THE United States (U.S.) has attributed the success of the 2011 elections in Nigeria to the support of Washington and the appointment of honest people to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In press interviews in Lusaka, Zambia at the weekend at the end of this year’s U.S. African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) summit, which were released by the U.S. State Department yesterday, the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted that there were technical ways America offered support to friendly African nations like Nigeria, Kenya and Zambia among others in the area of conducting credible polls.
Conceding that there was violence after the election, Clinton nonetheless revealed that the U.S. government worked with Nigeria for the conduct of the election, saying “we’ve worked very closely with the Nigerian government, with the new President, Goodluck Jonathan.”
The top American diplomat added that Nigeria just went through three elections, referring to the Presidential, states and National Assembly polls.
She stated that “we helped them improve their electoral commission, and the president put honest people in who only wanted to count the votes. We helped them improve their systems of sending the voting materials out into the country. They went through the election, and everybody said they were free and fair.”
In a similar case in Kenya, Clinton recalled the violence that followed the national elections a few years back. But, according to her, when “they decided they were going to reform their constitution in order to get rid of some of the problems that they saw...the United States, and other donors, came in and helped them design a computerised system so that the vote was counted automatically. And the referendum on the new constitution was held. It was hard-fought. There was a very strong group against it. But the vote counted, and everybody could see it was fair.”
She also cited the case of India as a lesson to other nations, noting that that country has “one of the best electoral systems in the world,” adding “there are technical ways of helping.”
“So, we’re learning more and we can help, as we are. We have people helping Zambia right now and we will offer whatever help we can,” she disclosed.
Commenting on post-election violence in Africa, the Secretary of State said the U.S. “regrets any post-election violence because of the toll it takes on the people of the countries that are affected. We also want to see democratic elections that are free, fair, transparent, and where the losers honour the outcome. That’s an important step not just for Africa but around the world.”
Continuing, she noted that “ we’re working to try to make sure that we offer whatever help we can. We’ve been working closely in Kenya, in Nigeria, and elsewhere. We’ve offered help here in Zambia. We think there are a number of steps that can be taken to make sure that the elections run smoothly here. Because if there is violence, investors say, wait a minute, maybe I should think twice, and we don’t want that to happen.”
Asked about Libya and the perception that western nations might be bullying Gaddafi with the use of force, Clinton said using force against Libya was not the best option, but “it was the last option,” and she cited the support of other Arab states and African nations, including Nigeria, for such use of force.
According to her “everyone asked that Gaddafi should have a ceasefire against his own people, that he should enter into discussions, that he - he’s a man who’s been in power for more than 40 years. He’s never been elected honestly to anything, and it was time for him to transition his country. And he refused and, in fact, threatened his own people, said he was going to hunt them down like rats.”
She observed that “when the Arab League, which has never asked for intervention before, asked for a fellow Arab state to be taken to the United Nations, the international community agreed, including South Africa, Nigeria, Gabon - the African members on the Security Council.”
She disclosed that the U.S. government will revamp AGOA, saying that on a government-to-government level, “certainly President Obama and I and other officials working with us are very focused on working with African governments and listening to them on issues of trade and economic cooperation.”
According to Clinton, “we don’t want to show up and say, okay, here’s what we think, therefore you do it. We’ve had very important discussions with governments from south to north and east to west. AGOA, which we’re going to be revamping, we want it to be the centerpiece of our trade relationship. We have encouraged a lot of companies to look at Africa for foreign direct investment. And we’ve worked closely with both - worked with Nigeria, Gabon, and South Africa as members of the Security Council.”
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