The country of Guinea is receiving deserved praise for a wide-open national election — its first in decades — in which 24 candidates vied for the presidency. The resource-rich country, transitioning from military rule, hasn’t yet reported electoral results (and will probably hold elections again in the near future in order to determine which is the dominant political party in a post-coup era). While on June 30 17 candidates cried foul, the number and diversity of the candidates highlight the vibrancy of a country where for too long time appeared to have stopped. Across the continent, in Burundi, the electoral process is upside down, with only one candidate running. The result is a huge disappointment for friends of Burundi (and donors) who had hoped that elections could set the country on a new course. My first mentor in Africa, the gifted journalist Alexis Sinduhije, had set out to campaign for the presidency of Burundi only to join recently with other opposition leaders to boycott the poll. The last man standing is a former rebel leader; Burundi, sadly, has spawned many. In Guinea, expectations run high; in Burundi, high expectations mock the reality of poor performance. The experiences in both countries provide a reminder that elections in Africa are not good in themselves, but reflect the forces (for good or not) in the societies which hold them.
From Conakry to Bujumbura: Africa’s election paradox
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