Losers resort to post-election violence

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POST-ELECTION violence is becoming one of the common features defining the reaction to electoral defeat by some opposition parties in Africa.
Last week, the violence that erupted in Harare was a clear sign that Zimbabwe has not been spared from this scourge of post-election violence.
The MDC Alliance, which had, prior to the July 30 2018 election, threatened to make the country ungovernable if it lost the polls, lived up to its threats. 
Twenty-six MDC Alliance supporters were arrested following the ugly violence, which left six people dead and several others injured.
Rowdy and visibly drunk, MDC Alliance supporters went on a rampage, burning vehicles, tyres, vandalising property and stoning security forces.
Chanting: “Zvikaramba tinoita zvenharo” (If we fail we will do it by force), impatient MDC Alliance supporters marched to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) offices demanding the electoral commission to announce their president as the winner of the polls.
Events that occurred in Harare are not unique to Zimbabwe.
Countries such as Kenya (2007/2017), Gabon (2016), Ethiopia (2005), Cote d’Ivoire (2010) and Nigeria (2011) have witnessed widespread and intense violence surrounding elections.
In August 2017, the world’s attention was drawn to Kenyan elections that saw Uhuru Kenyatta winning by 54 percent while his main opponent, and leader of the opposition Raila Odinga refused to accept the results.
Despite losing, Odinga’s supporters resorted to using violence as a desperate measure for their leader to obtain influence in the country’s politics.
In 2017, supporters of Odinga burnt tyres, smashed shacks, blocked roads and threw stones at police, yelling: “No Raila, no peace!”
Kenya’s 2007 presidential elections saw a similar dispute: The chairman of the election commission declared incumbent Mwai Kibaki the winner.
In the weeks that followed, more than 1 000 Kenyans died in the most violent post-election period in the country’s history.
It seems it has become a norm for some opposition parties in African politics to resort to violence after losing elections.
In April 2011, following its presidential elections, Nigeria was rocked by deadly election-related and communal violence which left more than 800 people dead.
The violence began with widespread protests by supporters of the main opposition candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, a northern Muslim from the Congress for Progressive Change, following the re-election of incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the Niger Delta in the south, who was the candidate for the ruling People’s Democratic Party.
The protests degenerated into violent riots or sectarian killings in the northern states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara.
In Ethiopia in 2005, the opposition cried foul over vote fraud and led protesters into the streets of the capital Addis Ababa that left more than 82 people dead.
In 2016, Jean Ping, the opposition presidential candidate in Gabon, lost to incumbent President Ali Bongo Ondimba.
Ping disputed the election outcome, declared himself the winner and called for mass action.Three people died while many more were injured after crowds tried to storm the offices of the electoral commission in Libreville, shortly after authorities announced Bongo’s re-election by a narrow majority.
Protesters had set fire to part of Gabon’s Parliament building. 
But not all disputed elections lead to violence.
Opposition politicians disputed the outcomes of presidential elections in Zambia and Uganda in 2016, Angola in 2017 and Ghana in 2012, but none of these countries experienced significant violence after the elections.
Instead, the losers filed election petitions in court to challenge the outcome.
One would describe the violence that the MDC Alliance initiated as a desperate measure to fenestrate the country’s politics as a partner in Government.
But President-elect Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa has since ruled out the possibility of a Government of National Unity (GNU). 
With two thirds majority in Parliament, there is no doubt ZANU PF will continue to call the shots in Zimbabwean politics.
Faced by this reality, MDC Alliance is aware their space in the country’s politics can only be as the opposition.  
MDC Alliance leader Chamisa is on record saying he will not accept election results if they go against his victory.
After losing opposition parties that include Odinga’s and MDC Alliance often use brutal perpetrators of election violence. 
They resort to violence and protests as a way to coerce the international community to jump in and initiate dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition.
Usually, it is fear of losing an election that serves as a focal point for collective action and post-electoral violence by some opposition parties.
Both Chamisa and his colleague Tendai Biti are on record saying they would not accept results that did not pronounce them as winners.
Such statements by the MDC Alliance show how the opposition induces and manipulates its supporters to use violence when victory does not favour them.
Commenting on Zimbabwe’s recent elections on one of South Africa’s television stations, Julius Malema, leader of South African opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), said political parties  should  learn to desist from violence and  learn to accept democratic outcomes. 
“Let us learn to accept democratic outcomes, violence in Africa can never be a solution,” he said.
“We must be dignified even in defeat.”

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