rights violations.

These events have destroyed affected communities’ social fabrics, traditional institutions and impacted on the regions socio-economic reality. In response in 2016, the Nigerian government launched two initiatives to address the challenges of the victims and perpetrators. The North East Regional Initiatives (PCNI), which became the North East Development Commission (NEDC) in 2019 and the Operation Safe Corridor Programme (OPSC), a key part of its counter-terrorism and peacebuilding strategy.

It was designed to “encourage defection within the ranks of Boko Haram Islamic State of West Africa Province through the corridor of the opportunity offered by the DRR Program as part of the Federal Government of Nigeria’s overall efforts to end the insurgency in the North East’”. OPSC is a joint multi-stakeholder/multi-agency operation that includes Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the state, the Armed Forces of Nigeria and security agencies. Coordination of its activities is provided by the Office of Chief
of Defense Staff (CDS) with technical and some funding support from the non-state actors like the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD). The program was mandated to facilitate the deradicalization, rehabilitation and reintegration (DRR) of repentant ex-combatants. A timely initiative that from inception required the trust, acceptance and participation of local actors including victims, the wider members of affected communities and religious leaders.

In November 2016, CDD supported and facilitated the first Community Dialogue and Strategy Session in Maiduguri, Borno State. This provided the initial opportunity for the state and OPSC to engage with local actors on the approach and their participation in the DRR Program. At this session, the local actors outrightly rejected the intervention, and in some extreme responses mentioned that the ex-combatants should be murdered or moved to North Korea as they are not in any way welcome back in the communities. They first wanted peace to return and for victims to recover from their socio-economic status before DRR of ex-combatants commenced. While the findings and outcome of this initial community dialogue and strategy session were not encouraging, it laid the necessary foundation towards understanding the views, and dynamics of the challenges to be addressed in the design of the DRR program.


Farmer-Herder Conflict in Northern Nigeria: Trends, Dynamics and Gender Perspectives

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The farmer-herder conflict has become persistent and pervasive with debilitating consequences on human lives and their sources of livelihoods. Although scholars, policymakers and development workers have given attention to the conflict, the trends and dynamics of the conflict, as well as the direct and indirect actors in the conflicts, are constantly changing. The constantly changing nature of the conflict makes efforts at resolving it by both state and non-state actors difficult.

This research explored the current conflict dynamics, the various actors, causes and triggers, its gender dimensions, as well as the effectiveness of conflict mitigation mechanisms used to date. The study adopted a qualitative data collection process using focus group discussions (FGDs) and key informant interviews (KIIs). Four states – Benue, Kaduna, Katsina and Nasarawa – that are among those adversely affected by the conflict were selected as case studies. Eight Local Government Areas – Guma and Logo (Benue State), Kajuru and Kaura (Kaduna State), Batsari and Jibia (Katsina
State), Awe and Doma (Nasarawa State) – were chosen as the study locations. In all, 48 FGD sessions and 46 KII interviews were conducted with men, women, youth, farmers and herders, traditional rulers, religious leaders and government officials to generate the data, and content analysis
was applied to discuss the key findings from the study.

The findings of the research revealed that there are increasing occurrences of farmer-herder conflicts in virtually all the states. In two of the states, Kaduna and Katsina, the conflict has metamorphosed into other forms of generalized criminalities such as armed banditry involving cattle rustling and cattle theft and kidnapping for ransom.


SULH-ALHERI NE Replacing Evil with Something Better: Promoting Alternative Peacebuilding Narratives

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Attacks launched by Boko Haram and other extremist and self-defence groups in northern Nigeria has claimed over 30,000 lives in the last decade. The rise of the Boko Haram insurgency has also led to the destruction of communities, resulting in gross human rights violations, mass atrocities, disappearance and forced displacement. Restoring peace and rebuilding the communities ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgency must include a justice component. When legitimate grievances are not redressed timely, justly, and fairly, then impunity and injustice can be formidable obstacles to restoring peace and rebuilding communities.

In fact, unaddressed grievances have been identified as one of the major push factors towards violent extremism. However, the scale and complexity of the atrocious crimes and violations of human rights committed in the context of the Boko Haram insurgency makes it very hard, if not totally impossible, to prosecute all the perpetrators through the already overburdened criminal justice system.

The duration that criminal cases take to be concluded, and the resources,
expertise and personnel needed to prosecute thousands of criminal
complaints are too daunting to contemplate.


How tenure elongation and a lack of term limits weaken the integrity of elections in Africa

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By Ayisha Osori

Until the late 1980s, Liberia’s constitution was the only one in Africa to provide clarity for presidential term limits. Without these limits, political succession was a major source of instability on the continent, with many countries dominated by a single leader who insisted on his – and it was always him – indispensability. The end of their rule was invariably by force. In 35 years from 1961 to 1997, Africa witnessed 78 coups d’états.

But by 1995, at least 33 countries had revised their constitutions to include presidential term limits. The Organisation of African Unity (as it then was) built on this trend by developing a rule against coups and what it called “unconstitutional changes in government” with the recommendation that “any manipulation of the constitution aimed at preventing a democratic change of government” be outlawed. By the 2000s elections and term limits had replaced death and coup d’état as the most common way in which African presidents and prime ministers left office. Term limits were one effective way of curtailing the excesses of all-powerful executives and a tool that allowed for greater investment in the independence of critical democracy strengthening institutions such as the judiciary, legislature and election management bodies (EMBs).

Fast forward to 2021, and 16 countries across the continent have either revised their constitutions to remove term limits or seen the extension of the tenure of the incumbent president against the spirit of term limits. A further eight – Eritrea, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Lesotho, Libya, Morocco, Somalia and Eswatini – still have no term limits, whilst another nine countries, have term limits that exist in law, but that has yet to be tested or applied in practice.

Electoral choice

According to academic Andreas Schedler, to qualify as democratic “elections must offer an effective choice of political authorities among a community of free and equal citizens”. He identifies seven conditions that should exist if regular elections are to fulfil the promise of effective democratic choice: empowerment, free supply, free demand, inclusion, insulation, integrity and irreversibility.

Empowerment and insulation speak to voters’ ability to vote freely without restrictions, fear or intimidation. In the January 2021 presidential elections in Uganda – where presidential term limits were removed in 2005 and age limits in 2017 – political violence linked to the election resulted in over 50 deaths, while more than 400 individuals have been forcibly ‘disappeared’ in a pre and post-election clampdown. In Guinea, after changing the constitution through a dubious referendum, President Conde contested and won, a third term in 2020 amidst sustained protests that saw at least 12 people killed.

Free supply, free demand and inclusion cover citizens ability to form, join and support opposition parties, candidates and their policies; and mitigate against candidates being prevented from participating in the elections through legal or pseudo-legal means. An increasingly common way of preventing candidates from participating in elections is the sponsorship system where presidential candidates are required to secure a minimum threshold endorsement of registered voters or elected representatives. This, along with high filing fees, effectively narrows the number who can contest.

Ahead of the 2020 presidential elections, Cote d’Ivoire’s election management body required that to be eligible candidates must secure the signatures of at least 1% of the electorate. This gave a significant advantage to the incumbent, Alassane Ouattara, who successfully secured a disputed third-term against reduced opposition. In addition to technical obstacles, more direct threats can be used by incumbents. Ahead of April’s presidential poll in Chad, the leading opponent to President Deby’s sixth term in office, Saleh Kebzabo, withdrew his candidacy after a deadly raid by security forces at the home of another opposition candidate.

The integrity factor relates to the election process, rules and execution. When EMBs or courts are perceived as compromised, the impact on the credibility of the electoral outcome is diminished. Like in Uganda in January, many voters in Congo Brazzaville cast their ballot on 21 March 2021 with continued doubts about the independence of the EMB given that nothing has changed since it oversaw a questionable outcome in 2016. An election that followed the 2015 removal of term limits, that gave President Sassou Nguesso the opportunity to seek a third term in his second spell in power. A fourth term is set to follow.  

Finally, the irreversibility condition covers the sanctity of the result and winners taking office peacefully. Elections should have the desired consequences, where the will of the majority of voters is respected. In 2016, Yahya Jammeh tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to ignore and annul the results of the election, but the EMB, supported by regional powers, held firm to force him from office after two decades at the helm.  

Limiting power

Those who argue against the imposition of term limits claim that they compromise the sovereignty of the people and their choice, as well as risk undermining the stability and continuity required for the development. They argue that instead of term limits, the focus should be on improving the integrity of elections. But a determination to stay in power predisposes leaders to oversee compromised polls. Presidents contesting for or having won, their sixth term in office in 2021 – Museveni in Uganda, Sassou-Nguesso in Congo Brazzaville and Deby in Chad – do not feel more secure. Instead, with each successive election the violence against the opposition, the rhetoric of intolerance and abuse from state security actors increases. As Schedler has argued, “the desire of those who manipulate elections is to enjoy the fruits of electoral legitimacy without running the risk of democratic uncertainty”.

But respect for term limits alone is not a vaccine against electoral authoritarianism. Niger’s historic transition in February affirmed its commitment, for the first time, to two-term limits, but the vote, which was won by the ruling party candidate amidst protests about the results and an internet shutdown, exposed the fragility of the country’s democracy. Despite adherence to term-limits in Tanzania, a change of the political party in power has not been forthcoming. In places where the ruling party never loses, there can be a systemic weakening of the checks and balances, and critical voices, required for a healthy democracy. Even in places where term-limits are in place and turnovers have occurred – Benin, Senegal and Nigeria – continued vigilance is required. There have been deep erosions to the independence of democracy strengthening institutions in recent years.

Innovative thinking is needed to tackle anti-democratic forces intent on capturing and controlling access to power whilst maintaining a veneer of electoral legitimacy. Africa still has more countries that have strengthened and upheld term limits than not. But constitutional power grabs are on the rise, particularly in West Africa, and the complicit silence of the Africa Union (AU), and regional bodies like ECOWAS, is a concern. In addition to considering the adoption of non-amendable presidential term limits, as has been proposed as part of Burkina Faso’s constitutional review, the AU should lead a collective review of the application of the non-retroactivity principle to constitutional amendments to make it explicit that leaders who oversee constitutional amendments cannot reset their tenures on that basis. The spirit of the principle is to prevent a retroactive application of punitive law and not to give sit tight men a window to legally hijack their countries.

Most importantly citizens must also be encouraged, and supported, through investments in organising and social movement-building to demand change. Afterall half of the dozen African leaders who have tried to evade limits over the past 15 years, were foiled by populations who rallied against these tenure extensions. Listening to, and learning from, the experiences of Burkina Faso, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Zambia can offer valuable lessons.  

Ayisha Osori is Executive Director of Open Society Initiative West Africa

Editor’s note: This is the fourth article in a nine-part series in which leading thinkers and practitioners explore key questions and themes about the current state of electoral democracy in Africa. You can click to read the fourth, thirdsecond and first.

Crafting Credible Election Commissions in West Africa

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By Professor L. Adele Jinadu

The crass and partisan manipulation of African electoral management bodies (EMBs) was a central feature of the legacy of abuse that successor regimes to colonial rule in Africa inherited and perpetuated. Embedded in partisan politics through “outright control” by successor regimes, EMBs became “ineffectual mechanisms for democratically managing diversity”.

To lay the ghost of such partisan political abuse, and to nurture and strengthen trust in electoral commissions, the democratic transitions of the 1990s stipulated new norms and rules for redesigning competitive party and electoral politics and systems. These norms included democratic political succession, entrenched provisions for the periodic conduct of credible elections, in the case of presidential systems, fixed presidential term limits, the promotion of diversity, civic participation, and engagement, especially through an increased role of civil society and marginalised groups and the establishment of independent EMBs.

Indicators of what credible EMBs and electoral integrity should look like were set out in African codes and standards such as the African Charter on Popular Participation in Development and Transformation (1990) and the African Charter of Democracy, Elections, and Governance (2007) to name just two. But has the objective of nurturing credible EMBs and electoral integrity been achieved?

Multiple management models

EMBs in Africa are currently either a single, independent body; comprised of two or more bodies with shared responsibilities for election management; or a hybrid government-civil society EMB under an independent oversight supervisory body of experts, usually judges. Non-autonomous or fully government controlled EMBs inherited at independence, notably in francophone and lusophone countries, have been replaced with autonomous or semi-autonomous ones. But within these classificatory models, structures and composition vary significantly, dictated by each country’s constitutional and political history, and the interplay of contending sociocultural forces and prevailing circumstances.

However, appointment processes and the tenure terms of the chair and members of election commissions are problematic areas across the continent. Concerns remain about the transparency of the nomination, appointment and removal process of EMB members according to a 2013 Economic Commission for Africa expert opinion survey. It found that “in only 10 of the 40 African countries surveyed did more than half the respondents consider the procedure to be mostly or always transparent and credible…[with] serious implications for the integrity of elections in Africa.”

Renewal under consecutive fixed tenure for members tends to enhance EMBs’ credibility, but remains problematic and is diminished by the power of appointment and renewal, which is also the power of removal. This power can be used to remove members perceived as resisting or not pliable to executive branch partisan influence, or who, by general perception, have not lived up to the integrity expectations of their office. In Nigeria and Sierra Leone, EMB members have been removed before their tenure expired. To pre-empt such a possibility, it has been suggested that the tenure of EMB members should be fixed, like judges, to their retirement age, except for cause, as is the case in Ghana.  

Autonomous actors?

Recent studies of West African EMBs distinguish between their formal, administrative and financial autonomy. The level of autonomy varies not only from country to country but also within country over electoral cycles according to a 2019 study of six West African countries comissioned by the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC). The study explored factors driving or constraining the autonomy of the EMBs and how these impact election integrity.

In Benin, the financial autonomy of the Commission Electorale Nationale Autonome (CENA) is constrained by attempts by the Ministry of Finance to exercise a priori control over its expenditure. This leads to dysfunctions in the electoral administration process. Another problem is the dependence of the CENA on the executive to obtain electoral funds. A challenge that confronts many EMBs in the ECOWAS region. Furthermore, in Senegal, the 2019 ECONEC study found that when the funds were released, almost half the election budget was spent by the other institutional actors such as the judiciary and security agencies.

But formal autonomy on paper does not always translate into practice. In West Africa, several EMBs have almost identical legal provisions protecting their independence, yet they have widely differing degrees of autonomy. An EMB, like CENA in Benin, made up of members nominated by political parties, whatever its defects, has sometimes conducted elections with more independence and competence than an expert commission such as Nigeria’s. Cape Verde’s EMB has a longer tradition of effective performance and independence in action than Senegal’s. Even though both exemplify the same classificatory model.

Although the different systems of appointment and composition do have an impact, institutional partnership and collaboration – like the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security established by Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) – between EMBs and other institutions with election-related mandates, can play an equally important role in shaping perceptions of EMB capability. Issues like a country’s size, the relative balance of powers among political parties, the internal security situation, and the strength of courts, the civil service and civil society, are critical for the conduct of credible elections.

In short, an autonomous EMB is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for conducting credible elections. An anti-democratic political culture of impunity characterised by abuse of power by incumbent parties for partisan electoral gain; a zero-sum approach to electoral competition that ignites and fuels electoral violence; and high-levels of vote-buying and voter-intimidation create an environment in which conducting credible elections is difficult, regardless of the technocratic skills and technological innovations deployed. This is the experience in Nigeria, where controversial elections were held in 2015 and 2019, despite the popular perception of INEC as increasingly credible after it invested in technology such as smart-card readers and undertook internal administrative and financial reforms, after polls in 2011, to try and limit the space for electoral malpractice.

Advancing credibility

Enhancing the application of ICT and internal administrative reforms that improve the transparency of EMBs has improved electoral transparency in Ghana and Nigeria. So too can enhancing the administrative and financial independence of EMBs. This can be done by vesting in them powers to recruit their own staff, professionalise their bureaucracies, and make their annual budget and election budget direct charges on national consolidated revenue funds. Reforming EMBs also requires removing their members’ appointment and reappointment process from political officeholders and vesting them in independent, non-partisan individuals or bodies.

But election commissions need to be supported in their efforts to conduct credible polls. Partnerships with civil society organisations can improve civic awareness and tackle prevailing problems such as vote-buying. Allying with impartial security actors can also discourage campaign and election-day violence, whilst regular dialogue with all political parties can go some way to reducing the zero-sum, winner-takes-all approach to politics. They also must continue to learn from each other. ECONEC, and the Electoral Commissions Forum of Southern African Development Community countries, are constantly sharing experiences that can shape regional best practices.

The impact of these discussions and dialogues become clear on election day, but the work to get there is ongoing and unending. Maintaining credibility does not just mean standing still. Election commissions across West Africa must be constantly evolving if they are to do their part to oversee elections that reflect the will of voters.

Professor L. Adele Jinadu is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Democracy & Development, Abuja, Nigeria.

Editor’s note: This is the fourth article in a nine-part series in which leading thinkers and practitioners explore key questions and themes about the current state of electoral democracy in Africa. You can click to read the third, second and first.

Judgements and Jurisprudence: Presiding over presidential petitions in Africa

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By Dr O’Brien Kaaba

In 2017 the Kenyan Supreme Court became the first court on the African continent to annul a presidential election following full due process. In February 2020 the Malawian High Court, sitting as a constitutional court, followed suit in cancelling the results of the May 2019 presidential election. Not only did the judges demonstrate extraordinary courage in pronouncing these verdicts, but they demonstrated what a competent and independent judiciary can do to ensure democratic electoral processes are free, fair and credible on the continent.

Hiding behind technicalities

For the most part courts across Africa have been unwilling to reverse electoral outcomes, preferring instead to seek refuge in technicalities when casting judgement. This reflects poorly on judicial independence, and brings to the fore the reality that many judges are appointed as a reward for their loyalty to those in power, not because of their competence and capabilities.

The first of these is the use of procedural technicalities to dismiss the case, thereby avoiding hearing its merits. In 2016, the Zambian Constitutional Court decided to abandon the election petition, without determining its merits, on the pretext that the 14 days set by the Constitution, during which the case should be heard and determined, had elapsed.

Another technicality used by courts is simply to abdicate judicial responsibility and avoid rendering a judgment. This has been a common approach deployed by the Zimbabwean judiciary. Following the 2002 elections, a petition was filed in the High Court by losing opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai seeking the nullification of the presidential election results on the grounds that the election was characterised by widespread violence and intimidation, corruption, voter fraud and ballot-stuffing. After hearing the case for seven months, Justice Ben Hlatshwayo, in a terse one-page ruling, dismissed the allegations and promised to render a reasoned judgment in two weeks. The judgment never came.

The 2013 Zimbabwean elections were also challenged in Court. To prepare their case, the petitioner made a preliminary application to the Court to allow him to have access to election materials. The Constitutional Court reserved ruling on the application and by the time the hearing of the petition commenced, had still to take a decision. This forced the petitioner to withdraw the petition, indicating that it was going to be impossible to substantiate the allegations of irregularities without access to election materials.

A final, and arguably most common technicality, is to misapply the materiality test, also known as the substantive effect rule. This rule is premised on the idea that some electoral irregularities may be minor and inconsequential, while others may be significant enough to have a bearing on an election’s fairness and legitimacy. Inconsequential mistakes, omissions and commissions should not lead to an annulment of an election, provided that its overall fairness was not vitiated. But the substantive effect rule has provided an escape route to timorous or compromised judges who prefer to defer to incumbents.

In Uganda, successive election petitions by opponents of the incumbent have been unsuccessful, ultimately because the petitioners have been unable to prove, quantitatively, that the alleged malpractice has substantially affected the outcome of the election. This focus on numbers can effectively legitimatise large scale election cheating. But proving substantive effect is difficult. It is further complicated by short timeframes and the fact that the data that can be used to validate the claim is often in the hands of the electoral management body and that some irregularities, such as political violence, are not susceptible to numerical quantification in relation to election results. Interpretations of the substantive effect rule have been applied in judgements that confirmed the outcome of recent elections in Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Historic decisions

In August 2017, the Kenyan Supreme Court made a ground-breaking decision when it annulled the election of Uhuru Kenyatta. By a majority of four to two, the court held that the presidential poll was not conducted in accordance with the Constitution and the applicable laws, rendering the declared result invalid, null and void; that the irregularities and illegalities in the election were substantial and affected its integrity, the result notwithstanding; that Uhuru Kenyatta was not validly declared as president-elect and that the declaration was invalid, null and void; and that the electoral commission should conduct fresh presidential elections in strict conformity with the constitution and applicable electoral laws within 60 days.

The Kenyan Court’s decision demonstrated the value of proactive adjudication. Prior to the elections, the 2011 Elections Act was amended to introduce the Kenya Integrated Electoral Management System. This was intended to be used in biometric voter registration and, on polling day, in voter identification as well as instantaneous transmission of election results from polling stations to the Constituency Tallying Center and the National Tallying Center. The transmission of results required the use of standard forms – Forms 34A and 34B – but in many instances the results were not transmitted in the manner required by law.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) gave no plausible explanation for this, while the petitioners alleged that the system had been hacked and results tampered with in favour of the incumbent. The Court appointed its own IT experts to assess the IEBC servers and report their findings. However the IEBC, in violation of the court order, declined to give the court-appointed IT experts access. The Court held that the failures by IEBC were a clear violation of the 2010 Constitution and the Elections Act (as amended). It raised serious doubt as to whether the election results could be said to be a free expression of the will of the people, as required by the Constitution. 

Perhaps the judgment’s greatest contribution to electoral jurisprudence in Africa was its correct application of the substantial effect rule. It held that elections are not just about numbers and that the quality of the entire process matters when gauging whether the result reflects the will of the people. In the words of the Court, “even in numbers, we used to be told in school that to arrive at a mathematical solution, there is always a computation path one has to take, as proof that the process indeed gives rise to the stated solution.”

Similar jurisprudence was applied in relation to Malawi’s 2019 presidential election petition. The Court found that election results forms, which were used to tabulate national figures, were pervasively altered unlawfully. Based on adduced evidence, it concluded that a substantial number of the official result sheets had results altered using correction fluid, popularly known as Tippex. The judgement reached was that the Electoral Commission had failed to preside over a free and fair election, that the electoral process was compromised and that it was conducted in a manner that violated electoral laws and the Constitution. It nullified the election and ordered a new election to be held within 150 days. The re-run saw opposition candidate Lazarus Chakwera win 58.6% of the vote to comprehensively defeat incumbent, and winner of the 2019 poll, President Peter Mutharika.

In terms of the threshold for the integrity of the election, Malawi’s High Court, followed the Kenyan precedent of 2017, in agreeing that it is not just numbers, but the quality of the electoral process that matter in determining the substantial effect of irregularities on election results. This is an important recognition that the judiciary must consider the context in which an election is held in order to determine if the will of the people could have been exercised freely.

Continuity…for now

The decisions reached in Kenya and Malawi demonstrate the capacity of what competent and courageous judges can do to enforce electoral rules. The judgments also pose a challenge to other African judges: will they follow in their footsteps or will they choose to hold fast to the archaic and pro status quo jurisprudence that has prevailed up to now?

Early indications suggest that continuity, rather than change, continues to prevail. Recent electoral decisions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia have continued to produce judgements that look for substantive effect on the outcome, and less on the process. In Uganda, a petition to challenge the outcome of the January 2021 presidential election was withdrawn over concerns about the judicial independence.  

Nonetheless, the verdicts handed down in Kenya and Malawi serve as landmark decisions, that over time will serve as a yardstick of contextually relevant presidential election jurisprudence in Africa. Both set a precedent that the quality of an election and the environment in which the election is held matter, and have a bearing on the outcome, regardless of numbers.   

Dr O’Brien Kaaba is a lecturer at the School of Law at the University of Zambia and a senior research fellow at the Southern Africa Institute for Policy and Research.

Editor’s note: This is the third article in a nine-part series in which leading thinkers and practitioners explore key questions and themes about the current state of electoral democracy in Africa. You can read the second and first piece.

Electoral Corruption In Nigeria: A Case Study Of The 2019 General Elections

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A major pillar of post-1990 democratic transitions in Africa is the periodic organization and conduct of constitutionally entrenched competitive party
elections, by an independent electoral management body (EMB), to elective
public political offices in the executive and legislative branches of government in the African state.

The conduct of the elections is required to conform substantially with guiding principles of electoral integrity that provide the indicators and measure of free and fair elections.

The principles are designed to guarantee that the outcomes of democratic
elections are uncertain, in the sense of their being “indeterminate ex-ante.” The outcomes are expectedly “indeterminate ex-ante” because the measures and indicators to ensure such outcomes are designed to create a competitive electoral level playing ground to make it possible for yesterday’s winners to become today’s losers, and yesterday’s losers, today’s winners.

Although there is no general agreement on the meaning of electoral integrity, the operative or defining word in the concept, integrity “refers to incorruptibility or a firm adherence to a code of moral values,” in the conduct of democratic elections.


Personal Data and the Influence Industry in Nigerian Elections

By Publication, Publications

An election officer verifying a voter using the Smart Card Reader. Photo credit: BBC

In Nigeria’s 2015 election, Cambridge Analytica (CA) spread targeted disinformation to suppress opposition votes and allegedly released sensitive medical and financial information about then opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari. In 2018, the Nigerian government formed a committee to investigate, amongst others, CA’s 2015 activities and promised criminal prosecutions if necessary.

However, two years on, there has been no update from the government committee. Furthermore, beyond a flurry of articles in 2018 that largely regurgitated what international media outlets posted, Nigeria’s media houses have largely left CA’s activities and the government committees promised investigations uncovered.

The lack of attention given to the CA scandal is worrying. If we assume that their notoriety derives in part from how egregious some of their tactics were, it is likely that other actors with morally questionable but less scandalous techniques are operating under the radar in Nigeria. It is therefore urgent that we have an overview of the use of data in Nigerian elections, as the first step to increasing awareness and activism. This report is an attempt to fill this gap. Using the framing introduced in Tactical Tech’s publication, Personal Data, Political Persuasion, this report combines interviews with various actors in the political influence industry and secondary evidence from journalistic sources to map the data-driven campaign techniques used in Nigeria. This mapping focuses on the 2015 and 2019 presidential elections but incorporates examples from earlier
and lower-level elections as needed.

The report then addresses a puzzle that the first section unearths: why does it seem that the formal political consulting industry in Nigeria is so small? To answer this, the report looks at the different actors in the influence industry, focusing on the kinds of political actors that hire them, the kinds of elections they tend to be involved in, and the techniques that they use in serving their clients.

The report finds that the use of data-driven campaigning in Nigerian elections is growing in prominence. Generally, political actors use data and digital technologies to fundraise, test for the resonance of campaign messages, target messages to specific geographic locations, and send out
bulk SMS, audio, and WhatsApp messages.


Liberia's Truth And Reconciliation Commission: Reviving Its Recommendations?

By Publication, Publications

After 14 years of civil war that flouted six peace agreements, Liberians representing the warring parties along with civil society groups,
and political parties signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in
Accra, Ghana, on 18 August 2003. The CPA called for the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission and an inclusive two-year interim national government.

The interim government consisted of members of the Charles Taylor regime, representatives of the two rebel factions – the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) and Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) – and representatives of civilian opposition and civil society organisations. In keeping with provisions in the 2003 CPA, the transitional government passed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act in May 2005, which called for the creation of a commission
mainly modelled on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The TRC (also referred to as the commission) began its hearings in January 2008. It faced the arduous task of moving the peace process forward to establish the truth about the civil war by providing a platform to discuss issues of impunity and promote national reconciliation and cohesion.

The Commission Consisted of nine commissioners, five men and four women. Efforts were made to mainstream gender in the work of the commission given women played a significant role during, and were notable victims of, the conflict. The TRC mandate was restricted to events that happened between January 1979 to October 2003.


Sustaining Peace: Reflections On Transitional Justice Approaches In West Africa

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For several decades, West Africa has faced different and varying degrees of
violent conflict, authoritarian and repressive undemocratic governments.
The region has witnessed civil wars, political conflicts, insurgencies, inter-communal conflicts and the “not so new” trend of violent extremism. Liberia experienced more than 14 years of civil unrest and conflict.

The country had two distinct civil wars from 1989 to 2003. The first war (1989- 1996), generally attributed to the repressive regime of Samuel Doe’s
government and campaign to oust him from power by Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) were considered as one of Africa’s bloodiest. It claimed the lives of over 250,000 with 1 million displaced and at least 25,000 raped.

Three years after the first civil war in 1996, Liberia was again plunged into another civil war, when a rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), with the support of the government of neighbouring Guinea, began a military offensive to topple the government of President Charles Taylor.

The conflict in Liberia spilled over the border into neighbouring Sierra Leone. The war in Sierra Leone was also driven by the attempts to overthrow the government of President Joseph Saidu Momoh, oust corrupt politicians, and redistribute the country’s resources of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

The RUF supported by Liberian rebel leader Charles Taylor and the NFPL was a small band of well-armed and funded guerrilla rebels, who rushed into villages in the eastern countryside and quickly gained momentum and territory.


Local Learning: Ideas For Reducing Farmer-Herder Conflicts In Nigeria

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The farmer-herder conflict has mutated and is now manifesting and transforming into other forms of conflicts. In Kaduna and Katsina state, the conflict has mutated into armed banditry involving cattle rustling, destruction or theft of farm crops, kidnapping and armed robbery.

For example, a traditional leader in Batsari Katsina categorically stated that “they were no longer herders in the LGA, most herders have now become bandits and cattle rustlers”

The gravity of the situation is such that the bandits operate freely and openly without checks. In Kaduna State, the farmer-herder conflict heightened between 2012 and 2013 but de-escalated between 2013 and 2019 and re-emerged with an intensity of attacks and heavy casualties in 2020.

The conflict in the state also assumed ethno-religious dimension as there is a thin line between ethnicity and religion on the one hand and ecological niches on the other.

In Benue State, the farmer-herder conflict was a frequent occurrence and there was a spike in the conflict incidences between 2014 and 2019 with the crescendo of escalation in 2018 after the state enacted the Anti Open Grazing Law which made a large number of the herders to emigrate from the state into neighbouring Nasarawa State.

The maxim wa gaa or wa usu (ranch or ruin your cattle) in Tiv language is the new norm in Benue State as attested to by Tiv farmers during a focus group discussion.

The conflict in Nasarawa between the farmers and herders can be attributed to the spillover effect of the conflict in the neighbouring Benue State Since Nasarawa is contiguous with Benue State, many the herders that were forced to leave Benue moved into Nasarawa State.

The migration of herders from Benue to border communities in Nasarawa exerted pressures on existing resources in these communities. It also heightened the conflict between farmers and herders in these communities. Ethnicity is also identified as one of the key conflict dynamics in the state. This is because the Jukun and the Alago groups from Keana have been mentioned consistently by a majority of the respondents as actors flaming the amber of the conflict so that they could have access to more farmlands.


America’s lessons for African dictators

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Trump supporters in an attempt to break through a team of Police officers at Capitol in Washington. Photo credit: AP Photo/John Minchillo

On Wednesday evening, the world watched the chaos that emerged from the Capitol building in Washington, DC, the legislative seat of the United States. Pro-Trump rioters stormed the building, breaking windows, drawing guns, vandalising memorabilia and invading the desks of legislators.

The aim of the mob was to disrupt the congressional process of formally certifying president-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory over Donald Trump. The session was suspended abruptly as senators and representatives were made to take cover under their desks, before ultimately being evacuated from the legislative floors.

One rioter left a note in House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office with the words “We will not back down.” Another sat in the senate chamber’s head chair, while one made away with a podium

The events are extraordinary. A US president refused to concede a free and fair election, opting to incite his reactionary base with conspiracies, untruths and incendiary rhetoric. And the consequences of the violent scenes will be felt not just in the US, but across the world.

This is especially true for young African democracies. Trump’s example will be an excuse for African leaders to minimise their own attacks on democracy in their home countries. Moving forward, when altercations break out in parliament — as they did in Kenya in 2014, when MPs engaged in fist fights over draconian anti-terrorism laws; or in Nigeria in 2018, when thugs barged into the senate while it was in session and stole the ceremonial mace — the response will inevitably be that it happens in America too. 

The next time an African leader uses his power of incumbency to influence election results or to undermine credible electoral outcomes, the response will be that America does it too. And the next time an African president refuses to accept an electoral defeat, he can and will say he learnt from the 45th “leader of the free world”. 

But this would be disingenuous. Trump’s attacks on democracy are not the whole story. Far more significant is the unrelenting opposition to these attacks, which ultimately blocked his illegality.

After losing at the polls, Trump tried to use the power of the executive, judiciary and now legislature to reverse the results. His lack of success speaks volumes about the substance of US democratic institutions. This is what Africans should point to and draw inspiration from in the face of tyrannical leaders. Amid calamity, America has got many things right — and that should be the argument used against any African leader or enabler who uses Trump’s example to excuse their own behaviour.

In fact, there are a number of lessons that African leaders could — and should — learn from America’s recent experiences.

  • The police are not a weapon. Live bullets were not fired at rioters as a dispersion tactic, as has become the norm in many African countries. Rather, the police called in reinforcements, de-escalated the situation, and consistently affirmed the rights of citizens to protest. The opposition candidates are alive and well. 
  • The vice-president is not a “yes man”. Mike Pence publicly committed to officiating a ceremony in which his own electoral loss would be certified, according to normal constitutional guidelines. He will do so despite immense pressure from the president, misinformed citizens and conspiracy theorists to deny the truth. 
  • Most legislators accepted the result. The majority of legislators from the governing Republican Party did not object to the results of a free and fair election, despite their party losing the election. Most Republican members of congress admitted that Americans made their decision, and accepted it. All Democrats were vocal against attempts by Trump and his allies to invalidate the elections and the will of the American people.
  • The courts remained independent. Leading up to the election, the state of Texas and the Trump legal team had attempted to invalidate the votes of tens of millions of Americans in four states where Trump lost — Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Wisconsin — by suing the states in the Supreme Court. The court struck this case down, citing a lack of legal standing for Texas to sue other states over their local election laws. 

The judgment reiterated the importance of American federalism, and independence of states. This is remarkable, especially given that three of the nine judges on the nation’s highest court were appointed by Trump himself. As they are constitutionally authorised to retain Supreme Court positions for life, they leveraged their independence to uphold democratic ideals. Other judges have struck down more than 60 spurious court cases brought forward by the president’s legal team. Many of these cases were outright dismissed for their lack of evidence to support claims, and propounding evidence of a free and fair election. The judges dismissed them accordingly, despite several being Republican Trump appointees.

  • Civil servants serve the country, not the president. A leaked one-hour recording of Trump’s phone conversation with the Georgia secretary of state revealed that Trump directly asked this secretary to inflate his vote count to fraudulently secure his electoral victory. It showed the extent to which this president went to undercut the electoral process and, simultaneously, highlighted the power of a public servants commitment to truth telling. 
  • The media was allowed to do its job. Unlike in Nigeria, where the government imposed fines on media houses for reporting the state’s violent crackdown on #ENDSARS protesters in October 2020, the US government generally respected journalists’ right to cover the riots objectively. The US also preserved citizens’ access to social media, as some legislators even leveraged platforms to confirm their safety. This is in contrast with African countries such as Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia, in which, at various times, the government has brazenly shut down or restricted the internet access to further its political aims.

America’s democracy is very far from perfect, of course. The history of racism in the United States has complicated the issue, as the nation recalls the brutal suppression of activists protesting systemic racism from the middle of last year. But yesterday, America showed us its full capacity to respect the civil liberty of protests, and simultaneously to rally against a president who disrespected the fundamental democratic liberty of a peaceful transition of power.

It would be wilful blindness if African leaders see only authoritarianism today, and do not acknowledge the full display of resilience and dedication to democracy on show.


Tackling COVID-19: The Need for a Nigerian Response

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The coronavirus is a human tragedy that is now affecting over a million people around the globe. The World Health Organization ( declared COVID 19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020. It indicated with certainty that the coronavirus (SARS CoV 2) will spread to all parts of the world and pointed out that all governments, businesses, and individuals had the ability to change the disease’s trajectory. Current Global Status The pandemic continues to expand more than 209 countries and territories have
reported cases of COVID 19 As of April 14 case growth has accelerated to more than 1 5 million cases. Death 125,623 Recovered 466,948.

Some countries have a handful of cases, others with early community transmission have a few hundred, and those with the uncontrolled, widespread transmission have tens of thousands. Governments all over the world have launched unprecedented public health and economic responses. In Nigeria, as of April 14 the coronavirus has so far infected 373 people, 99 discharged and 11 people have died.

Since Nigeria confirmed its index case on 27 th of February, 2020 several measures have been taken by the federal government targeted at curbing the spread of the virus. These were based on best practices as part of the measures implemented in China, Europe and the US.

A Presidential Task Force on COVID 19 was established on 18 th of March by President Buhari chaired by the secretary to the government of the federation, Mr Boss Mustapha. The task force developed a strategy that has resulted in restrictions on travel to and from 15 high infected countries closure of land, sea and air points of entry and the expansion of the national testing capacity from 500 per day to 1500 per day.

The government also suspended activities at the domestic airports by stopping the movement of commercial flights The government also encouraged inter state restrictions on road or sea transportation by imposing a lockdown for 14 days in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun states.

Consequently, many other state governments adhered to this as a measure to contain the virus spread.


Tackling COVID-19: Finding West Africa's Path

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The days when COVID-19 was only a distant threat to West African countries are over. It is now evident that the virus is here to stay and
must be addressed with practical responses that take into account the West African settings. Although the infection curve is not exponential, community transmission is beginning to gain ground in the region, with countries such as Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, and Senegal at the forefront with the most cases.

The lack of testing capacity in many countries suggests that the
estimated number of cases are most likely understated. Currently,
there are three factors that give the region an advantage in the fight against the novel disease. First, is its youthful population. The average age of Africans is below 20 years, and available data suggests that the risk of serious medical complications and death is
lower among younger people.

Furthermore, warm weather in the region could potentially reduce the spread of the virus, although this fact is remains unproven Lastly, as a result of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, it could analysts have argued that the region has some experience confronting infectious diseases.

While these factors might allow the region to avoid the worst of the pandemic, it also faces grave challenges that could overwhelm these advantages They include high levels of poverty densely packed urban areas and weak health systems and insecurity.

As the number of COVID 19 cases continues to increase, it will become increasingly difficult for the fragile healthcare system and economies of the region to withstand the effects of the pandemic This is because overall healthcare financing in most west African countries is relatively low at an average of US 292 per capita, thus, indicating a major constraint to effective healthcare service delivery.


Polls in Peril? West Africa's 2020 elections

By Publications

In the last quarter of 2020, five of the 15 Economic Community of West African States member countries are facing important elections. In   October, presidential elections will take place in Guinea and Cote D’Ivoire (October), with general elections to follow in Burkina Faso November), Ghana and Niger (both December).

This edition of West Africa Insights starts with a regional overview of the state of democracy in West Africa by Idayat Hassan. She underscores the threats posed by constitutional and military coups and the need for renewed regional resolve to uphold democratic values and ensure that development and democracy go hand in hand. Four further pieces provide in-depth analysis on the upcoming elections in the region.

Jessica Moody unpacks the threats that could see violence be a key feature of Cote D’Ivoire’s 31 October election, where President Ouattara  is  standing  for  a controversial third term. In Burkina Faso, violence is also threatening to impact on the November poll, with voter registration having not taken place in parts of the country where insecurity is rife. Wendyam Lankoandé reflects on how a flawed electoral process could further erode trust in the country’s political institutions.

In Ghana, George-Bob Milliar discusses the importance of grassroot political party structures for political success and explains why both formal and informal mechanisms can be key to delivering desired electoral outcomes.

Finally in Niger, Hailmatou Hima analyses some of the key issues that will shape an election that will mark the first peaceful transfer of  power in  the  country, as President Issoufou  steps  downs  having served his second, and final, term in office.


Cote D’Ivoire’s High‐Stake Presidential Election

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Ivorians will head to the polls to vote in a presidential election on 31 October 2020. The election is already causing severe tensions along long-­ standing political and ethnic divides, raising security risks in the country. With only a few weeks to the elections, the president of CEI announced that the 2020 provisional electoral list, indicating a 14% increase in the number of registered voters from 6,595,790 in 2018 to 7,500,035 voters in 2020.

A total of 1,645,693 new requests were processed, although more 60,000 were rejected for non-­‐compliance. On 14 September, the Constitutional Council approved four presidential candidates and rejected 40 candidates ‐ three representing the major political parties and one independent.



By Publications

Cote d’Ivoire is one of six ECOWAS member states scheduled to hold elections in 2020. The 31 October vote will be the fifth presidential election since the death of the ‘pere foundateur de la nation’ (father of the nation) Felix Houphouet Boigny in 1993. It will be held against the backdrop of 2011 post-electoral crisis, which revealed a deep-seated cleavages among the
ethnic groups in Cote d’Ivoire.

The poll is expected to be keenly contested between leading political parties; the Parti Democratique de la Cote d’Ivoire – Rassemblement Democratique Africain (PDCI), Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI) and ruling coalition, Rassemblement des Houphouetistes pour la Democratie et la Paix (RHDP).

The political context

In recent months the Ivorian political context has been characterised by contestation among the political stakeholders on matters around the electoral code, the eligibility of presidential candidacies, the voter register, implementation of the constitutionals reforms and the composition of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC); which opposition parties have
denounced as non-inclusive, imbalanced and partisan.

Though the African Court on Human and People’ Right has ordered the government to amend the relevant provisions of the electoral code relating to the composition of the IEC, recent reforms by the government have not appeased the opposition parties complaints. Despite the re-composition of the IEC to allow for a fairer representation of political parties, PDCI has refused to send their representative to the central IEC.


The Outlook for Ondo: Votes and Violence

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On the 10 October 2020 the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will conduct the sixth governorship election in Ondo State since the restoration of democracy in 1999.

The state, in Nigeria’s south west geo political zone, is currently held by the All Progressive Congress (APC) and is strategic in protecting the APCs political hegemony in the zone Although 17 parties have registered candidates, only three have a chance of winning the APC, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).

The defection of the incumbent deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi, from the APC and his subsequent emergence as the governorship candidate of ZLP, raised the stakes in the elections.

This report provides an overview of the political environment leading up to the election Specifically, it analyses the strength of the three major political parties and their candidates by thoroughly examining the history of votes and voting pattern, political alliances, and election related violence
of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). All the three frontline candidates are lawyers by profession.