JAE Volume 10 Number 2, October 2011
Special Issue: West Africa

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Editor: Peter Vale
Guest editor: Abdul Rahman Lamin
Managing editor Jackie Kalley

Contributors: Abdul Rahman Lamin, David Dossou Zounmenou, Jasper Ayelazuno, Ben Simon Okolo, R Okey Onunkwo, Isaaka Souaré, Khabele Matlosa

Key terms: West Africa, Elections, Challenges, Democratic, Governance, Côte d'Ivoire, Post-electoral, Crisis, Ouattara, Ghana, Conflict management, Absolute Majority System, 2011, Nigeria, Empirical, Review, Presidential, Benin, Tension, Militarisation, Democratisation, Comparative Analysis, Niger, Guinea

Editorial: West Africa in Context: Elections and the Challenges of Democratic Governance

Abdul Rahman Lamin

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Dr Abdul Rahman Lamin is Programme Specialist, Sector for Social and Human Sciences, UNESCO, Accra, Ghana

Côte d'Ivoire's Post-electoral Crisis: Ouattara Rules but can he govern?

David Dossou Zounmenou and Abdul Rahman Lamin

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David Dossou Zounmenou is Senior Researcher, Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria

ABSTRACT: The post-electoral crisis in Côte d'Ivoire reached its boiling point with a brief, yet devastating armed confrontation between the national security and defence forces loyal to former president Laurent Gbagbo and the Republican Forces of Côte d'Ivoire (FRCI) who supported his rival, Alasane Dramane Ouattara. The confrontation led to the capture of Gbagbo, with French troops playing an active role, under the aegis of a UN mandate. The situation has raised questions about the legitimacy of the UN intervention and of Ouattara's ascent to power. The recourse to military means to oust Gbagbo came as diplomatic initiatives, including a resolution by the African Union to resolve the crisis peacefully, were resisted and resented by Gbagbo's entourage, while the security situation deteriorated rapidly. A key question, therefore, given the controversial UN intervention, is related to the ability of the new president to govern the country effectively and to address the main problems that have caused the descent of the former beacon of stability into political violence.

Ghanaian Elections and Conflict management: Interrogating the Absolute Majority System

Jasper Ayelazuno (Abembia)

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Dr Jasper Ayelazuno (Abembia) is a Post-Doctoral Fellow with the Department of Anthropology and Development Studies, University of Johannesburg

ABSTRACT: In Ghana a president is elected by an absolute majority (50% plus one vote) of the total valid votes cast in the whole country. From a conflict-management perspective this electoral system has two major flaws which can, potentially, jeopardise the fragile electoral peace that has endured since the 1992 elections. First, it gives extra and strong incentive to the two dominant parties, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to engage in crude ethnic politics to win even when they have lost in the majority of the ten regions. Second, by turning the whole country into a single-member constituency, regardless of its ethno-regional divisions, the votes of minority regions could become insignificant in electing the president, a dynamic that can lead to political exclusion and, subsequently, conflict. To remedy this situation and to promote conciliatory politics in the increasingly acrimonious political climate of Ghana, this paper argues, a double-winning system should be introduced which requires that, in addition to the 50 per cent-plus-one vote a candidate must win in five regions with a simple majority of valid votes cast.

The 2011 Nigerian Elections: An Empirical Review

Ben Simon Okolo and R Okey Onunkwo

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Ben Simon Okolo is JSPS-UNU Postdoctoral Fellow at the United Nations University, Tokyo, Japan
R Okey Onunkwo, a barrister, is at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria

ABSTRACT: Nigeria held presidential and parliamentary elections in April 2011, the fourth since the return to democracy in 1999. While both domestic and international observers judged the elections to be free, fair and transparent it must be stated that there is more work to be done by Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in order to consolidate the gains made in 2011. In other words, if credible elections are to become a fact of Nigeria's political life, as promised by the late President Umaru Yar'Adua and his then vice-president, Goodluck Jonathan, when they ran on the same ticket in 2007 in what many agreed were fraudulent elections, INEC and other stakeholders have their work cut out for them. This article is an attempt to review empirically the 2011 general elections in Nigeria. It highlights the challenges facing INEC and recommends ways of overcoming them.

The 2011 Presidential Elections in Benin: Explaining the Success of One of Two Firsts

Issaka K Souaré

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Dr Issaka K Souaré is Senior Researcher and Acting Head, African Conflict Prevention Programme, Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria

ABSTRACT: Since 1991 Benin has been considered a model of democratisation in Africa. Indeed, since its first multiparty elections in the post-Cold War era, held in March 1991, three different heads of state have alternated at the helm of the country, each coming and leaving according to the prevailing constitutional norms. All of them have been 'independent' candidates, not supported by a specific political party. Each of the presidential elections has gone into a run-off poll and the main opposition parties have failed to coalesce behind one of theirs in an attempt to win the presidency. But for the 2011 election, the main political parties formed an alliance, in the hope of defeating the incumbent candidate, who nevertheless won in the first round. It was the first time the opposition had formed such a formidable coalition and the first time, too, that a presidential candidate won without a run-off. This article attempts to explain this apparent 'anomaly' in Beninese politics and, in doing so, sheds some light on the main candidates in the 2011 election, the stakes involved and how the poll compared to previous ones. It concludes that incumbent president Boni Yayi may have won fairly on election day, but that a rigged voters' roll played a role in his victory.

The Tension Between Militarisation and Democratisation in West Africa: A Comparative Analysis of Niger and Guinea

Khabele Matlosa and David Dossou Zounmenou

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Khabele Matlosa is Programme Advisor, UNDP/ECA Governance Initiatives, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

ABSTRACT: While there has been some progress in West Africa towards shedding the dark history of militarism that spanned the 1960s-1980s and embracing democratisation, militarism still lingers, remaining a ghost that has haunted the democracy project that began in the region in the 1990s. Thus, West Africa has faced enormous challenges in its quest for democratisation. One of the biggest of these has been the militarisation of politics and of society at large. This problem persists even today, after encouraging progress towards democratisation in the past two decades. Two countries in the region that epitomise this recurring tension between militarisation and democratisation are undoubtedly Niger and Guinea. Both of them manifest the consequences of a governance deficit and the problems of democratic transition in which the military continues to play a dominant role. This chapter examines critically the tension between militarisation and democratisation in West Africa in general, with specific focus on Niger and Guinea. In an attempt to provide a comparative analysis of the two cases the chapter assesses progress made, highlights existing challenges and draws lessons that might be relevant for other African countries.