Electoral malpractices, recipe for coups in Africa - ex-president


MOGADISHU, Somalia - Former Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud opines that electoral fraud and the habit of incumbents refusing to hand over power could be the major reason behind coups in Africa since independence.

For instance, Africa has witnessed three major coups in the past few weeks, with the latest coming in Burkina Faso, a country in West Africa. More recently, a similar military takeover has been witnessed in Sudan and Mali.

And Sheikh Mohamud, who is seeking the presidency for the second time in Somalia, says national and sub-national leaders should immediately learn to rally for electoral integrity to avoid such incidents in the continent.

"The military coup in three west African countries is an indicator for leadership failure to fix electoral malpractices. I urge our leaders, both at national and subnational levels, to take care of election integrity. The Somali people are watching your behavior," he said.

According to him, Somalia had been only dealing with vices such as Al-Shabaab menace, inter-clan wars, and drought not until last year when outgoing President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo attempted to extend his stay in office following the expiry of his mandate.

"That tradition was disrupted last year, when President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmaajo, illegally extended his mandate by two years, triggering some of the worst violence in years and imperiling Somalia’s hard-won democratic gains," Sheikh Mohamud told the Foreign Policy.

"Mohamed’s power grab was met with near-universal condemnation. The opposition, foreign governments, and even the president’s own prime minister all rejected the unilateral extension of his term," he adds.

The former president further notes that the most recent attempted coup in Somalia was triggered by Farmaajo's unwillingness to conduct free and fair Lower House elections, adding that his style of leadership should be blamed for Somalia's lack of progress.

He accuses the outgoing president of using security forces to legitimize his stay in power, noting that President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo may even continue staying in power and perhaps trigger a coup in the country.

"The attempted coup in December was the last straw. Once again, the domestic and international reaction was swift and forceful, with all sane minds agreeing that no one should be allowed to ruin the hard-earned gains of the last 20 years. But the rebuke has been ignored," he says.

"Mohamed is still using the army to undermine the prime minister’s efforts to steer the country back toward an electoral process that is acceptable to all parties. It seems the president will do anything to stay in power, even if that means holding the country at gunpoint."

Somalia has been in conflict since 1991 when military leader Siad Barre was kicked out of office. For decades, the country has struggled to establish a stable government, with the United Nations chipping in for economic and political assistance.


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