(The Guinea incombent and opposition candidates, Alpha Condé, Cellou Dalein Diallo)
Last Sunday’s polling day in the Republic of Guinea has passed with relative calm, but it is the coming 72 hours that is causing jitters in this high-stakes presidential elections.
There is no question that the stakes are high, and this has been marinated by ethnic tensions between the two dominant Malinke and Fulani tribes; with both Alpha Conde and Cellou Diallo accused of gaslighting the tribal fissures for their political advantages. Both have been accused of using hate speech to cement their appeals in their respective camps. With almost 5.5 million eligible voters for roughly 15,000 polling stations, the results are not expected for several days. But as if that was not incendiary enough, Cellou has reportedly declared himself a winner even before the ballots have been counted.
It is nice to be self confident, but it could be an entirely different case to dance yourself lame, when the main dance is yet to come. This is especially so, when you consider the backdrop to this election, the run up to which has been marred by the controversies ranging from the constitutional gymnastics of a referendum that gave the incumbent Alpha Conde to run for a 3rd term, right down to tensions, bloody unrests and deaths on the political bachelor’s eve. Many would be inclined to see his early declaration as classic gaslighting, straight from Donald Trump’s playbook. It will now be critical to keep an eye on what happens in the next 72 hours or so. We are all praying for a Ramadan atmosphere.
But how did we get here in the first place? On 18 August this year, elements of the Malian Armed Forces began a mutiny that culminated in the ousting of the then head of state, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. The avalanche of condemnation from national and international bodies and organisations, and especially ECOWAS was understandable. The coup was a shock to the system. Nigeria and Burkina Faso; which shared monopoly on the art of coups with 9 and10 under their belts respectively, had long weaned themselves off it. It was no surprise then, that ECOWAS was spitting feathers, to denounce this kind of political musical chair fiasco from the Malian army. But after a lot of sabre rattling and megaphone diplomacy from ECOWAS; threatening sanctions and ostracization, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union Peace( so confusing) declared on October 9, that it has lifted sanctions against Mali, and that it can fully participate in all African Union activities. Talk about political alchemy and the rest is history.
No one is praying for a return to the dark days of coup d’états on our continent. When the widely acclaimed two-term Presidential term limits was recently adopted by the continent, Africa did not only breathe a sigh of relief but gained recognition around the world that it has come of age. Others sarcastically marked it as a departure from the adulterated politics of the past. As a concept, two-term presidential term limits could just be the right prescription available for our political systems, at best. It is controversial and not perfect. But it can be used as insulation and a third-party insurance policy against despotism, cronyism, nepotism, and all the isms that have chronically disabled our countries at large. Unfortunately, Two-term Presidential limits will never address the main illness of CORRUPTION; our perennial disease in practice.
We have been here before but worth a recap. Imagine an elected president with a political shelf life of 10 years. Knowing full well that they will never get another shot at the opportunity, and with a penchant for greed and corruption, it goes without saying they will be inclined to do their utmost to enrich themselves and all their families. In order to guard against this potential, reduce such a risk and actualise the primary objectives for which such term limits were implemented, it is imperative that a system of accountability is in place. There should be an end of term report that should be available to the electorate, to measure the success or failure of the outgoing administration. It is one thing to preach, promote and practise two-term presidential limits, but the idea will woefully fail, if there are no checks and balances.
Since the adoption of the two term- time limits for Heads of States, only a handful like former Presidents Sirleaf Johnson and Ernest B. Koroma had adhered to its tenets; although the latter reluctantly. Ernest did toy with the idea, but Sierra Leoneans did not have the stomach for it. As a failsafe mechanism, many will find it nauseatingly vile that Maada Bio’s attempt to implement a system of accountability has been met with some stiff resistance in some quarters in Sierra Leone. Are those who oppose the concept of accountability for their political tenure, literally saying that CORRUPTION, should go on unchecked. What is criminal about asking someone to account for what appears to be unexplained wealth?
But the thrust of this article is to shine a torch on the hypocrisy of the African Union (if there is ever one), and ECOWAS in particular. ECOWAS and other regional bodies wallowed in the limelight when they adopted this term -time limits. As if an afterthought, the same Heads of States later realised that this was not in their interests. It is not surprising therefore, to see these leaders promoting the society for self- preservation. What would have been surprising was to see these foxes voting for the welfare of chickens, or hear these political turkeys voting for Christmas.
We are now seeing leaders like Alassane Quattara (Cote D’Ivoire-78), Alpha Conde ( Guinea-82), Yoweri Museveni ( Uganda-75), Paul Biya ( Cameroon-87), to name but a few, all clinging to power; thanks to the constitutional gymnastics they all employed in their respective countries. These four alone have a combined age of 322 years. They have all contrived to fidget their constitutions just to stay in power. Sadly, the African Union and others like ECOWAS continue to turn a blind eye. No one is clamouring for a return to coup d’états, but it is this nauseatingly glaring hypocrisy that continues to gnaw the African psyche; when you see ECOWAS in arms against the recent coup in Mali. If anyone is guilty of engaging in political coups in Africa, it is these shameless groups that have become echo chambers for their selfish selves.
By all implications, these bodies have become the new form of coup d’états in Africa; and it is now in vogue. It is the new political fashion statement and new form of organised coup d’états against Africa and its peoples. Sadly, and regrettably, Africans should not be surprised if military coups d’états make a dramatic comeback. It is true that the best military government is equal to the worst civilian rule. We know that military intelligence is a contradiction in terms. I do not promote or subscribe to military coups, but if African Heads of States remain recalcitrant and continue to ignore the wishes of their people, there should be no surprises if such methods are employed as the only way to drag these twits to their nursing homes.
With the elections precariously balanced in Guinea, and with other upcoming ones in Togo and Cote Ivoire, the hope and prayers are that the continent will be spared from its penchant for the self destruct button. But as these leaders continue to press the reset buttons on their national constitutions, is it time to press the delete button on ECOWAS? These leaders are now telling the electorates that if the citizens learn to shoot without missing, they will learn to fly without perching.
Let’s pray for peace in Guinea and elsewhere, irrespective of who wins. Did I hear you mention USA? Leave that to Armageddon.
Don’t forget to turn the lights out when you leave the room.
Remember your mask and social distancing.