Africa wants to make sense of chaotic US election

U.S. Democratic candidate Joe Biden received enough votes to become the next U.S. leader. President Donald Trump has alleged fraud. And Africans watch events with a mixture of surprise and concern.

Like the rest of the world, Africa has paid close attention to the US election as the United States continues to exert significant influence over what happens there. “Whoever is in charge in Washington and the policies they follow have direct and indirect consequences for the continent,” Achille Mbembe, a Cameroonian political analyst, told DW.

According to The Associated Press, Joe Biden garnered enough votes for the Electoral College to become the next US president. Biden promised to unite the US after a bitter and belligerent vote. President Donald Trump claimed in his allegation that the Democrats “stole” the election and refused to concede defeat. Instead, Trump and his Republican party have launched several legal challenges in an effort to reverse the outcome of the election.

“Many Africans look at the US election in a very cynical way – cynical in the sense that they know what stolen elections are about,” Mbembe said. “They know of the positions that do not want to admit that they have been defeated.” Some Africans have joked on social media that the US is becoming more or less like a postcolonial African state.

A bad example for Africa?

“This is surprising to Europeans and Americans, but not to Africans,” Togolese activist Innocent Sossou said of Donald Trump’s decision to declare himself the winner of the November 3 election. Trump is challenging the results in several states and wants a retelling in Wisconsin.

It is common for opposition parties in African countries to contest election results. This was recently the case in Guinea, where opposition presidential aspirant Cellou Dalein Diallo announced he had won before the Electoral Commission announced the official results. “But the paradox in the United States is that it is the president who is talking about fraud,” Sossou said.

Ivorian journalist Mah Camara says the US has set a bad precedent for Africa, with presidents on the continent possibly using their stamp on events before and during the election. Among other things, Trump has complained for weeks that the ballot papers – which were requested by millions of voters due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – are susceptible to voter fraud. However, there was no reliable evidence that massive irregularities occurred.

‘Democratic debacle’

Donald Trump’s refusal to accept the defeat – especially because he is the outgoing president of a country that is being taken by many Africans as an example to follow – has shocked civil society activist Henri Mutombo.

“Trump’s exit leaves us, the African youth, confused. We have observed from a distance, but when this country, which gives many lessons in democracy to African countries, begins to experience this democratic debacle, we wonder if the world is in it. danger, ā€¯Mutombo said.

Even Germany has expressed concern about a very explosive situation in the United States and warned against a constitutional crisis. Such a statement is often issued after controversial elections in Africa.

‘Water preaches and takes wine’

According to Patrick Gathara, a Kenyan political satirist and commentator, the US election in 2020 exposed the democratic weaknesses in the world’s largest economy.

“For a long time, the US has been one of the strongest advocates of peaceful, free and fair elections and democracy in general,” Gathara told DW. “It has preached to Africa and helped us in many ways improve our democracies, but it seems like the United States is taking wine while the US is preaching water.”

The Kenyan political analyst has gone so far as to say that it is high time that the US learned from some African countries, such as Ghana, how to hold credible elections. “Over the past 50 years, African countries have done a lot of work on their electoral and democratic systems,” Gathara said. “Many African countries have learned how to restrain the managers; the era of the ‘great African man’ has passed.”

For Mbembe, Trump never made the African continent a priority during his presidency. “He saw Africa as a burden. He might have shown some interest, but only in terms of the overall fight against so-called Islamic terrorism,” he said.

Mbembe hopes Biden will show more interest than Trump in promoting democracy on the continent. Nevertheless, he believes that democracy in Africa will be the product of internal struggle in society: “It cannot come from outside. It will not be outsourced.”

Kossivi Tiassou and Eddy Micah Jr. contributed to this report.

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