Flawed Polls, Compromised Judiciary Fertile Grounds for Military Intervention, CSO Warns

*Says coups endangering democracy in Africa, lessons for Nigeria

Chuks Okocha in Abuja

A coalition of pro-democracy groups, the United Action Front of Civil Society, yesterday, warned that flawed elections and compromised judiciary, had become fertile grounds for military interventions in Africa’s democracies.
Bemoaning the  recent spate of military coups in countries across sub-saharan Africa, the group said while military coups were antithetical to popular aspirations that heralded pro-democracy movements in the 80s and the 90s, birthing democratic governments across Africa, military rule has never been a viable alternative.

A statement by the Head, National Coordinating Centre, United Action Front of Civil Society, Wale Okunniyi, stated that flawed elections and compromised judiciary could not be an acceptable standard to the citizens and civil society of any country, arguing that recent developments were both a lesson for Nigeria and endangering democracy in Africa.

“The recent coup in Gabon, coming after the recent military intervention in Niger Republic signposts a worrisome trajectory of uncertainties for the future of democracy in Africa and the likelihood of instability in Africa.
“It is regrettable that the emerging incidents of these military interventions all over enjoy popular acclamation from citizens, who should naturally be defending democracy.

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“The situation in Gabon as well as Niger speaks to the frustration occasioned by flagrant manipulation of electoral process by the political class as well as the compromise of the judiciary.
“Democracy appears endangered in Africa, if military coups are perceived as alternative to reckless civil rule by the citizens, whose hope in the sanctity of the elections and the judiciary have been dashed,” the coalition stated.
The group “unequivocally wishes  to  emphasise that this unfortunate scenario underscores the depth of the failings of political actors, who stage civilian coups against democracy in their countries by undermining democratic institutions, manipulating the electoral process and arm-twisting the judicial system.

“United Action Front of Civil Society can therefore not overemphasise that the antidote to military intervention in Africa is genuine commitment to the democratisation processes, which entails unalloyed commitment to internal workings of institutions of democracy and more importantly the independence of the electoral umpires as well as the judiciary.”  
The coalition reiterated that those who undermined democratic process in Africa and abused the oath of their offices were only unwittingly setting the stage for a repeat of military intervention.

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Accordingly, the coalition cautioned that democratic institutions and particularly, the electoral body, must be accorded freedom and independence to conduct free and fair elections without hindrances or undue pressure.  
It contended that a rigged election would only provide a pathway to military coups such as the recent ones in Niger and Gabon and therefore demanded greater responsibility and sincerity from electoral umpires and the judiciary to safeguard democracy.

Consequently, it “warned  that failure by the Nigerian judiciary to satisfactorily address grievances arising from flawed electoral processes across the country might be providing incentive for military forces, which would be a huge setback and disservice to Democracy and the civil society, which are supposed to guarantee the peace and general wellbeing of the country.

“To this end, the Nigerian political class is hereby enjoined to draw a lesson from military interventions in Niger, Gabon and other West African Countries and immediately put its acts together before it’s too late as the situation in the country is tense and the signs are ominous.”

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