Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Election Observers in Africa, What is the Real Mechanism of Their Deployment?

With the limping democracies in Africa, coupled with conflicts and discontent among citizens of most African countries, election observation has becomes an indispensable tool for improving the quality and credibility of election, and building voters’ confidence in the honesty of electoral processes.

Election observation, which dates back to 1857 during the plebiscite between Moldavia and Walachia, guarantees that procedures are respected during elections. Election observation is usually carried out by international and national observers, made up of civil society groups, anti-corruption agencies and human right activists with the same objectives. Some of the most prominent election observation bodies in Africa are; observers from the African Union, Transparency International, West Africa Election Observation Network.

The main functions of observers is to deter manipulation and fraud, expose irregularities if they occur, builds trust and confidence in democratic processes and enhance the legitimacy of the government that emerges after any election.  Election observation is most significant in countries where a considerable proportion of the population lacks trust in their electoral system, such as post-conflict countries, countries holding democratic elections for the first time, those with poor human rights records and countries with leaders that have been in power for too long.

First post-Mugabe Election in Zimbabwe

A good example is the participation of long and short-term observers from the African Union, during the first post-Mugabe election in Zimbabwe. Following an invitation from the Zimbabwean government, the AU sent a group of observers to ensure that electoral processes were respected, the election administration, campaign, participation of women, the media, as well as the voting proper and the counting process was in accordance with the laws of the state. This was to ensure a smooth transition from Mugabe’s long reign to full time democracy, through free and fair elections.

Democratic Republic of Congo.

Another example is the forth coming December 23rd elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo. President Joseph Kabila; who became leader of the Democratic Republic Congo in 2001, after the assassination of his father, former President Laurent Kabila, announced that he would not try to stay in office, giving DRC the opportunity to experience what could be the first peaceful and democratic elections. Despite this assurance, Catholic leaders and other activist groups, have expressed concern about the credibility of the long-delayed election scheduled in December, thus the need for the presence of international and national observers, to prevent any form of fraud or bias that may tamper with the credibility of the elections, giving room to more violence in the already troubled nation, thereby highlighting the importance of observers during elections.

This unfortunately, was not the case with the election observers invited by the Cameroonian government, to ensure that the October 7 election was free and fair, as she invited fake election observers, attributing them to Transparency International.

The last  Cameroonian election

After the October 7 election in Cameroon, Nurit GREENGER; one of the “fake” observer working with a group of observers, who claimed to work with Transparency International, declared that the polls were “extremely good” and also said “everybody did their job in a clear and satisfactory way”, a sure ploy to cover up the misdeeds of the elections.  In reaction to these declaration, Patricia Moreira, Managing Director of Transparency International said that the individuals who claimed to work with Transparency International, are not affiliated to the organisation and that Transparency International did not send any international election observation mission to Cameroon.


With the critical state of democracy in Cameroon, and the threats of separation from its two Anglophone regions, Cameroonians are in great need of assurance from election observers, regarding the respect of the country’s electoral processes, fraud-free polls and objectivity in reporting. Unfortunately, such actions only aggravate the distrust and incredibility of the electoral process in Cameroon and the eminent results.

Article of AFRIC Editorial

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