Mobile Phone Technology Is Making It Hard For Election Cheats In Africa

Written by Kevin Mwanza

Rigging of elections to sway poll results in favor one party especially the incumbents’ in Africa has been drastically weakened by the rise in mobile phone technology and increased vigilance by civil society groups.

Elections in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Benin were peacefully concluded without any disputes and were greatly helped by increased scrutiny from the citizens who used their mobile phones to keep track of the vote count.

“It is more and more difficult to commit fraud,”Mathias Hounkpe, political governance programme manager for Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), a non-profit organization that promotes democracy in West Africa, told AFP.

He added that presidents across the continent have seen their capacity to manipulate electoral process drastically diminish due to the rise of internet use and increased public awareness.

Since 2000, several organizations have sprang up across the continent with the aim of holding governments to account and ensuring that incumbents do not manipulate results to stay in power.

Some of the groups include Balai citoyen (Citizen sweep-up) in Burkina Faso and Y’En A Marre (We are sick of it) in Senegal.

In Senegal, former president Abdoulaye Wade successfully dethroned Abdou Diouf in 2000, ending the 40-year rule by the Socialist Party in the West African nation.

However, Wade’s decision to amend the law to scrap the two-term presidential limit in 2007 was met with the ‘Y’En A Marre’ protest campaign led by rappers and journalists, underlining the increased public participation and social media impact on election processes taking root in Africa.

The Arab Spring

Authoritarian regimes that seemed unquestionable by the public in the past have felt the impact of a civil society groups.

In Chad, members of ‘Ca Suffit’ (It’s Enough), a civil society group called for nationwide protests against President Idriss Deby ’s decision to seek a fifth term in office in April, Africa News reported.

In Gabon, a presidential elections held on August 27, 2016 has driven the west African nation to the brink of civil war after Jean Ping, the main opposition leader, disputed the controversial re-election of Ali Bongo.

He managed to rally opposition supporters to protest the result and has turned out to be the biggest test to the rule of the Bongo dynasty, spanning 49 years.

During the infamous Arab Spring, a revolutionary socio-political wave that hit Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, civil society groups mobilized the masses through social media, according to Mic.

The pressure by civil society groups and increased public participation has however not been an obvious success in several countries.

While Nigeria oversaw the defeat of the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan by Muhammed Buhari, the Ugandan government under President Yoweri Museveni quashed a wave led by the opposition and civil society to retain power in presidential elections held in February, this year.