David Shinn, former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia (1996–1999) and Burkina Faso (1987–1990), said Africa’s democratic record has been mixed in recent decades, with periods of progress sometimes interrupted by flawed elections. “One of the encouraging developments is the growing willingness of the African Union and subregional organizations to condemn setbacks to the electoral process,” he said. Despite challenges, Shinn told America.gov, “African governments and voting populations increasingly are emphasizing the importance of elections as part of their efforts to strengthen democracy.” This month’s election in South Africa is an example, he said. Shinn, who is currently an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, said, “I cannot stress too strongly the importance of having a professional and totally independent national electoral commission. “There is nothing easy about conducting a free and fair election in Africa — or any other part of the world, for that matter,” he added. “But it is imperative to have a professional, well-staffed and independent electoral commission to establish election procedures, monitor the process and ensure a fair hearing of complaints.”Image: "Independent election commissions, like this one in Pretoria, South Africa, play a large role in strengthening democracy, activists say." Source: America.gov.
Friday, May 15, 2009
I interviewed with America.gov's Jim Fisher-Thompson for his piece "Independent Electoral Commissions Strengthen Democracy in Africa: Post-election sustainability important, democracy advocates say" (link), which was reprinted on allAfrica.com. Here are the relevant passages: