Ethiopia: AU warns doubts exist over independence of electoral bodies in Africa

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - The African Union Commission has welcomed the progress made by member states to form independent election management institutions, but expressed fears their lack of full independence still puts democracy at risk.

African Union Commissioner for Political Affairs Cessouma Minata Samate said the fact that post-election conflicts still remained a major component of political instability, demonstrated the depth of challenge.

“We have most conflicts arising from poorly organised or poorly managed elections,” Samate told reporters at a news conference on Saturday on the sidelines of an African Union Heads of State and Government Assembly, currently underway at the ministerial level.

The AU official spoke as leaders from across Africa arrived in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, to begin a Summit dedicated to talks over the future of the African youth and women.

The Summit is taking place amid political stand-off in South Sudan, Burundi, the Central Africa Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon, which have all experienced violence related to the holding of elections.

The AU officials said compared to previous decades, the AU has taken measures to ensure each and every member state has an independent body to organise elections.

The AU endorsed the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance in 2007, which defines continental frameworks and principles to the determination of an independent election management institution.

The participation of African youth in elections and their proper representation, which is one of the major issues featuring at the current Summit, has also been judged to be one of the outcomes of poor systems of governance and management of elections.

The African youth make up nearly 60% of the population but have no meaningful participation in governance institutions.

AU officials say unlike women, who now have designated quota system of nomination and appointment to key institutions, the youth were largely still locked out.

“We are focusing on this issue. We want our youth to be part of governance. They cannot participate even in elections because the laws still block many from elections on account of their age. They are not represented,” Samate said.

To address the challenge facing women and the youth, the AU says its Charter on justice should be implemented to ensure the youth could also become candidates in elections.

The AU Commission says it would now involve political parties across Africa to ensure equal representation of the youth.

“If there is a quota for women, there is need for the same for the youth. We are encouraging the independent election bodies to ensure this happens,” Samate said.

The African Union believes the creation of these elections management institutions has become feature of Africa’s advancing democracy, something which has not been seen in other regions of the world.

AU Commission Director of Political Affairs Department Khabele Matlosa said before 2007 when the AU passed the Charter on Democracy, most countries had elections managed by departments within government.

The AU believes the election managers have not obtained full autonomy because the employees are still considered government appointees and the budgets are still determined by the government.

“The bodies are not independent in absolute terms. They are independent in quasi terms because they are still funded by government."

They will not be fully independent "until they are made to report solely to parliament,” Matlosa said.
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02 july 2017 06:42:48

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