Friday, January 30, 2015

Africa: AU prioritises elections at summit

While the official theme of the African Union meeting will be women's empowerment, leaders from the 54-member bloc will once again be beset by a string of crises across the continent when they meet at the AU headquarters in the Ethiopian capital on Friday and Saturday.

AU chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who has said she is "deeply horrified" at the rise of Boko Haram, has said she will use the summit to drum up "renewed collective African efforts" to tackle the Islamists.

Boko Haram are "not just a threat to some countries, it is a threat to the whole continent," Dlamini-Zuma said this week, with pressure mounting to set up a regional five-nation force of some 3,000 troops, currently stalled amid arguments between Nigeria and its neighbours.

More than 13,000 people have been killed and more than one million made homeless by Boko Haram violence since 2009.

With over a dozen elections due to take place this year across Africa, the focus will also be on how to ensure peaceful polls. The Institute for Security Studies, an African think-tank, warns that "many of these are being held in a context that increases the risk of political violence."

Wars in South Sudan and the Central African Republic -- both nations scheduled to hold elections -- as well as in Libya are also due to draw debate.

South Sudan's warring parties are due to meet on the sidelines of the summit, in the latest push for a lasting peace deal, with six previous ceasefire commitments never holding for more than a few days -- and sometime just hours -- on the ground.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in more than a year of civil war, with peace talks led by the regional East African bloc IGAD due to restart on Friday.

Aid groups and the UN have both called for the release of an AU-led commission of inquiry into the bloodshed in South Sudan, the world's youngest nation.

African leaders are expected to elect Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe to the organisation's one-year rotating chair, replacing Mauritania's President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

Also topping the agenda is the question of financing regional forces, amid broader debates on funding the AU, a thorny issue for the bloc, once heavily bankrolled by toppled Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi.

Leaders will vote on a report by ex-Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo on "alternative funding sources" for the grouping, although some suggestions -- including taxes on airline tickets and hotel stays -- are believed not to be widely supported.

African leaders will also discuss the economic recovery of countries affected by the Ebola virus, setting up a "solidarity fund" and planning a proposed African Centre for Disease Control.

AU Commissioner for Social Affairs Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, speaking Wednesday, promised it would be operational by mid-2015.

The worst outbreak of the virus in history has seen nearly 9,000 deaths in a year -- almost all in the three west African countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone -- and sparked a major health scare worldwide.

Oxfam has called for a "massive post-Ebola Marshall Plan" for affected west African nations, referring to the United States aid package to rebuild Europe after World War II.

The question of membership to the International Criminal Court is also set to be debated.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who last month celebrated the dropping of crimes against humanity charges against him at The Hague-based ICC, will again be lobbying other leaders to push for an alternative African court that will rival what he has branded the anti-African ICC.

As leaders prepare to meet, observers say the real deals are struck on the sidelines of the talks, with past summits full of unfulfilled promises.

"The AU makes very lengthy statements and declarations with no effective follow-up or implementation. This frustrates many people," said Solomon Dersso of the Institute for Security Studies.

-Times Live

Nigeria: US urges electoral body not to fail

The United States government yesterday warned the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) not to fail Nigerians and the international community in its conduct of the February, 2015 general elections in the country.

Making this warning during a public hearing of the United States Congress’ Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations which was held inside the Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC , Honorable Robert P. Jackson, principal deputy assistant secretary, Bureau of African Affairs, U.S. Department of State, added that his country was working closely with INEC on processes to ensure as many eligible voters as possible are free to exercise their civic duty safely.

His words: “As part of our broad support to Nigeria’s election, we are working closely with Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on processes to ensure as many eligible voters as possible are free to exercise their civic duty safely.”

The US official pressed further that his country was doing everything it could to support the efforts of INEC and the commission’s chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, as they distribute voter registration cards (PVCs) and electronic card readers , develop a communications plan and prepare plans for dispute resolution and violence mitigation.

To increase the transparency of the electoral process and its ability to assess its credibility, Hon. Jackson noted that the U.S. government is funding and fielding complementary election observation missions across Nigeria, stressing that Nigeria’s success during and after the elections is important to his country, to Africa and to the world.

He pressed further that a peaceful and stable Nigeria was crucially important to the future of Africa, adding that the government of his country could not stay on the sidelines if it stumbles. He also noted that now more than ever, the United States is committed to its strong bilateral relationship with Nigeria just as it is engaged with Nigeria and its neighbours in the fight against Boko Haram.

Jackson, while speaking on insecurity, noted that the United States stands ready to work with Nigeria and its people, adding that helping Nigeria combat insecurity in the North East and address its root causes, including expanding economic opportunity to all Nigerians are enduring challenges that will remain on the US agenda.

-Leadership (NG)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

S. Sudan: Should South Sudan really hold an election this year?

South Sudan's government has announced that it will hold elections in June, but a hasty vote could cause more instability in this fragile nation already mired in a year-old civil war.

The young country's conflict began in December 2013 after a massacre of civilians in the capital, Juba, by government troops. The killings were precipitated by a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar, the current rebel leader. Revenge killings subsequently spread across the country, often along ethnic lines, plunging the country into a war that shows no signs of stopping.

Tens of thousands have died, and 2 million have been displaced, according to the United Nations. Fighting continues in the oil-rich northeast, and violence is flaring in the central and northwest regions, as well as near Juba.

Recommended: Think you know Africa? Take our geography quiz.

Though atrocities against civilians from both sides have been the hallmark of this unpopular war, Mr. Kiir and Mr. Machar have appealed to ideals of democracy as power plays to curry domestic and international support.

At the heart of their war of words is the rebels' claim that Kiir is a dictator whose troops’ deadly record renders him illegitimate. But Kiir refuses to step down, pointing to his constitutional mandate to serve until this summer. He further notes that the rebels have committed plenty of massacres themselves, accusing Machar of aiming to take power by force.

As that deadline approaches, Kiir insists that there must be an election to keep with a constitution he is accused of selectively following.

But many say that peace should be properly established before any elections are held to ensure results are accepted by all parties.The question now is whether a deal can be reached to avert a constitutional crisis and further chaos.


Kiir's presidential term expires on July 9, 2015, four years after South Sudan gained independence from Sudan. After that, he will no longer be the legitimate president unless he is democratically re-elected.

The word “legitimate” has become somewhat of an obsession for Kiir’s administration as a way to differentiate themselves from the rebels. Banners periodically hang in Juba declaring Kiir as the only legitimate president of South Sudan.

But Machar controls large parts of the nation’s northeast, lawlessness is spreading, and many are frustrated with lack of development by the current government.

If Kiir holds on to power unconstitutionally, there may be further rebellion, analysts say.

"The government cannot stay and allow its legitimacy to run out in July," presidential spokesperson Ateny Wek Ateny told the Monitor. "We have to have an election that is constitutionally required, and we have to maintain legitimacy."

But the election call is not popular. Opposition parties, activists, and Machar's rebels are all against a vote.

The US, in rare public criticism against Kiir's government, said earlier this month that it will also not support the proposed vote.


The main concern is that credible elections cannot take place during a civil war.

"Over one-third of the population won't be in a position to participate in these elections due to insecurity and widespread displacement," writes South Sudanese analyst Augustino Ting Mayai in a recent report recommending postponing voting for at least three years.

The election may not be constitutional, either. There has been no voter census, political parties aren't registered, and prescribed deadlines have passed.

Mr. Ateny, the president's spokesman, said the Constitution doesn't require peace and they'll use a seven-year-old census with adjustments to account for those who have been killed in the war.

All parties can hold national conventions and register before July, he added.

But there are financial hurdles too. The government says an election would cost $517 million at a time when civil servants are going unpaid due to the war and a drop in global oil prices. Oil profits account for more than 90 percent of government revenue, but production has also been cut by a third due to damaged pumping facilities from the fighting.

Last year the international community spent over a billion dollars to avert a famine caused by fighting, while the government spent the bulk of its budget on war. More than $30 million alone was spent on weapons last year.

"A big, big number is suffering from food shortages," opposition leader Lam Akol told the Monitor in Juba. "I think it is cynical for us to spend almost $520 million for an election."


Ironically, elections may end up undermining rather than bolstering Kiir's claim to the presidency.

No one has declared candidacy against Kiir. Since Machar is boycotting it, the election would take place only in government-held areas dominated by Kiir's party.

"The political meaning of the 2015 elections would be illegitimacy," writes Mr. Mayai, the analyst.

Edmund Yakani, a prominent activist, says that an unrecognized election could lead to more defections and fighting.

But this may not bother Kiir if he can present himself with the semblance of legitimacy. "The elections will continue," Ateny says in an interview. "The government will live up to its constitutional obligations."


Already, 18 opposition parties have sued to cancel the vote. If the supreme court follows suit, Kiir could back down and save face. But that doesn't answer the question of who will be in charge come July 9.

The parliament could amend the Constitution to extend Kiir's tenure. This won't be easy. A large caucus from the Equatorian region in the south has been at odds with the president and may not agree.

Most observers told the Monitor the real solution is for Kiir and Machar to make peace and form a unity government.

"Peace first, and then you have election," said Mr. Akol, the opposition leader.

But even with five months until the proposed polls, few are optimistic.

Kiir and Machar have agreed to stop fighting many times in the last year but each time broke their promise within hours. They signed an agreement in Tanzania last week to unify their political parties, but fighting continued as usual and the two men have since increased their vitriol.

Now they are both shuttling between separate negotiations in Sudan, Ethiopia, and Tanzania, apparently stalling.

-Christian Science Monitor

Nigeria: Presidential debate slated for Feb 8

The Nigeria Elections Debate Group(NEDG) has announced that the presidential debate for the February 14 presidential election will hold on February 8 just as the vice presidential debate will hold on February 1.

Announcing the debate yesterday in Abuja in a press conference ,chairman of the NEDG ,Sola Omole said 13 out of the 14 candidates for the presidential and vice presidential debates have confirmed their participation in the debates

The Nigerian Election Debate Group (NEDG), organizers of the Presidential Debate Series, is an amalgamation of the Nigeria’s Mass Media, Print and Electronic, the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN, The Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), The Nigeria Bar Association, National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, market women and other civil society groups.

Omole noted that debates are a major component of any democracy as the candidates will have the opportunity of interacting with the Nigerian electorate and based on that Nigerians will make informed decisions going into the polls

He also stressed that the debates will be strictly on issues and appealed to all the candidates that their language must be decent and not derogatory, no hate and inciting comments will be tolerated adding that NEDG believes all political interactions and activities should be at a respectable level.

Nigeria: Feb. 14 elections to be the most competitive ever

A survey by a pan-African non-partisan research network, Afrobarometre, has revealed that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the All Progressives Congress, APC, are likely going to get 42 per cent each of all votes cast in next month’s presidential election describing the election as the closest on record.
Despite the closeness of the poll, the research, conducted in conjunction with CLEEN Foundation, however revealed that most Nigerians are “dissatisfied with current economic conditions” and not impressed with the country’s democracy,” suggesting that those who said they would vote for president Goodluck Jonathan are doing would do so for reasons other than performance.
When asked which party they expect to win 40 per cent said the PDP while 38 per cent gave it to the APC but Afrobarometre said the difference lies between the polls margin of error.
The survey also found that the youngest (18-25) and oldest (56-65) groups of voters favoured the PDP over the APC. Forty-two per cent of the 18-25 year-old said they would vote for the PDP as opposed to 35 per cent favouring the APC while 38 per cent of the 56-65 year-old favour the ruling party as opposed to 33 per cent for the APC. However those in the age bracket of 36-45 who favour the APC.
The survey also showed that PDP is strongest in the South South (65 per cent, APC 20 per cent), South East (61 per cent, APC 4 per cent) and North Central (45 per cent, APC 35 per cent). The APC is strongest in North West (59 per cent, PDP 20 per cent), South West (46 per cent, PDP 19 per cent), and North East (44 per cent and PDP 43 per cent).
According to the research, three quarters of the population (74 per cent) say the country is headed in the wrong direction economically; a four per cent increase from two year ago while 70 per cent expressed a pessimistic projection about the economy.
A large percentage of respondents (78 per cent) expressed lack of faith in government’s job creation efforts, 78 per cent again said has failed in the fight against corruption and 68 per cent said they were not impressed in its drive to improve electricity. Also 51 per cent said the government has not done enough in checkmating violent extremists in the country. However, the government go a commendable rating for its ability to stop the spread of Ebola. Ninety-four per cent said the government did well.
While public appraisal of the government’s ability to handle key national challenges is woeful, the populace seems to be gravitating towards the opposition as a more viable alternative. Public trust in the opposition rose from 24 per cent two years ago to 31 per cent. Thirty-eight per cent of those interviewed disagrees that the opposition presents a viable alternative while 31 per cent say they are not sure.
However, despite the overwhelming despondency about the economy and the governance, the Afrobarometre survey revealed that Nigerians have strong faith in the democratic process and their choice to vote for whom they choose to. A whooping 80 per cent of the respondent say they are free vote for who they choose while 77 per cent said elections is the best system for choosing leaders. Ironically, 68 per cent said they lack confidence in election as a means to “enable voters to remove from office leaders who do not do what the people want”
Fifty per cent however expressed concern about increasing intimidation in the current electoral process. This represents an alarming 34 per cent increase from just two years ago. This result is in tandem with several prognoses that the forth-coming election would be marred by outbreak of violent attacks in several parts of the country.
The survey also suggested that the turnout for the election would be impressive with 78 per cent of those interviewed said they would vote.
Surprisingly against the common narration that both leading parties are almost identical in ideology, a whooping 68 per cent say, “There are important differences between the ruling and opposition parties.”
Twenty-one per cent say the major differences are in the integrity or honesty of party leaders; 17 per cent say the differences are in economic and development policies while 14 per cent say the main difference are in the religious, ethnic, or regional identities of party leaders or members.

-Premium Times (NG)


Muslim persecution of Christians is at a high tide — and there are grave fears of more sectarian bloodletting as millions of people in Nigeria, which is half Muslim and half Christian, vote for their national leaders next month.

These religious atrocities cry out for media attention and political awareness, said Raymond Ibrahim, author of the monthly report “Muslim Persecution of Christians,” which has chronicled attacks on Christians in dozens of countries since July 2011.

Mainstream media rarely cover attacks on Christians, even though they happen “all around the Islamic world,” Mr. Ibrahim said Tuesday.

Muslim-on-Muslim attacks can get broad attention — such as the April kidnappings of some 230 Nigerian schoolgirls by the terrorist group Boko Haram. The mass abductions so alarmed the world that first lady Michelle Obama brought attention to the social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls.

But from August to October, Boko Haram and its radical Islamist allies destroyed nearly 200 Christian churches as they rampaged through towns and villages in northeastern Nigeria, said Mr. Ibrahim, a fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

His monthly report is published by Gatestone Institute, an international think tank led by John R. Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

In just four years, he said, Boko Haram has destroyed around 1,000 churches.

The “sheer volume” of the attacks on Christians in Nigeria “makes it one of the worst” places for them, Mr. Ibrahim said.

The peril in Nigeria was driven home Tuesday during a House hearing.

Nigerians are scheduled to vote Feb. 14 from a slate of several presidential candidates, including Christian incumbent Goodluck Jonathan and Muslim challenger Mohammadu Buhari, to lead the nation’s 173 million people. An election for local leadership will be held Feb. 28.

In 2011, Mr. Jonathan’s victory over Mr. Buhari triggered terrible sectarian violence in the Muslim north. More than 700 churches were burned, hundreds of Christians were targeted and killed, and thousands of Christian businesses and homes were torched.

That violence occurred at a time when Boko Haram was waging its “campaign of terror,” human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe said in his testimony Tuesday to the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, global health, global human rights and international organizations.

“Boko Haram has never seen a live Christian male it liked,” Mr. Ogebe said. Depending on the election outcome, Feb. 14 could turn into “a Valentine’s Day massacre for the poor Christians in northern Nigeria.”

“The fear of political explosion is real,” lawyer Jadegoke Badejo said at the hearing.

Just this year, as many as 2,000 people have been killed by Boko Haram in its attack on the town of Baga and nearby villages, said Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican and subcommittee chairman. “Clearly, Boko Haram violence is escalating drastically,” he said.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry traveled to Lagos last week to meet with Mr. Jonathan and Mr. Buhari. Mr. Kerry later told reporters that he was assured by both men that they would urge their followers to refrain from postelection violence and to accept the results of the election.

Mr. Kerry also said the elections should take place on time and that the United States would do more to support the fight against Boko Haram if the elections are democratic and peaceful.

“A peaceful and smooth transition is equally essential, so that whoever is elected can quickly turn his focus to confronting and defeating Boko Haram,” Ambassador Robert P. Jackson, acting assistant secretary of state for African affairs, told the House hearing.

“We are appalled by the accelerated pace and brutality of Boko Haram’s attacks. This unchecked killing must stop,” Mr. Jackson said.

Attacks follow a pattern

In terms of persecution of Christians, Mr. Ibrahim is not alone in sounding the alarm: The Center for the Study of Global Christianity, which is part of the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, has estimated that 1 million Christians were killed from 2000 to 2010 for their faith, an average of 100,000 martyrs a year.

This month, the Open Doors World Watch List, which surveys religious liberty conditions for Christians, said persecution of Christians had reached “historic levels.” North Korea was rated the most oppressive country for Christians, but “Africa saw the most rapid growth of persecution,” according to the group.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Council on American-Islamic Relations warn against “Islamophobia,” and Mr. Kerry has cautioned against conflating ultraradical groups such as the Islamic State and Boko Haram with all Muslims.

These militants are “a collection of monsters,” Mr. Kerry told a Jan. 23 World Economic Forum, according to Reuters.

He urged the civilized world to “make clear” that it “will not cower in the face of this violence,” but said “the biggest error that we could make would be to blame Muslims collectively for crimes not committed by Muslims alone.”

Mr. Ibrahim, who is the son of Coptic Christians, said his research makes it clear that Muslim attacks on Christians are not isolated incidents stemming from conflicts over geography or some local grievance, but are “attacks on Christianity itself.” For instance, a primary target for Muslim violence is a Christian church, which may be firebombed or destroyed while people are congregating inside for worship services, Mr. Ibrahim said.

Christians also are punished or killed for perceived acts of blasphemy, evangelizing and even converting from Islam, he said.

Another kind of Muslim persecution is to treat the Christians in primarily Islamic lands as “third-class” citizens, denying them permission to repair or build their churches or hold Bibles in public, and requiring them to live under special rules such as paying a tribute to the Muslim government.

The countries where these abuses happen are all different in many ways, but the “common denominator” is that these are all countries with large Muslim populations, said Mr. Ibrahim, who detailed these issues in his 2013 book, “Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians.”

In an interview with The Washington Times on Tuesday, Mr. Ibrahim said he once thought he wouldn’t be able to continue the “Muslim Persecution of Christians” report because “surely, a month will come” when there would be “only one or two stories” to write about.”

“But lo and behold, every month that’s gone by” has produced even more atrocities, making the report much longer, he said.

 -Washington Times

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Nigeria: Why the gubernatorial elections need attention

Nigeria’s presidential election, scheduled for Feb. 14, offers a dramatic rematch between incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan and former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The presidency of Africa’s most populous country, which also has the continent’s biggest economy, is one of the most powerful offices in the Global South.

Yet Nigeria’s 36 governors also have considerable sway. They allocate federally disbursed revenue and shape policy on development and security in their states. Many of them are national and even international figures.

Gubernatorial elections on Feb. 28 will produce a new slate of officeholders in some of the most populous and economic important states. Governors, like the president, are limited to two four-year terms. Nigeria’s Fourth Republic began in 1999, meaning many states have seen just two governors under the current system. The second cohort’s tenures end this year. As I detail in a report for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), “Background to Nigeria’s 2015 Elections,” even if Jonathan wins, state-level politics will see consequential changes in personalities and, in some cases, policies.

With the campaign in full swing, one hears three diverging arguments about the parties. A pro-Jonathan argument casts the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as a force for positive transformation, particularly in terms of Nigeria’s economic performance and infrastructural development. Pro-opposition narratives depict Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) as a progressive alternative to PDP rule, a way out of austerity, endemic corruption and insecurity. The third perspective presents the race as a struggle between “godfathers” – behind-the-scenes power brokers – with little difference between the parties. Campaigns for state offices test and sometimes upend these narratives: one off-cycle race last summer saw voters rejecting a reformist APC governor in favor of a PDP populist.

Among the open gubernatorial races, three states to watch are Lagos, Kano and Rivers. All have huge populations and economic might. Lagos’s government estimates that the state has 21 million inhabitants – a credible claim, and one that would make Lagos (the state capital) Africa’s most populous city. Not only does Lagos state have more people than many African countries, its gross domestic product (estimated at $91 billion by the current administration) dwarfs even Kenya’s ($55 billion). Kano, the second most populous state with over 10 million residents, is the commercial center of northern Nigeria. Rivers is a key state in the oil-producing Niger Delta. The capital of Rivers is Port Harcourt, a major industrial city.

Twenty-nine of Nigeria’s thirty-six states will hold gubernatorial elections on February 28. Particularly important governor races will be held in Lagos, Rivers, and Kano states. (Kim Yi Dionne/The Monkey Cage)
All three states currently have APC governors. Lagos is an APC stronghold: Although Buhari hails from the north and is expected to win the far northern states as in 2011, much of the APC’s strength as a coalition comes from the southwest. The APC and one of its constituent parties, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), have ruled Lagos since 1999. A key APC leader is former Lagos Governor Bola Tinubu, whose former Attorney General Yemi Osinbajo is Buhari’s running mate. Tinubu and current Gov. Babatunde Fashola have received international acclaim for their governance model, which emphasizes tax collection and service delivery in contrast to the model of distributing oil rents, the preferred policy at the national level and in most other states.

Governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) Akinwunmi Ambode, left, and incumbent Lagos Gov. Babatunde Fashola, hold hands at the flag-off of Ambode’s governorship campaign in Lagos on Jan. 14. (Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters)
With Fashola term-limited, Lagos’s next governor will most likely be APC candidate Akinwunmi Ambode – another veteran of Tinubu’s administration. In 2011, the ACN won 81 percent of the vote. If the APC loses Lagos’s governorship this year, it will be a sign either that things went terribly wrong for the APC’s campaign or that massive fraud occurred. In either case, it would bode poorly for the APC’s continued existence as a viable national party. An Ambode victory, on the other hand, would likely represent continuity in policy. Finally, it will be important to see whether the APC can deliver Lagos for Buhari – a strong showing in the southwest and the “Middle Belt” could give the APC the presidency.

In Kano, state politics are more competitive. Since 1999, two men have battled for control: outgoing Gov. Rabiu Kwankwaso, who served 1999-2003 and won a comeback in 2011; and former governor Ibrahim Shekarau, who defeated Kwankwaso in 2003 on a pledge to strengthen Islamic law in the state, and subsequently (but narrowly) won a second term. Kwankwaso won as the PDP candidate, but defected to the APC in 2013, along with three other northern governors who fell out with the president. Shekarau, in response, left the APC to become Jonathan’s minister of education. Both Kwankwaso and Shekarau are term-limited, but the 2015 election will be a proxy fight: current Deputy Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje will face Shekarau’s candidate, Salihu Takai.

Kano’s election could be close: when Kwankwaso battled Takai in 2011, he won with only 49 percent of the vote. Whoever wins will face a daunting, multifaceted task: protecting the state from attacks by Boko Haram and leading a revival of the northern economy, particularly by creating jobs for youth. Additionally, Kano is a laboratory for the experiment in Islamic law: Shekarau used it to censor films and separate genders on public transportation, Kwankwaso used it to promote mass marriages of widows and divorcees, and both have used it to limit alcohol and prostitution. The winner may also have to calm an angry city: When Jonathan won reelection in 2011 and northern cities rose up in protest, Kano saw some of the most violent riots.

Rivers was the site of another defection from the PDP. Outgoing Gov. Rotimi Amaechi joined Kwankwaso in leaving the PDP in 2013. Amaechi and Jonathan fell out partly due to bad blood between Amaechi and first lady Patience, who hails from Rivers. Amaechi’s exit caused tension and violence in Rivers, including intimidation by the national police against Amaechi. The 2015 election will pit the PDP’s Nyesom Wike, Amaechi’s former chief of staff, against Rep. Dakuku Peterside, a current Amaechi ally. Amaechi won with 86 percent in 2011, but his popularity may not transfer to Peterside without the PDP behind them. The Niger Delta is Jonathan’s home territory; it provided some of his largest margins of victory in 2011. As the APC battles to hold Rivers and Jonathan seeks to repeat his blowout victories in the region, Rivers could see more bloodshed.

Other states are also important. There is an open race in Plateau, site of recurring Muslim-Christian violence. High-profile candidates are running in Kaduna (former cabinet minister Nasir el-Rufai, on the APC ticket) and Adamawa (former anti-corruption chief Nuhu Ribadu, on the PDP ticket). Both states have experienced political disruptions: in Kaduna, the death of a sitting governor in 2012; in Adamawa, the governor’s impeachment last July, after he ran afoul of Jonathan. As in the past, Kaduna could see violence this cycle, while the governor’s race in Adamawa (site of ongoing Boko Haram attacks) will help shape politics in the northeast for the next four years.

Nigeria’s term-limited governors will not retire into obscurity. For example, Kwankwaso is running for the Senate. Many former governors remain active as businessmen, politicians and “godfathers.” But 2015 will transfer many governors’ seats to new occupants. Regardless of whether Jonathan or Buhari wins, Nigeria’s deck of politicians will be reshuffled, and the new governors will play a strong role in shaping the country’s trajectory through 2019.

-The Washington Post

Nigeria: Major survey says Feb 14 polls 'too close to call'

Nigeria's upcoming elections are likely to be the most competitive in the country's history, with the parties running neck-and-neck and the outcome "too close to call", according to a major survey of public opinion published in Lagos on Tuesday.

The survey, carried out by Afrobarometer, the leading continent-wide researcher of African public opinion, portrays Nigerians as people who are deeply unhappy with the country's trajectory, who believe the government is performing badly, and who also distrust the electoral process.

But it nevertheless shows that they still believe elections are the best way of choosing leaders and that the vast majority say they will probably turn out to vote on February 14. While many are still scared of political intimidation and violence at the polls, those numbers are lower than they were two years ago.

At the time the survey was carried out in December, it showed that President Goodluck Jonathan's approval rating had dropped from 49 percent in 2012 to 40 percent last December.

Asked about their voting intentions, 42 percent of respondents chose the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP), and 42 percent the principal challenger, the All Progressives Congress (APC).

When asked not who they would vote for, but who they expected to win, 40 percent said the PDP and 38 percent the APC. These figures are within the survey's margin of sampling error of plus or minus two percent.

The authors of the survey report released today note that "the campaign environment is fluid and highly competitive," and conclude that "the race remains too close to call."

They add: "Support for the opposition is at the highest level recorded in any Afrobarometer survey, and at the least, the challengers are set to make their strongest showing since the restoration of multiparty elections in 1990."

In its major findings, the survey report records that three in every four Nigerians say the country is going in the wrong direction, four percentage points up from 2012.

Big majorities - between seven and eight of every 10 Nigerians - say the government has done badly in creating jobs, fighting corruption, managing the economy and providing a reliable supply of electricity. Sixty-seven percent say the economy is in bad shape, up from 57 percent in 2012. Just over half (51 percent) say the government has not been responsive in dealing with armed extremists.

But the vast majority of those surveyed - 77 percent - still believe in elections and 88 percent believe they are free to choose whom to vote for without feeling pressured. While fear of political intimidation or violence still runs at 50 percent, it is down from 65 percent in 2012.

Still, Nigerians are sceptical as to whether their votes will remove from office leaders who don't do what people want. Only 10 percent are confident this will happen, while 68 percent say elections do "not at all well" or "not very well" in removing unopoplar leaders.

Just under two-thirds do not know if the Independent National Electoral Commission is ready to hold credible free and fair elections; 18 percent say they are ready, and another 18 percent say they are not. Only seven percent have "a lot" of trust in the commission.

Across the country, between 73 and 85 of people in all regions will probably" or "almost certainly" vote. And across age groups, percentages ranging from 74 to 87 percent say the same thing. This is despite low levels of trust in political parties generally: 29 percent trust the PDP (the same as in 2012) while 31 percent trust in opposition parties (up from 24 percent in 2012).

Regional political divisions are clearly shown when voting intentions are broken down by party:

South South: 65 percent will vote for the PDP; 20 percent for the APC
South East: 61 percent PDP; four percent APC
North Central: 45 percent PDP; 35 percent APC
North West: 59 percent APC; 20 percent PDP
South West: 46 percent APC; 19 percent PDP
North East: 44 percent APC; 43 percent PDP

The Afrobarometer survey was carried out by Practical Sampling International, working with the Lagos-based CLEEN Foundation (formerly the Centre for Law Enforcement Education). The report was written by Nengak Daniel, programme manager for the CLEEN Foundation, Raphael Mbaegbu, programme officer for the foundation, and Peter Lewis, director of the African studies programme of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC.

-All Africa

Sudan: Electoral body okays 15 presidential candidates for April polls

Sudan’s National Elections Commission (NEC) announced on Tuesday that 15 candidates will run for presidency in the elections scheduled in April, including incumbent Omer Hassan al-Bashir.

The NEC published the lists of candidates for all electoral levels and will begin accepting any challenges from the general public to any of the names.

Led by al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, the National Umma Party (NUP) and the winner of the parliamentary majority in the 1986 elections is boycotting the elections and wants it postponed until the formation of a transitional government that oversees the amendment of the constitution and other laws before holding elections.

The Popular Congress Party (PCP) of Hassan al-Turabi and a section of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani are also shunning the elections.

The NEC Chairman Mokhtar al-Asam denied speculations about the postponement of the parliamentary elections, stressing that the NEC is the only body that can make such a decision.

Al-Asam however said that there are nine constituencies where elections could be delayed because of the security situation.

He told reporters at a news conference in Khartoum on Tuesday that six of the presidential candidates are running on their party ticket while all the others are running as independents.

Three prospective nominees were excluded but they still have the right to appeal, al-Asam added.

He also said that six parliamentary candidates from three states (West Kordofan, South Kordofan, East Darfur and North Kordofan) have already won their seats by acclamation. All of them belong to the ruling National Congress Party (NCP).

Al-Asam disclosed that they were denied funding from foreign institutions such as the Carter Center and the United Nations because they rejected their conditions that encroach on the country’s pride.

Among these conditions was a request to tour the country and meet with opposition parties to ensure that they are willing to participate in the elections.

“This is unacceptable because elections is a constitutional entitlement .. we turned it down because they want to dictate orders and evaluate the environment and place their footprints and this affects the dignity of Sudan,” he said.

Al-Asam also revealed that eight international groups want to monitor the elections and 176 local ones.

(Sudan Tribune)

Nigeria: CSO coalition condemns peace pact signed by presidential aspirants

Coalition of civil society groups under the umbrella of Say No Campaign Nigeria, SNCN, yesterday, took a swipe at the peace accord signed on Wednesday, January 14, in Abuja, by the 14 presidential candidates in the February 14 presidential election.

The rights group argued that the peace bond tagged Abuja Declaration Accord, and signed by the presidential candidates was unnecessary, as it does not supersede the constitution and laws of the country, such as the Electoral Offences Act, which stipulates punitive measures for breach of peace in elections.

Speaking at a rally to advocate for a violent-free 2015 election, in Ikeja, Lagos, Convener of SNCN, Mr. Ezenwa Nwagwu, said: “A ceremony of signing peace accord in Abuja can never take over the existing laws of this country. Our laws are very clear on hate speeches. We have laws called Electoral Offences. So, a ceremony where people sign a peace pact can not make the law work.

“Anybody who breaches the law should be made to face the wrath of the law. I don’t think an accord can settle that. An accord can not settle the fact that someone’s house was burnt. When someone’s house is burnt, that is arson according to our law and it has its own punitive measures. If someone is beaten mercilessly, that is battery and assault, and our laws have punitive measures for this crime. For the fact that an accord has been signed does not mean people should go about misbehaving.

Similarly, Comrade Ibuchukwu Ezike, Executive Director, Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO and Coordinator, Say No Campaign Nigeria, Lagos axis who stated that violence-ridden elections have led to civil war in several countries said: “We are sending this important message to the Nigerian people to educate them that electoral violence has all over the world, led to the killing of people and the burning of their properties, which eventually led to civil war. We don’t want such scenario to happen in this country. ”


Nigeria: Electoral body distributes 43m PVCs

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday declared that 42,779,339 Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) have been distributed so far out of the 68million cards billed to be distributed to eligible voters.

It said that while 26million PVCs are yet to be collected, the percentage of collected PVCs is now 62.15 per cent.

Also, the commission declared that 145,000 smart cards have been distributed so far.

The commission had on January 7 disclosed that 38million cards had been distributed, remaining a total of 15million.

It further disclosed that the number of polling units is 119, 973.

According to the commission, Abia State has distributed 1,020,997 (73%); Adamawa: 1,239,820 (79%); Akwa Ibom: 1,328,714 (79.05%); Anambra: 1,222, 002 (62.25%); Bauchi: 1,745,441 (84.97%); Bayelsa: 386,125 (63.26%); Benue: 1,132,187 (56.18%); Borno: 999, 470 (56.18%).

Cross River distributed 776,977 (66.09%); Delta: 1,422,595 (62.52%); Ebonyi: 714,351 (66.50%); Edo: 1,046,960 (58.63%); Ekiti: 492, 869 (67.33%); Enugu: 738,933 (51.70%); FCT: 459,913 (52.18%); Gombe: 873,698 (78.0%); Imo: 682,046 (37.24%).

Others are Jigawa: 1,460,620 (79.76%); Kaduna: 2,976,628 (87.36%); Kano: 2, 612,400 (52.50%); Katsina: 2,245,303 (79.40%); Kebbi: 1,232,357 (83.8%); Kogi: 773,197 (57.24%); Kwara 711,920 (62.33%).

Lagos distributed 2,267,039 (38.39%); Nasarawa: 850,619 (66.45%); Niger: 1,250,379 (62.07%); Ogun: 666,752 (36.4%); Ondo: 824,715 (54.09%) Osun: 995,562 (70.75%); Oyo: 1,156,593 (47.88%); Plateau: 1,141,260 (57.01%); Rivers: 1,253,606 (49.40%); Sokoto: 1,211,717 (75.17%); Taraba: 1,079,383 (80.51%); Yobe: 740,336 (67.31%); and Zamfara: 1,045,855 (69.92%).

Meanwhile, INEC and the National Union Of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on election logistics.

Chairman of INEC, Prof Attahiru Jega, who underscored the importance of the MoU said it would go a long way in improving the work of INEC.

He said “the objective of the MoU is to ensure that election materials and electoral officers get to the polling units on time and also to ensure that they get to collation centres at the appropriate time.

“I believe that this will also help us to solve most of the challenges associated with electoral processes,’’ Jega said.

He, however, urged the union to do everything possible to ensure the implementation of the provision expected of them.

He said that the commission would look forward to working with the union in future in the conduct of credible elections in the country.

The national chairman of NURTW, Dr Najeem Yasin said the union would not disappoint INEC on the implementation of the signed MoU from the national chapter to the states and local government chapters.

Yasin said that the union would not hesitate to sanction any of its members or state chapters that defaults in the implementation of the MoU.

“Any state chairman that plays with this exercise would stand at loosing it seat as the chairman of NURTW of that state. We should not undermine our integrity,” he said.

-Leadership (NG)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Nigeria: No poll observers for North-East - EU

AHEAD of next month’s presidential and general elections, the European Union, EU, yesterday, declared that its observers would not monitor elections in North East states of the country, citing insurgency in the zone as reason.
The EU made the declaration when its observers visited the headquarters of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress, APC, General Muhammadu Buhari
Speaking, yesterday, at the national secretariat of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP,  Chief Observer of the European Union Election Observer Mission in Nigeria, Ambassador Santiago Fisas, said: “For security reasons, unfortunately, we can’t deploy into North East region.”
Fisas, who led members of the mission to the secretariat and were received by the PDP National Secretary, Professor Wale Oladipo, stressed that though the mission had been in the country since November last year to monitor the primaries of the political parties, it would not observe the general and presidential elections in the North East states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Yobe, Taraba and Gombe.
He disclosed that over 90 EU observers were deployed to monitor the election in all the states of the federation but noted that the mission would not cover the North-East zone due to activities of insurgents.
“We have been here since mid-November for observations. We followed the primaries, election propaganda, media and possible claims after the election,” he said.
Fisas expressed support for the Abuja Peace Accord, adding that the EU had no favoured candidate or political party.
“We apply international rules for the election; that means we must be neutral, we don’t interfere at all as a mission. I will give you an example: it is like a football match, we are not the referee, we are just spectators,” he said.
Responding, PDP National Secretary, Professor Oladipo, assured that the PDP would not go back on the peace accord, in spite of recent attacks on its campaign train by suspected supporters of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
He said: “On the Abuja Accord PDP stand. Only yesterday there was a meeting of National Peace Committee that was set up by eminent Nigerians and the party attended the meeting and we resolved that the Abuja Accord is good for this country, it is good for our future, it’s good for our economy, good for our image and good for our well-being.”
At a meeting with the presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress, APC, General Muhammadu Buhari, in Abuja, also yesterday, Fisas reiterated that the mission would deploy 90 observers to monitor the election across the country.

-The Vanguard(NG)

Nigeria: Electoral body disqualifies 7 gov candidates

THE Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has declared the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP candidate for Ado/Opoku/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency in Benue State, Christian Adabah Abah, as winner of the February 14, 2015 general elections.

INEC also disqualified seven governorship candidates from various parties from participating in the February 28 governorship election for failing to nominate their running mates.

Explaining reasons for declaring Abah winner for the election that was yet to hold, INEC said it was because he (Abah) is the sole candidate seeking election into the House of Representative election.
These were contained in INEC’s daily bulletin on the election yesterday, saying that the common offence of the governorship candidates was their inability to nominate their running mates.

In a Decision Extract signed by the Director (Commission’s Secretariat), Ishiaku Gali, INEC has also approved that the House of Representatives election in Ado/Opoku/Ogbadibo Federal Constituency of Benue State, being uncontested, the nominated candidate should be declared elected on the day of the election by the Returning Officer,” adding that, “Section 41 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) provides that: If after expiration of time for delivering of nomination papers, withdrawal of candidates and the extension of time as provided for in this Act, there is only one person whose name is validly nominated in respect of an election, other than to the office of the President or Governor, that person shall be declared elected.”

The parties and the states affected by the disqualification according to the INEC, are the Peoples Party of Nigeria, PPN, in Delta State; Labour Party, LP, in Niger State and the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, in Ogun State.

Others are the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, in Oyo state; United Democratic Party, UDP, in Rivers State; and Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM, in Sokoto and Zamfara states respectively.
The commission said: “Section 187 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) provides that a candidate to the office of a Governor shall not be deemed to be validly nominated for such office unless he appoints another candidate as his running mate who shall occupy the office of Deputy Governor.’’

-The Vanguard

Nigeria: Boko Haram could disenfranchise 1.5 million voters

The escalation of Boko Haram’s bloody insurgency in northeastern Nigeria, including its assault Sunday on the strategic city of Maiduguri, has raised serious concerns about the ability of a significant portion of the Nigerian electorate to participate in the country’s upcoming presidential elections. The potential disenfranchisement of up to 1.5 million people displaced as a result of the violence by the militant Islamist organization could undermine the credibility of the already divisive election and raises the likelihood of sectarian violence in the aftermath of the hotly contested political battle.

The Boko Haram insurgency will have an effect on voting in the three northeastern Nigerian states in which it is most active, experts said. Amid questions about the logistics of setting up polling stations in the midst of instability in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno, there also is the matter of Nigerian electoral law, which requires voters to cast ballots in their home constituencies. Such a provision will make it nearly impossible for the more than 1 million refugees and internally displaced citizens to vote in the Feb. 14 election.

This will be Boko Haram’s biggest impact on the election, said Alex Thurston, who teaches in the African Studies program at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. “They’ve made a serious, credible election untenable in Borno state and will make it difficult to hold an election in the other two states,” he said. “There are really high estimates of people displaced and there haven’t been adequate provisions made to make sure these people can vote.”

A failure to enfranchise this subset of the Nigerian electorate would be bad enough on its own, but the possibility that it could undermine the electoral process as a whole is also a major concern, said Jennifer Cooke, the director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. “Even in a best faith effort, it's going to be very difficult to ensure the vote of all Nigerians in Borno and the northeast,” she said. “The question is what level of enfranchisement and access is going to be acceptable to both parties. There has to be some agreement on that before elections because if there isn't some standard of agreement ... it could call into question the legitimacy and constitutionality of the election as a whole.”

Incumbent leader Goodluck Jonathan is facing former ruler and opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari in the February election, which has already proved divisive and polarizing. Jonathan’s main base of support comes from the southern, oil-producing Niger Delta region, while Buhari is mainly favored in the southwest and the north, the predominantly Muslim region that has a record of voting for the opposition. The three states in which Boko Haram is strongest -- Borno, Adamawa and Yobe -- are thought to have majority Muslim populations, though Nigeria's official census does not record religious affiliation.

While the disenfranchisement of a significant portion of the electorate in the opposition stronghold of the north may on the surface appear to favor Jonathan, the reality of Nigeria’s formula for calculating electoral victory means that neither candidate would benefit from the situation. “It’s unfair to say that either side benefits by not having people vote,” said J. Peter Pham, the director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank. “It’s a double-edged sword. Voter suppression in the north would tend to suppress votes that would likely go to the opposition but it would also suppress those that may have gone to the incumbent that they would need to meet the vote threshold required by the Nigerian constitution.”

Not only does a successful presidential candidate need to win 50 percent plus one vote of the total cast, but Nigeria’s constitution also stipulates that candidates are required to garner 25 percent of the vote in two-thirds of the states. Based on past elections, it is doubtful that Jonathan will be able to carry northern states. However, his potential victory could still depend on garnering votes among reliable pockets of support in the north, where the ability to vote could very well be impacted by Boko Haram.

Despite this reality, a narrow electoral margin could turn the spotlight on the north’s disenfranchised voters, who could become the focus of postelection rhetoric by the loser of the presidential race. “Even if the [winner] is elected cleanly, legally and otherwise, a sore, irresponsible loser has plenty of scope to blow smoke because of the situation created by Boko Haram violence,” said Pham, who warned of the possibility of an “asterisk mark” next to the winner’s legitimacy.

The possibility that the election results could be undermined does not bode well for Nigeria, a country that has seen significant postelection violence in its previous presidential votes since the end of military rule. Following Jonathan’s victory in the 2011 contest, rioting broke out in the north and at least 800 people reportedly were killed in the violence. The loaded rhetoric around the current presidential race could mean that the aftermath of this election will not be much better. “The appeal to ethnic and religious identities going on right and left in Nigeria ... can set the stage for quite a bloody ethnic and religious conflict in the aftermath of the elections,” said former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, the Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

According to Campbell, the breakdown of the system of power alternation, the informal Nigerian political agreement that held that the presidency would alternate between the predominantly Muslim north and the predominantly Christian south, has encouraged a new focus on using ethnic and religious differences to rally support. Jonathan’s decision to run in 2011 was a departure from the informal system and contributed to the rise of northern animosity toward the Jonathan government.

“Boko Haram and the insurgency in the north has deepened some of the polarization in the rhetoric on religious lines,” said Cooke, who pointed out that though elections tend to bring out these sorts of issues, this time around the rhetoric in Nigeria has been slightly elevated. The concern in the immediate term is that a protracted political battle fought out in Abuja in the aftermath of the elections could distract attention away from the northeast, “with the possibility of Boko Haram taking advantage to expand its attacks or take additional territory,” according to Cooke.

It will be up to the loser of the election to not “irresponsibly stoke the flames for political gain,” said Pham. “Just like last time, the real danger of that is it could produce violence ... and Boko Haram can step in and capitalize on a situation they helped bring about,” he said. “Boko Haram will be the only winner if that happens.”


Ghana: Electoral Commission acts on reforms

Ghana's Electoral Commission has set up a 10-member working group to scrutinise raft of proposals submitted to it for electoral reforms aimed at amending existing laws, administrative procedures and arrangements ahead of the 2016 general elections.

Following the 2012 presidential election dispute culminating in a petition to the country's Supreme Court, there was a clamour for electoral reforms from political parties, civil society organisations, individuals and technical staff of the commission.

This public outcry, coupled with the Supreme Court's recommendations, forced the West African country's elections body to initiate a roadmap for the process.

The committee, made up of representatives of the commission's members, political parties and civil society organisations is, therefore, tasked to examine those proposals for the reform.

Electoral commission chairman, Kwadwo Afari-Gyan charged committee members to have an eye for changes that would bolster the integrity and independence of Ghana's electoral system.

"Electoral systems are not finished products, they evolve over time, so from time to time every electoral system needs one kind or other of reform," he said.
But, "to over-regulate the electoral system," he said "leaves no room for innovation or administrative solutions to unforeseen problems or even to take advantage of new electoral products".
"We urge the committee to critically and dispassionately examine the principle of no verification no vote, as it currently operates under the election law," he added.

The committee is also required to come up with the most cost effective ways of managing Ghana's elections, promoting transparency, accountability and stimulating collaboration with stakeholders to ease tensions.

Ghana recorded a historic case brought before the Supreme Court by the New Patriotic Party over alleged widespread irregularities in some polling centres during the 2012 elections.

Although the final verdict by the court affirmed John Dramani Mahama as the elected president, it said the petition had exposed the need for electoral reforms.

The inauguration of the committee last Friday is seen as a step in the right direction to forestall any future election dispute, particularly with local elections due in March and presidential and parliamentary elections tabled for December 2016.

Already the commission has retrained its staff, established a training school and at is embarking on a nationwide training for journalists on elections covering to better inform the electorate, understand its laws and operations in order to minimise hostilities or controversies.

-The Africa Report

The six African elections to watch this year—and why

This year, 11 countries across Africa are holding key national elections, significant since it wasn’t too long ago that the vast majority of the continent was run by a mix of military dictators and “president-for-lifers.” And yet it is clear that the economic development everyone is counting on will not be possible without political stability.

Indeed, even though few African countries have attained wide recognition as full-fledged competitive democracies, investors are lining up. According to the World Bank, foreign direct investment (FDI) grew 16% to a “near-record $43 billion in 2013.”

The first major polls opened last week in Zambia, and Edgar Lungu, leader of the ruling Patriotic Front party has been declared the winner with 48.3% of the vote. It was a tight election, with him winning by just 27,000 votes. It’s among the six really worth watching closely over the next year.

1. Country: Zambia
Population: 15 million
GDP: $26.8 billion
When: Jan 20
Who: The presidential by-election came 90 days after the death of the populist Michael Sata in October. The race was down to two front-runners. The ruling party’s Patriotic Front and current Defense Minister Edgar Lungu has been declared the winner. He was challenged by the leader of the opposition party United Party for National Development Hakainde Hichilema.
Why you need to pay attention: At the centre of the election debate is the future of mining, the country’s biggest and most important economic sector. The current Patriotic Front-led government’s institution of a 20% hike in mining royalties has raised concerns with investors. The opposition has promised to roll back the tax rise.
What they’re saying: “It is going to be difficult for whoever comes in. They are going to either have to backtrack on promises or, if they go ahead with them, they will quickly see a lot of problems, which could feed in to a weaker exchange rate, rising inflation and higher interest rates.” – Tobias Rasmussen, the International Monetary Fund’s representative in Zambia.

2. Country: Nigeria
Population: 178.5 million.
GDP: $521.8 billion.
When: Feb 14
Who: The incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan has until recent weeks been seen as favorite to retain power. However, retired general and former head of state Muhammadu Buhari is presenting the most serious challenge to the People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) stranglehold on power since the end of military rule in 1999.
Why you need to pay attention: Africa’s largest economy has been struggling with high unemployment, plummeting oil prices, a devalued currency, and mind-boggling corruption scandals. On top of that is the deadly threat of Boko Haram, whose recent attack is feared to have left 2,000 people dead. There’s a growing concern the Nigerian problem, thus far contained to the northeast, will spread across the country and deeper into neighboring countries.
What they’re saying: “I do not want him to grow up in a country where brothers are killing themselves… where people cannot afford to travel to parts of their country out of fear.” – Akin Oyebode, a finance analyst and former soldier speaking of his 19-month-old son.

3. Country: Sudan
Population: 38.8 million.
GDP: $66.6 billion.
When: April 4
Who: The incumbent President Omar al-Bashir came to power in a coup in 1989. The only sitting head of state with a standing warrant from the International Criminal Court, due to alleged war crimes in Darfur, he had indicated he would step down but changed his mind. The former Prime Minister Sadiq Al-Mahdi is the leading opposition figure challenging al-Bashir for the presidency.
Why you need to pay attention: Once Africa’s largest country by land area, Sudan is holding its first election since parting ways with South Sudan in 2011. But will the election be truly free and fair? The opposition have said unless political freedoms and basic human rights are improved elections will prove to be cosmetic. There’s increasing talk that they might not take part in electoral process.
What they’re saying: “[T]he political parties should join the free competition, be honest, clear and serious and avoid launching prejudgments on the results of the elections before they are conducted.” – president Omar al-Bashir

4. Country: Ethiopia
Population: 96.5 million.
GDP: $47.5 billion.
When: May 24th, 2015
Who: Hailemariam Desalegn, the incumbent prime minister who inherited the post after the death of long-term leader Meles Zenawi, is expected to easily secure victory. It is unclear who will challenge him for the post, with the opposition recently suggesting that they are being blocked from taking part in the process.
Why you need to pay attention: Ethiopia is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. However, it has an atrocious human rights record and regularly imprisons journalists. In an ironic twist, some have accused the country of leveraging its position as an important US ally in the war on terrorism to avoid criticisms for some its egregious undermining of political freedoms.
What they’re saying: “The reason why there’s so much repression, the reason why there’s so much muzzling of the press, the reason why the Ethiopian government is arresting opposition figures inside the country is precisely because they know that this is a despised government. It cannot last a day in an environment of freedom.” – Berhanu Nega, professor of economics at Bucknell University and former leader of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy in Ethiopia.

5. Country: Tanzania
Population: 50.8 million
GDP: $33.2 billion
When: October 2015
Who: The ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi, which has ruled the country since independence in 1961, is expected to remain in power. The internal party nomination for the presidency is the most open it has ever been. Former prime minister Lowassa is considered a front-runner. But stiff competition in the form of the current PM Mizengo Pinda, foreign minister Bernard Membe and deputy minister of science and technology January Makamba should keep things interesting. The opposition has said that they aim to unify behind a single candidate with Wilbroad Slaa, the losing candidate in 2005, likely to be the nominee.
Why you need to pay attention: The second biggest economy in East Africa has enjoyed strong economic growth, averaging more than 6% annual GDP growth in the last few years. It is a strong diplomatic and security ally of the US as demonstrated by president Barack Obama choice of Tanzania as one of the three countries he visited on the continent in 2013. An emerging oil and gas economy, analysts argue, however, that the pace of reforms for a better business environment has been slow.
What they’re saying: “One reason Tanzania has difficulties attracting investment is the inefficiency of the government.” – Lu Youqing, the Chinese ambassador.

6. Country: Burkina Faso
Population: 16.9 million
GDP: $11.6 billion
When: November, 2015
Who: Following the forced resignation of long-term President Captain Blaise Compaoré by a popular uprising, the country has been governed by a transitional government lead by the former foreign minister Michel Kafando. It is not yet clear whether the 72-year old will run for the permanent role. Compaore’s old party Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) will compete in the elections. So too will other opposition parties.
Why you need to pay attention: This a chance for democracy to be re-established in Burkina Faso following Compaore’s 27-year rule. Burkina Faso is an important ally of the US and France in their fight against violent extremists in the Sahel. The fifth largest gold producer on the continent, analysts are curious to see whether the election will settle the uncertainty that has gripped the country since October 2014.

What they’re saying: “The insurgency has restored dignity to Burkina Faso. Our dear country will now know a before and an after October 31st, 2014.″ – Lieutenant-Colonel and current prime minister Yacouba Isaac Zida who briefly assumed power in the aftermath of former president Blaise Compaoré’s resignation.


Nigeria: High Comm'r protests demolition of Nigeria campaign billboards by Ghana authorities

The Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana, Ademola Oluseyi Onafowokan has condemned the National Security and the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) over the demolishing of Nigerian campaign billboards in Ghana.

The Ambassador told TV3 that he would not have protested the demolishing of the billboards that bore campaign messages of political parties in Ghana if indeed they contravened the laws of Ghana.

“If they contravened the laws of Ghana and they are demolished, yes I would understand because I would not support lawlessness and recklessness, but if they seek [sought] permission of AMA, and they approve of it, very well and good…,” he said.

The mounting of Nigerian political billboards on principal streets of Accra became the subject of discussion after a senior fellow at the Legon Centre for International Affairs and Diplomacy (LECIAD), Vladimir Antwi-Danso, described it as a security threat to Ghana.

The international relations expert argued that since the relationship between some former leaders in Ghana and Nigeria are not too warm, allowing the mounting of billboards could have dire consequences, not just on the international scene, but in local politics.

His call was supported by New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Assin Central, Kennedy Agyepong, who complained of a ‘possible annexation’ of Ghana by Nigeria as a result of the giant billboards being erected by the political parties.

The MP called on the AMA and the National Security to act and bring down all Nigerian political billboards; but the Advertisers Association of Ghana disagreed.

AMA workers who claimed to be working under the instruction of the National Security over the weekend brought down these billboards.

This move did not go down well with the Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana, who insisted that Nigerians advertising in Ghana is not anything new as they do so in several countries just to court their citizenry.

“…even in Britain and America, Nigerians are advertising there supporting different political parties, they have supporters in Ghana and they have to be sensitized so they know about whom to vote for…,” he argued.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Zambia: British Envoy touts integrity of electoral body boss

British High Commissioner to Zambia James Thornton says Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) chairperson Irene Mambilima is a lady of unimpeachable integrity.

Thornton says Zambians and the rest of the world can have the confidence in an election tally announced by a leader of Mambilima’s calibre.

“Let me congratulate the Electoral Commission of Zambia. Organising the election at short notice was a tough job. They had to recruit and train around 40,000 temporary staff to run the polling stations; those whom I observed seemed to be doing a very good job. The weather significantly complicated the running of the election.

“The election process itself had numerous checks in it to prevent fraud. And it was very transparent. Party agents were able to observe all the voting and key elements of the tallying process.

“I wish to commend Justice Mambilina. She is a lady of unimpeachable integrity. We can have confidence in an election tally that she has announced,” said Thornton.

He also congratulated Edgar Lungu, the newly elected President, and hoped the PF leader will work towards uniting the country following a poll that has divided the country.

“Let me congratulate the winner of the election, Hon Edgar Lungu. I look forward to attending his inauguration tomorrow. The British Government will work with him and his government for the further development of this country.

“Third, let me offer my commiserations to the losers, and in particular to Hakainde Hichilema and his supporters. It is hard to come close yet not to win. I welcome the fact that HH has called for his supporters to remain calm and avoid violence.

“Lastly, this close election has made Zambia seem a little more divided than before. I hope that both the President-Elect and HH can work to create unity and reconciliation,” said.

-Zambia Reports

Nigeria: U.S. Secretary of State warns against postelection violence

In a rare high-level visit to Africa's most populous country, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday urged Nigeria's leading presidential candidates to refrain from fomenting violence after next month's vote, and he condemned savage attacks by Boko Haram, an al-Qaida-linked insurgency.

On a day when Nigerian troops battled extremists who attacked Maiduguri, the biggest city in the northeast, Kerry played down reports that the U.S. had grown frustrated with Nigeria's military commitment to fighting the radical Islamist movement.

Kerry said the U.S. was sharing intelligence with Nigeria and stood ready to do more if the Feb. 14 election proceeded in a nonviolent, democratic fashion.

"The United States is deeply engaged with Nigeria," he said. "Does it always work as well as we would like or as well as the Nigerians would like? The answer is no."

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan said he reaffirmed a strong commitment to working with the United States "to put an end to global terrorism and particularly Boko Haram."

"I firmly believe that enhancing and expanding various channels of cooperation between our two countries, in the context of growing international coordination, are of the utmost importance," Jonathan said in a statement following the meeting. "I discussed a number of ideas with Secretary Kerry to move such cooperation forward."

Kerry was in the country's commercial capital, Lagos, about 1,000 miles southwest from the skirmishes that killed more than 200 combatants.

Independent analysts have condemned the government's tactics against Boko Haram, arguing that they inspire support for a movement driven by joblessness, alienation, ethnic divisions and poor governance.

Speaking at the U.S. consulate's residence overlooking the Gulf of Guinea, Kerry told reporters that America and others will closely watch the election in this country of 170 million people.

"This will be the largest democratic election on the continent," Kerry said. "Given the stakes, it's absolutely critical that these elections be conducted peacefully — that they are credible, transparent and accountable."

Kerry spoke after meeting in separate locations with both leading candidates, President Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari, the former military dictator whom Jonathan defeated in 2011. More than 800 people were killed in northern protests after Buhari, a Muslim northerner, lost to Jonathan, a Christian from the south.

Both candidates pledged to tamp down on violence, Kerry said, but the secretary also issued a warning: Anyone who incites postelection mayhem will be ineligible to enter the United States.

On terrorism, Kerry said he was concerned about the Islamic State group making inroads in Africa, but said he saw no direct link between those Syria- and Iraq-based militants and Boko Haram.

In a report last week, the Virginia-based Center for Naval Analyses, a federally funded research corporation, called Boko Haram a locally focused insurgency largely fueled by bad government.

"The conflict is being sustained by masses of unemployed youth who are susceptible to Boko Haram recruitment, an alienated and frightened northern population that refuses to cooperate with state security forces, and a governance vacuum that has allowed the emergence of militant sanctuaries in the northeast," the report said.

"The conflict is also being perpetuated by the Nigerian government, which has employed a heavy-handed, overwhelmingly (military) approach to dealing with the group and has paid little attention to the underlying contextual realities and root causes of the conflict," the report said. That view comports with the assessment of the U.S. intelligence agencies.

In December, Nigeria canceled the last stage of U.S. training of a Nigerian army battalion, a reflection of strained counterterrorism relations between the two governments.

In April 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped 270 schoolgirls from the northern town of Chibok, prompting international condemnation and a campaign to "Bring Back Our Girls." Most of the girls, however, have not been rescued.

Boko Haram has denounced democracy and is fighting to impose its strict version of Shariah law.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Zambia: Electoral body dismisses vote rigging allegations

UNITED Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema says he will not concede defeat accusing the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) of manipulating votes.
But ECZ Chairperson Irene Mambilima has dismissed the allegation, saying if this was so then other stakeholders, including the UPND were involved in the purported electoral malpractice.
Mr Hichilema told a media briefing yesterday that the election had been stolen from him and he argues that the outcome does not reflect the will of the people.
“This has not been a level playing field from the start. We have experienced widespread violence against our supporters and party members throughout the campaign as well as deep irregularities in the counting process,” Mr Hichilema claims.
“Whilst we want to reinforce the personal high-esteem in which we, the UPND, hold the Chairperson and the commissioners of the ECZ, there are some known individuals within the ECZ who have acted with utter impunity, corruption and total disregard for a democratic process by manipulating the election results,” he charged.
“Despite the fact that the election was stolen from us, I urge all our party members and supporters across our country to remain calm and peaceful for the good of Zambia,” he said.
The UPND leader said his party will now focus on putting plans into place for the 2016 general election.
“We firmly believe that the 2016 elections should be held on the platform of a new constitution and Independent Electoral Commission to prevent a repeat of the shambles we have seen over the last few days,” he said.
Mr Hichilema was flanked by former First Lady Maureen Mwanawasa, Lunte member of Parliament (MP) Felix Mutati, Kasama MP Geoffrey Bwalya, Alliance for Democratic Development (ADD) leader Charles Milupi and other senior UNDP officials.
But Mrs in dismissing Mr Hichilema’s allegation, said the commission conducted the poll within the confines of the Electoral Act.
“If indeed the Commission has stolen votes, then the ECZ has done it with all stakeholders including UPND officials because we verified results together and they were involved in the electoral process,” she said.
Meanwhile, former Deputy Minister of Transport and Communication in the Chiluba administration Alfred Ndhlovu has said it is sad that the UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema has refused to concede defeat and is instead accusing ECZ of manipulating the results in favour of Mr Lungu.
In a statement Mr Ndhlovu appealed to Mr Hichilema to demonstrate educated and scholarly behaviour by conceding defeat.
“All presidential candidates should humbly concede defeat publicly and pledge to improve on their future endeavours,” Mr Ndhlovu said.

-Zambia Reports

Zambia: Edgar Lungu inaugurated as president

A colourful ceremony characterised the inauguration of Zambia’s Sixth Republican President Edgar Lungu at the National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka.

President-elect Lungu 58,who was clad in a blue suit, white shirt and red tie was accompanied by his wife Esther amid tight security, arrived at the stadium around 10:20 hours to a thunderous welcome.

Acting Chief Justice Lombe Chibesakunda swore-in Mr. Lungu around 10:30 hours as the country’s Sixth Head of State.

Former Acting president Guy Scott handed-over the instruments of power that included the Zambian flag, the Coat of Arms and the Republican Constitution to President Lungu.

Traditional and cultural dances, acrobatics and choral performances at the 50,000 seater stadium which was filled to capacity also gave colour to the ceremony.

A 21-gun presidential salute, a fly-past conducted by the Zambia Air Force and songs by a combined defence choir entertained the crowd.

Mr. Lungu promised to deliver a people driven constitution to stand a test of time in his administration.

Mr. Lungu, who was Justice and Defence Minister untill his election yesterday, defeated opposition United Party for National Development (UPND)leader Hakainde Hichilema by a 48.3 percent to 46.7 percent margin.

President Lungu’s biggest challenge is to turn around Zambia’s economy that’s slowing because of a slump in the price of copper, which accounts for more than two-thirds of export earnings.

President Lungu must also solve a standoff with the mining industry over a tax system introduced this month that may lead to 12,000 job losses this year alone, according to an industry lobby group.

The swearing in ceremony was witnessed by former acting president Guy Scott and his wife Charlotte, SADC Chairperson and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, visiting senior government officials, National Assembly Speaker Patrick Matibini, Cabinet ministers, diplomats accredited to Zambia, Defence Chiefs, First Republican president Kenneth Kaunda and former President Rupiah Banda.

Others were veteran politicians Grey Zulu, Mama Chibesa Kankasa, traditional leaders, former first ladies Christine Kaseba and Vera Chiluba.

Others were opposition MMD leader Nevers Mumba and his Agenda for a Better Zambia counterpart Frank Bwalya, UPND campaign Manager Dipak Patel, 4th Revolution party president Erick Chanda , PF members, senior government officials and members of the public.

-Lusaka Times

Friday, January 23, 2015

Nigeria: Statement of the joint NDI/IRI pre-election assessment mission to Nigeria

Here is a statement, issued Jan. 20 in Abuja, from the NDI and International Republican Institute joint pre-election assessment mission for Nigeria's presidential election. The delegation visited Nigeria from Jan. 15-20.  Its goals were to:

assess  the current political  and  electoral  environment in the lead-up to the February 14 presidential election;

assess preparations for the presidential election and offer recommendations to enhance citizen confidence in the process and mitigate violence; and

demonstrate international support for Nigeria’s democratization process.

The delegation comprised: Ambassador (rtd) George Moose, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, and vice chairman of the board of directors of the U.S. Institute of Peace; Brigalia Bam, former chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa; Hon. Patrick Muyaya, member of parliament, the Democratic Republic of Congo; Pauline Baker, former president of the Fund for Peace; Michael Bratton, distinguished professor of political science and African studies at Michigan State University; Robert Lloyd, professor of international relations at Pepperdine University, and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center; Christopher Fomunyoh, senior associate and regional director for Central and West Africa at NDI; and Gretchen Birkle, regional director for Africa at IRI.

The  delegation  met  with  the  chairman  and  senior  officials  of  the  Independent  National  Electoral Commission  (INEC), one presidential candidate, senior representatives of  another candidate, leaders of political  parties,  civic organizations, professional associations and religious  bodies, as well as legislators and senior government  officials.  The  delegation  expresses  its deep  appreciation  to  everyone  with  whom  it  met  for  welcoming  the  mission  and  for  sharing freely their views on the electoral process.

The delegation notes that the 2015 presidential race is likely to be Nigeria’s most competitive election since the transition from military to civilian rule in 1999. The mission would like to underscore the growing and often expressed determination of Nigerians to ensure that the election is peaceful and credible through all phases of the process, including during the campaign period, on election day and in the post-election period after the release of final election results. The team observed that while the election management body – INEC – has undertaken several innovative steps to reinforce the integrity of the electoral system, information about these concrete steps is not widely understood by other stakeholders, many of whom stressed the need for further efforts to enhance citizen confidence and participation in the process. In the spirit of international solidarity, the delegation offers recommendations on steps that should be taken to enhance such confidence and contribute to violence-free elections in February 2015.

Both NDI and IRI have deployed international election observation missions to every presidential election in Nigeria since 1999. The two Institutes are nonpartisan, nongovernmental organizations that support and strengthen democratic institutions and practices worldwide. Both NDI and IRI will deploy international observers to the February 14 presidential poll. 


The delegation found that the views of most Nigerians with regards to the upcoming polls are influenced by past issues of national significance. These include:

History of past elections. Since the end of military rule, Nigeria has conducted four electoral contests – in 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011. The successful conduct of the 2011 elections marked a turning point in the country’s democratic trajectory, as it contrasted sharply with the electoral mismanagement and widespread fraud of previous polls. Even then, violence in some northern cities in the immediate aftermath of the announcement of election results in 2011 resulted in over 800 deaths and tremendous destruction of property. In the public’s mind, perpetrators of election-related violence and/or electoral fraud from 2011 have not been prosecuted. Furthermore, the delegates heard that the failure to create the Electoral Offences Commission recommended by the “Justice Muhammed Uwais Electoral Reforms Panel” of 2007, and advocated for even by INEC, calls into question the commitment of the country’s political leaders to curb or deter fraud, violence and other criminal activity around elections.

Perceptions of political power in Nigeria. Access to public resources by government officials at the federal and state levels, and the abuse of same by some office holders intensifies competition for political power. The “winner-takes-all” frame of reference in the Nigerian political system exacerbates exclusion and inequality while ethnic, religious and regional identity is frequently manipulated by politicians for personal gain. Many political elites are alleged to dispense public resources and services through patronage networks that cater less to the broader populace and more to a select few. Many of the persons from civil society and political parties with whom the delegation met agreed that the patronage system starts with weak democratic norms and processes within political parties. For example, they point to the lack of transparency in candidate nominations or party primaries, citing cases in which the candidate preferred by party leaders is given the nomination regardless of votes cast in the primaries. As noted by a highly respected Nigerian democrat, “Once an unpopular candidate emerges through this ‘selection process,’ the leadership that anointed that candidate then has no choice but to use fraudulent means to help the candidate win.” Given that party leadership in Nigeria is mostly male, this process also discourages the meaningful participation of women in politics and their access to positions of leadership.

Flashpoints of insecurity and political polarization. The 2015 elections are taking place in a difficult security environment, as an insurgency led by the extremist group “Boko Haram” continues to kill innocent citizens and attack villages and military installations in the North Eastern geopolitical zone of the country. The assessment team learned that at various times, debates over the Boko Haram insurgency have taken a partisan tone, with accusations of complacency and complicity levelled against each other by ruling and main opposition party members. Media reports allege an increase in the circulation of small arms and light weapons in some areas, notably parts of the Niger Delta, while intercommunal violence between herdsmen and farmers continues in the Middle Belt. Overall, on the eve of the February elections, the country is fairly polarized along partisan, regional and religious lines. Some Nigerians are fearful that should extraordinary steps not be taken to temper partisan rhetoric and stigmatization, violence could erupt in the strongholds of whichever candidate loses the presidential race.

Declining oil prices. Although the decline in world oil prices has not yet become a matter of national debate, many analysts told the delegation that the effects of this decline on the country’s foreign reserves, its economy and its national budget could further exacerbate tensions.

Emergence of a strong opposition party. The 2015 polls will likely be the most competitive elections since the return to civilian rule in 1999. While the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has dominated national politics since that time, the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) following the merger in 2013 of several opposition parties, has created what many Nigerians now see as a viable alternative. Several former PDP stalwarts, including state governors and national legislators, have crossed over to the APC. For the first time in recent Nigerian history, two closely matched contenders for the presidential race have emerged – incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP and General (rtd) Muhammadu Buhari of the APC. Closely contested races are also projected for the national legislature, governorships, and state houses of assembly. As of the time of the delegation’s visit, significant numbers of supporters of the two frontrunners in the presidential race believe strongly that their candidate would win.


The impact of Boko Haram. Ongoing terrorist attacks and killings of Nigerians by Boko Haram have disrupted daily life in Borno State and several local government areas (LGAs) in Yobe and Adamawa States. The presence of Boko Haram poses a political risk in that not conducting polls in significant parts of a region viewed as the stronghold of one of the contesting parties, even if for reasons of insecurity, would mean the disenfranchisement of a large number of voters. This would well call into question the legitimacy of the election in the eyes of the population, not only in the affected states but more widely. According to INEC, the three states have a cumulative total of approximately 4.5 million registered voters (Adamawa 1.5, Borno 1.9 and Yobe 1.1 million).

Internally displaced persons (IDPs). In the north east geopolitical zone, a number of LGAs are inaccessible because of insecurity caused by Boko Haram. The presence and de facto control of territory in these states by Boko Haram has resulted in the internal displacement of hundreds of thousands of people (IDPs). Advocacy for steps to be taken to facilitate IDP voting continues to grow, as INEC pursues its consultations with political parties and other election stakeholders on ways to facilitate such IDP voting. Nigerians recognize that it is imperative that their fellow citizens already traumatized by terrorist attacks be afforded the opportunity to exercise their constitutional rights.

Miscommunication. The delegation noted that a number of positive steps taken by INEC to enhance the integrity of the electoral system were either misinterpreted or misunderstood – sometimes willfully – by some segments of society. For example, while INEC introduced a biometric registry and machine-readable permanent voter cards (PVCs) to curb fraud and duplicate registrations, some critics  of INEC  argue that there are no legal provisions for INEC to require a PVC (in lieu of a temporary voting card), and that the biometric features of the PVC go beyond minimum requirements of Nigerian law. Similarly, INEC explains the reduction in the number of voters in the voter registry from 73 million in 2011 to 68.8 million in 2014 as a result of steps taken to expunge from the registry double registrations and underage and deceased voters. However, some critics of INEC are concerned that the new figure does not reflect the growing population of the country.

According to a recently released Gallup poll[1], confidence in elections in Nigeria has eroded significantly since 2011: whereas 51 percent of Nigerians expressed confidence in the honesty of elections in 2011, that number declined to 13 percent in 2014. A number of Nigerians with whom the delegation met expressed concern that insufficient communication by the election management body – and disparagement of INEC’s efforts by some of its critics – could undermine the efficient administration of the polls.

The delegation concluded that there is a paramount need for more, and more regular, updates and increased service announcements to the public regarding progress in election preparations, including with regards to the procurement and distribution of PVCs and other materials, to dissipate mistrust among citizens.

Election administration. The delegation is concerned that millions of permanent voter cards (PVCs) have not yet been distributed by INEC. Although INEC plans to move the distribution of PVCs from the LGA level down to the level of wards (which are smaller units under the LGAs and closer to the polling points), that exercise has not started in all states. Moreover, some Nigerians stated that in a number of states, the distribution exercise has repeatedly been postponed in some locations, leading to further erosion of trust in INEC. Some Nigerians are still unsure whether a voter without a PVC, but whose name is on the register, will be allowed to vote on election day and what arrangements will be put in place to adjudicate such matters.

Similarly, INEC brands the voter card readers (VCRs), a handheld machine that will be used to scan the biometric voter cards, as an innovation in Nigeria that would strengthen the integrity of the voting process; however, the procurement of the VCRs is still underway and not all card readers have been delivered to INEC. INEC is confident the delivery will be made and has issued guidelines to address card reader malfunction. INEC also views the card reader as a confidence building measure that would allow the commission to track the number of accredited voters and make sure they match the figures to be reported on the results sheet. Yet, some Nigerians are apprehensive about what would happen should the remaining VCRs not be delivered on time, or should many of these new machines malfunction on election day.

While INEC has specific plans for recruiting and deploying ad hoc poll workers that would include current and former members of the National Youth Service Corps and students in tertiary education institutions, some members of the public are concerned that training of these workers has yet to begin.

Violence in pre-election period. The delegation heard reports of recent election-related violence in Jos, Plateau State and Port Harcourt, Rivers State, and the use of inflammatory messages by some party officials and supporters, sometimes delivered through print and social media. Some interlocutors alleged that in response to these acts of violence and utterances, certain elements of the security services have not conducted themselves evenhandedly. Security services interviewed by the delegation denied this allegation. Lack of confidence in the security services, were it to persist, could as just one example provide an excuse for vigilante  activity, which would then raise the risk of spiraling partisan violence at the state and local levels. The delegation learned that unlike during past elections when interagency collaboration among security services was a challenge, INEC has created and co-chairs with the national security adviser, the “Interagency Consultative Committee on Election Security” (ICCES), to facilitate seamless coordination. ICCES committees have been created at the state and LGA levels as well.

Despite political polarization, many Nigerians are hopeful that the political situation of the country will not degenerate as a result of the polls. There is a very significant pool of Nigerians within and outside of political parties (what some called the ‘third voice’) which “sees the larger interests of the country and votes for Nigeria.” This ‘moderate center’ should be encouraged to speak up and help restrain more extreme positions in the lead up to the elections, as well as in the post-election period. A greater focus on issue-based campaigns and the substantive difference between party platforms would enrich the political discourse and allow voters to make informed choices on election day.

Risk that candidates may not accept the outcome of meaningful polls. Many Nigerians believe that having two strong and closely matched parties in competition provides an incentive for the effective deployment of party agents by political parties so as to minimize or deter fraud while increasing confidence in the electoral outcome. Others are more skeptical and argue that the losers in close races may reject an unfavorable outcome. The delegation urges candidates and parties to respect electoral outcomes within the framework of Nigerian electoral law. The delegation applauds the signing on January 14 of a pledge by 11 of the 14 presidential candidates which exhorts Nigerians to reject incitement to violence before, during and after the election. The delegation strongly supports this “Abuja Accord” – signed in the presence of former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan – which can serve as the foundation for a broad campaign for violence-free elections. Nigerian civic and political leaders with whom the delegation met agreed on the urgency of implementing the Accord and ensuring that its provisions are communicated to party supporters at grassroots level across the country. In the words of one political leader with whom the delegation met, “Leaders have to drum [the Accord] into the ears of their supporters.”


Despite the challenges listed above, the 2015 polls provide an opportunity for political parties, INEC, the government, media and civil society to build upon and expand the advances from 2011 to ensure peaceful and credible elections. Many Nigerians take pride in the country being Africa’s most populous nation, endowed with vast reserves of oil and minerals, fertile land, and a resilient population, and recognize that the country has the capacity for enormous prosperity and regional leadership. The delegation noted a strong commitment by INEC and multiple civil society organizations to enhance citizen confidence and participation in the election as well as mitigate violence around the polls.

Non-violence campaigns. Nigeria’s vibrant civil society has been a driving force in the promotion of an inclusive, transparent and peaceful electoral process. Many prominent individuals and organizations are contributing substantively to the promotion of peaceful participation, urging Nigerians to exercise their democratic rights and civic responsibility, and to ensure that their votes count. For example, the 2face Foundation, sponsored by the musician 2face Idibia, and Youngstars Foundation have launched “Vote Not Fight: Election no be war,” as a nationwide youth get-out-the-vote (GOTV) campaign. At GOTV events and concerts, youth sign a “Vote Not Fight” nonviolence pledge. Other initiatives include: Enough is Enough’s RSVP, or Register, Select, Vote and Protect, a peaceful election participation campaign; Open Society Initiative for West Africa’s (OSIWA) Situation Room; the Dreams4Naija Campaign; the CLEEN Foundation’s violence monitoring campaign; the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta’s (PIND) Partners for Peace (P4P) project; as well as the National Bar Association’s and Labor Union voter education and awareness series.

Voter education. Many Nigerian civil society groups are engaged in creative initiatives to educate voters about the electoral process, including initiatives such as: the 9jaVoter project by West African NGO Network (WANGONeT), which has produced a mobile voter education app to increase youth participation; Human Rights Monitor Nigeria, which is distributing election information cards and posters; the Nigerian Women's Trust Fund, whose multimedia campaign focuses on the benefits of increased women’s political participation; the women’s political education sessions conducted by the non-partisan Women in Politics Forum to increase women’s chances to run successful campaigns for office; the Youth Alliance on Constitution and Electoral Reform (YACORE) and its awareness campaign to educate northern youths on non-violence in electoral participation ahead of the 2015 polls; and the “On the Road to 2015” voter education radio program conducted by the Partners for Electoral Reforms (PER).

Presidential debates. The Nigerian media plans to organize candidate debates to include presidential and vice-presidential debates in the coming weeks. If successful, these debates would send a message to Nigerians across the country that competition for high office is a debate of ideas and should not result in violence. The optics of the two main contenders on the same stage and engaged in meaningful discussion of issues pertinent to the electorate would elevate political discourse, assuage concerns of excessive polarization and enhance the possibility that the winner would be gracious in victory and the loser accept the outcome.

The Abuja Accord. This agreement, signed by 11 of 14 presidential candidates, commits the signatories to run issue-based campaigns at national, state and local government levels; to refrain from violent acts and inflammatory speech before, during and after the elections; and to speak out against any such violence. The Accord reinforces the inter-party Code of Conduct renewed by political parties in 2013. The Accord is widely hailed as an encouraging development that provides civil society, the media and the international community with a yardstick against which to hold candidates and parties accountable for their conduct in violence-free polls.

INEC communication. INEC has created a media corps as a mechanism for sharing information with the media and the public at large, and should enhance its effectiveness and frequency in the remaining weeks leading to election day.

Religious leaders. Highly respected leaders, such as the Sultan of Sokoto and the Cardinal of Abuja, have launched the Nigeria Inter-Faith Initiative for Peace, which aims to mitigate the negative impact of polarization along religious lines. This and similar initiatives should be encouraged to expand their mission to include appealing to their followers to take actions to contribute to peaceful polls.

Citizen monitoring of electoral processes. Drawing upon lessons learned and best practices acquired over  the  last  four elections, citizen  monitoring  groups  continue to  play  a  critical  role  in  providing  Nigerians  with  accurate information  on  the  integrity  of  the  electoral  process. Their programs and activities  deter  and  detect  irregularities  during  voter  registration,  in the  pre-election period,  on  election  day,  and  in  the  post-election  period.  One  civil  society  network, the  Transition  Monitoring  Group (TMG) – a coalition of over 400 civil society organizations – will, for the second time in a presidential election,  use  statistical  random sampling  methodology or ‘Quick Count’ to monitor election day processes and to verify the  accuracy  of  official  voting  results.


The  delegation  believes  that  with  sufficient  political  will,  many  of  the  immediate challenges  can  be  addressed in ways that enhance citizen confidence and participation in the election and hence mitigate violence during and after the polls.  In  the  spirit  of  international  cooperation,  the  delegation  therefore offers  the  following  recommendations for review and consideration:

Confidence building measures.  There is a perceived gap between those election preparations that have been undertaken by INEC and what some stakeholders understand to be the status of election preparation.  This miscommunication is contributing to heightened tension around the election process. All parties should ensure that citizens have the knowledge and information they need to vote, and that citizens have confidence their vote will contribute to a credible electoral process.


INEC should improve its communication strategy with voters, to include, for example, daily press briefings and more frequent public service announcements, including in local languages, in order to bridge any miscommunication on electoral preparedness and voting procedures.

INEC should undertake a concerted voter education effort to demonstrate to the public the use of new technology such as the PVCs and card readers.

INEC should better inform stakeholders and make publicly available contingency plans to expeditiously repair or replace technical broken-down equipment. They should also inform the public in advance of procedures such as those that relate to the handling of voters who appear on the voter list but do not have a PVC. It is important that the INEC response to these anticipated problems be uniform across the country.

INEC should commit to make public in its final results the results from each polling unit. Making the commitment public prior to election day would add transparency to the process and enhance citizen confidence in election results.

Political parties and candidates should focus on issue-based campaigns that address national priorities such as security, the economy and governance.

Civil society should continue monitoring the election process and advocating for improvements in its integrity.

The media should elevate civil discourse and report accurately, responsibly and professionally, in line with the media code of ethics, in order to contribute to raising voter awareness and education.

The international community should continue to monitor and report publicly on the actions of individuals who violate the spirit of free and fair elections before, during and after the election.

Election administration

INEC should urgently complete the distribution of PVCs to get them in the hands of the voters. INEC should also urgently complete the procurement of card readers, and communicate relevant information on these issues to the electorate as soon as possible in advance of election day.

INEC should accelerate recruitment and training of polling officials.

INEC should explore ways to increase voting by Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and ensure that properly registered IDPs are not disenfranchised.

INEC should make maximum efforts and take concrete steps to avoid the disenfranchisement of sizeable populations in LGAs in north eastern states impacted by the Boko Haram insurgency. The government should make all possible efforts to provide the security and support necessary for the conduct of elections in those areas. INEC should facilitate consensus building around these efforts among all stakeholders.

INEC should fully implement its gender policy that fosters gender equity in the recruitment and deployment of poll workers.

Political parties

Political parties and candidates should focus on issue-based campaigns that address national priorities, such as security, the economy and governance.

Political parties should train and deploy party agents to all polling sites to facilitate evidence-based monitoring of voting activities and documentation of any irregularities that may occur.

Political parties should adhere to the rule of law and respect the INEC guidelines for political parties, specifically provisions that deplore the use of violence and inciteful language.

Violence mitigation.  Many of the foregoing measures would contribute to mitigating violence. In addition, the delegation recommends the following:

Government of Nigeria

The Government of Nigeria (GON) should reinforce security measures within the framework of the law and without intimidation to facilitate the conduct of polls in all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

The GON should reiterate to all security services their constitutional obligation to be professional and impartial in guaranteeing election security for all citizens.

Political parties

Political parties and candidates should actively undertake voter and civic education so their supporters can be better informed and conduct themselves peacefully before, during and after the polls.

Political parties and candidates should sensitize party supporters at the grassroots level on the political party Code of Conduct and provisions of the Abuja Accord and the commitment of candidates and party leaders to avoid and reject violence.

Civil society

The delegation appeals to religious groups across inter-denominational faiths, traditional and community leaders, media and civil society organizations, including trade unions, youth and women’s organizations, to launch a concerted and collective national movement for violence-free elections.

The delegation urges contingency planning in the event of post-election violence and encourages the creation of a network of agents of peace across communities.

The international community

The international community should expand and intensify its observation efforts to provide objective assessments of and recommendations on the electoral process, prior, during and after the election.

The international community should more forcefully convey its belief that election-related violence will have consequences for the legitimacy of the election outcome.

International partners should intensify their efforts to support the electoral process, including initiatives by Nigerian civil society.

NDI  and IRI will  continue  to  observe  the  electoral  process  and  will  issue  additional  statements  as appropriate.  NDI and IRI will deploy international election observers to the February 14 presidential poll, and will cooperate with other international observation missions   and nonpartisan election  observation  efforts  by  Nigerian  citizen  groups  in accordance with the Declaration of Principles and Nigerian law.

- The National Democratic Institute