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Why Peaceful Polls Across Africa are Essential for Development

Peaceful elections in Africa, a continent that had been haunted by election-related violence, have started becoming a reality, hence guaranteeing continued stability and development.

Recent conducted polls in Uganda.They were reported to be unfairly conducted with intimidation and arrests by opposition leaders and supporters.

The latest case is presidential elections in Chad on April 10. Having been in power for 26 years, President Idriss Deby Itno is seeking his fifth consecutive five-year term against 12 opposition challengers.

This year alone, over 10 African countries have held various elections, most of which were concluded peacefully. In addition to Chad, those that held presidential elections include Benin, Niger, Uganda, Republic of Congo, Djibouti and Comoros Island.

Africa, a continent with the largest number of developing countries in the world, had been labelled as "the hopeless continent" by some western media outlets until 2000. In slightly over a decade, with its robust economic growth and gradual geopolitical stability, the narrative has changed to "Africa is rising.”

Despite a dark electoral past, recent electoral contests on the continent have generally been peaceful. The acceptance of the results by both winners and losers is a pointer to political modernization on the continent.

Those elections, however, are by no means easy given most African countries’ colonial experience.

For starters, maintaining a sound momentum of economic growth is a basis for peaceful elections as peace reduces uncertainty and risk, hence positively contributing to economic growth.

The World Bank said in its 2016 growth forecast that sub-Saharan Africa countries sustained a robust 6.8 percent growth in Gross Domestic Product in the 2003-2008 period.

Secondly, acceptance by many incumbents to leave power after their constitutional terms also contributed to stability and development on the continent.

Muhammadu Buhari, candidate of Nigeria’s opposition All Progressives Congress, was declared president after defeating then President Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria’s presidential election in 2015. For the first time, a challenger defeated a sitting president in the high-stakes contest to govern Africa’s most populous country.

The election is widely hailed by regional and international organizations as political observers said Nigeria had shown a good example for the sub-region by setting a standard for other countries awaiting elections.

Thirdly, increased election monitoring and reporting by the African Union, regional bodies as well as civil society groups are also of great importance for a peaceful election.

A recent appeal by AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for peaceful and transparent polls in African countries should be heeded, as this will undoubtedly protect stability and development witnessed across the continent over the last few years.

It is safe to conclude that Africa can forge ahead its development path only if political parties, candidates and their supporters could resolve the disputes that may arise through dialogue and established legal procedures.

As a matter of fact, a trend of generally peaceful elections and smooth political transitions witnessed by the world will by all means go a long way toward social stability and economic prosperity on the African continent.

By Robert Muriisa.

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