Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Africa: Information Communication Technologies and Elections in Africa

WE'VE come a long way from the days when people met at a common place to deliberate on issues affecting the community and elected their leaders by a mere show of hands. This was the era of direct democracy, a practice common in ancient Athens, the world's first democracy. Here, people physically gathered in one place and practiced direct democracy.

Today, this type of deliberation and election of leaders be it at the village or national level cannot be practiced.

A transition from this form of government to a system where each community elected officials to represent their interest through some form of suffrage based on defined criteria was born. This gave birth to a system of indirect or representative democracy. Africa has witnessed various variants of this system of democracy, from patriarchal democratic gerontocracies to monarchical rule in centralized societies, through military dictatorship and representative governments.

The idea of a government where supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or their elected representative under a free electoral system is cherished by nations the world over. This is what Abraham Lincoln referred to as government "of the people, by the people, and for the people", a true democratic government. The people .being represented' elect officials to represent their interest in government.

The primary mechanism by which this is done is through election. Under normal circumstances, the candidate who gets the majority vote gets elected.

One common aspiration by most African countries is to establish a democratic system of government based on common values shared by people though out the world community irrespective of cultural, political, social and economic differences.

Thus, the creation of a democracy that is appropriate to African conditions is one of the challenges facing Africa in the 21st Century.

Historically, voting has been through the ballot box. However, with the advent of the information revolution, the" notion of election and voting has changed. Information technology is now being used to transform the election process in several different ways, in political advocacy, in campaigns, in political fundraising, in citizen participation, in political debates, in news groups' discussion, in con- ducting opinion polls, in the enhancement of the democratic process, and in voting.

Political parties are using the Internet to access huge databases of potential voters. With the availability of such data, it is easy for such individuals and groups to be targets of political fundraising.

The Internet has been one of the mechanisms adopted by parties to reach a large constituent with the proliferation of mailing lists on the Internet; it is now easier to reach people at very minimal costs.

In both the 2008 and 'the 2016 United States presidential election Barack Obama used the Internet for political advocacy and earned the accolade "the first Internet president." He successfully used YouTube, the online video site to display several campaign clips; it served as the primary platform for preaching his message of Change. On Facebook, the social networking site, he reached large

Constituents who gave small donations to support his online fundraising efforts. It is estimated that he had 2.4 million online "friends", compared to John McCain's 623,000 in the 2008 presidential election. And, 3.1 million people donated over $600 million online towards his campaign in 2008. This is an unprecedented and historic online outreach and fundraising record that helped propelled him to be the first elected black president of the United States of America.

Today, a number of developing countries are at various stages in the deployment of ICT in monitoring their election. For example, countries such as Brazil and Chile have successfully deployed voting machines to aid in the electron process. These are countries where the majority of the people live on less than a dollar a day.

The deployment of the voting machine has resulted in fast voting and the counting of votes. It reduces disputes in results declaration since representatives of political parties can check the machine and be satisfied with its performance before the actual election. Also, the use of voting machines reduces the job of Returning Officers.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) recently launched the dot-ORG project in Rwanda. The primary goal of the project is to assist in transforming Rwanda's election management system. Among others, the project will a) modernize and purge the voter list database; b) establish a computer network that will link all the offices of the electoral commission and; c) assist in producing voter cards (for active and emerging voters). This project has the potential to strengthening Rwanda's electoral system and e-government initiative.

The first step in the successful deployment of ICT in elections in Africa is for African governments to strive to achieve e-government. E-Government brings the government closer 'to the people. When the people are closer to the government, it is easier for them to move to the next level by experimenting with e-election, a variant of e-government.

Today, Africa is a long way from achieving both. But, the technological preconditions needed for the effective transformation along this path exist in Africa. The widespread availability of the Internet in almost all African countries, the increasing number of cyber cafes, and the availability of personal computers at most work places make it techno- logically possible for the continent to move in the direction of electronic election.

The success of deploying ICT in elections in Africa will depend to a large extent on the e-readiness of citizens. This is the readiness of a nation's citizens to participate as proactive agents in the development of their countries.

Creative deployment of ICT in the election process will definitely help curb rigging and get more people involved in the electoral process.

Source: The Ghanaian Times

SADC calls for early Lesotho elections

Southern African leaders have resolved that Lesotho should hold elections to end the political stalemate in that country.

This was one of the resolutions announced by Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders, among them South Africa and Zimbabwe presidents, Jacob Zuma and Robert Mugabe respectively, following a marathon one day special regional summit in the South African capital, Pretoria.

South Africa's Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will oversee the implementation of the resolution.
Pretoria announced that Lesotho's coalition government was not "fully functional" and its term must be shortened.

The country is only due to have an election in 2017, but following an attempted coup in August and the failure of the Prime Minister Tom Thabane to re-open parliament this coming Friday, opposition leaders demanded action from SADC after Thabane backtracked on the promise.
Parliament was suspended in June.

The Prime Minister said the country was not ready to have parliament reopened and that some senior officials, including the Speaker, were in hiding fearing for their lives.

The SADC leaders resolved that Lesotho should now focus on "free, fair and incident free democratic elections for a fresh mandate".

South Africa's International Relations Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said SADC would send an observation mission, led by South Africa and including Zimbabwe, to Lesotho for three months to ensure peace and stability.

Nkoana-Mashabanealso said SADC would not be sending any soldiers to the Mountain Kingdom, as Lesotho is also known.

During late August, the Lesotho Defence Force took over the radio and TV stations, resulting in a total black out in broadcast and the army also took over several police stations including the police headquarters.

Thabang and several high-ranking officials fled to South Africa and were later escorted under heavy policy presence back to the capital, Maseru.

The man at the centre of the turmoil is the Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli who has reportedly taken control of the country's elite Special Forces Unit and the military's intelligence division.
Kamoli has refused a prime ministerial order to resign and has apparently raided government armouries in preparation for a showdown.

Meanwhile, the Lesotho police announced that they have launched a criminal investigation into the August 30 events, according to Maseru Police District Commissioner Mofokeng Kolo.

Source: Theafricareport.com

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Mozambique: Violent Incidents Mar Election Campaign

Maputo — After a week of peaceful campaigning ahead of the 15 October general elections, the first serious incidents of violence between rival Mozambican political parties were reported on Tuesday.

In Chonguene, in the southern province of Gaza, a group of youthful supporters of the ruling Frelimo Party attacked campaigners from the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM).

The independent television station STV showed footage of bloodied and bandaged MDM members who said they had suffered an unprovoked assault. MDM posters had been torn up and laid scattered on the ground.

MDM general secretary Luis Boavida protested that the police did not lift a finger to stop the assaults, and refused even to escort the victims to safety.

Contacted by AIM on Wednesday, the spokesperson for the National Elections Commission (CNE), Paulo Cuinica, said that Boavida had complained verbally to the CNE about the attack. The CNE had asked him to make a formal complaint in writing, so that it can take “the necessary measures”.

In Nhangau, an outlying neighbourhood of Beira, supporters of the former rebel movement Renamo, injured three Frelimo members and destroyed Frelimo propaganda on Tuesday.

According to the spokesperson for the Frelimo Beira City Committee, Manuel Severino, the injured Frelimo members had to receive medical treatment at Beira Central Hospital.

Renamo claimed it had been provoked and Frelimo had started the clash.

In the northern province of Nampula, the police have arrested about a dozen members of opposition parties for various offences. At a Tuesday press conference reported by the independent newsheet “Mediafax”, the provincial police commander, Abel Nuro, said that three Renamo members in Liupo district are accused of stealing two bicycles, two motorbikes, and 5,000 meticais (about 165 US dollars)

In Alua, in Erati district, an operation supporter and a local chief were arrested for attempting to block a Frelimo parade.

In Nacaroa, one MDM member and one Renamo member have been arrested for destroying Frelimo propaganda. Another group of three opposition supporters were intercepted in Namicopo, on the outskirts of Nampula city, ripping up Frelimo posters.

Nuro said that an unspecified number of Renamo supporters are under arrest for the 1 September assault against a 15 year old girl, Isabel Aguiar, and her mother, Beatriz Romao, in the district of Angoche. The girl was attacked apparently because the Renamo group thought she was about to hoist a Frelimo flag. Romao was beaten when she went to her daughter's rescue.

Asked whether any Frelimo supporters had been detained, Nuro merely said that Frelimo was the party that had presented most complaints to the police.

Source: Agência de Informação de Moçambique

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Mozambique: Over 5,000 observers expected to monitor elections

Mozambique’s National Elections Commission (CNE) said Monday it is expecting more than 5,000 local and foreign observers to register for forthcoming elections set for next month.

The CNE said among those who have expressed interest in sending observer missions are the Southern African Development Community and the United States-based Carter Centre.

European Union embassies and other diplomatic missions accredited to Maputo would also undertake the observation on behalf of their countries.

Mozambique will hold its fifth presidential, parliamentary and provincial assembly elections on October 15.

Source: APA