Elections refer to the official process of selecting a person for public office This is the vehicle that brings to life the visions of leadership that a society wants for itself while simultaneously facilitating and growing the political ecosystem in that society.
Over the past few years, elections in Africa have been tainted by violence which has led to the disenfranchisement of the electorate, loss of electoral materials and in some cases loss of lives.
In 2005, election-related violence in Ethiopia led to about 200 deaths. In Kenya, the 2007/2008 election left about 1500 people dead. The 2010 presidential election in Ivory Coast recorded about 3000 deaths. Following the commencement of the fourth republic, after a protracted military rule in Nigeria, most of the elections held in the country have been characterised by violence, and thousands of people have died in election-related violence. The Human Rights Watch recorded that more than 800 people died during the 2011 election violence in Nigeria.
Violence during elections poses a major threat to the democracy that past heroes have given their lives for and we must do our part to ensure that the possibilities of election violence are brought to the barest minimum.
Below are practical steps you and I can take to minimise election violence in our various communities.
1.Be respectful of your fellow voters’ choice. Every voter has their ideal candidate and more importantly, a right to have that choice. You may or may not agree with their choice but it is important that you respect it. Do not insult an individual over their candidate choice.
2.Maintain order at your polling booth. Elections are typically a tense time in the Nigerian Society and even the slightest form of disorderliness can easily escalate into full blown violence. Follow instructions laid down by the designated electoral officials.
3. Encourage and amplify Nigerian and international messages of commitments to non-violence. This can be done through social media, traditional media and even the clothes we wear.
4.Establish clear, agreed upon, and accessible post-election grievance mediation structures before the elections to deter violence during the elections. Ensuring fora are in place through which communities can discuss and seek justice for any corruption, violence or abuse that may occur during the elections period may help deter violence.
5.Establish clear contingency plans to enact in bad, or worst-case scenarios at every level. At the local level, this should include identifying capacities for local action to defuse worsening situations through media, influential local leaders and civil society groups.
Sources: Africa Upclose