As many countries in Africa approach their respective elections, the human rights defenders at the NGO Forum in Banjul have urged for free, fair and peaceful campaigns and elections, in both the pre and post election processes, while calling on countries to follow the recent example in Nigeria.
The chairperson of the election panel at the forum, Dr. Mabassa Fall of FIDH, said election is the legal way of changing any government and should be done by its people. He said many a time Africa’s post election period is characterised by violence that leads to disaster. He said now that many sub-regional countries are heading to the polls in 2015/16 it is prudent to remind them about what level of disaster it can cause.
Dr. Fall called for the massive participation of the citizens in the concern countries to exercise their franchise rights, especially women, minorities and young people who are the direct victims. He said citizens have rights to vote out any leader who does not live to expectation.
“Many a times, our leaders will say to us that they are developing the country and therefore people should keep silent. Politicians use our wives, sisters and mothers to meet their desires in the electoral process,” he said.
Mr. Paul Nsapu, also from FIDH, said major powers will never support dictators but people must take the lead first. He said people need to be aware of their rights for positive change.
Madam Pedam Marthe Coulibaly, CIDDH, said throughout Africa it is the women that constitute the majority of the population and that as such their participation in the electoral process is important. She said women have a role to play in pre, during election and post election processes.
“In the pre-electoral process, women should strive for electoral reform, if necessary, the registration, and in the election campaign to ensure that our democratic values are fully exercised. It is the role of women organizations to ensure that the women and youth are adequately sensitized on how to vote and why. During the election, this is when the results are announced and it is heartbreaking sometimes because this is when youth are used for demonstrations against the results. Women also are used during the election as observers. In the post election, this is when sometimes chaos began mostly and women and children are usually under fire,” said Coulibaly.
She called on the African women to stand up-right to fight and bring down any regime that supports impunity. She said women should use community radios, social media etc. to sensitise youths and women on post election violence adding that advocacy on elections processes should be carried.