Observations on Elections in the United States, Guyana, Togo And Guinea
In February, elections were held in Togo. Guyana held elections in March. Guinea held elections in October and the United States of America recently completed its election earlier this month. As a Pan-Africanist these are four elections that I have paid very close attention to because these elections help to shed some light on America’s neo-colonialist foreign policy in ways that are unprecedented in America’s history.
I will start with the election in Guyana, which saw the incumbent A Partnership for Nation Unity+Alliance for Change coalition lose to the opposition People’s Progressive Party. The outcome was not a surprise to me at all. The APNU+AFC government won by a slim margin in 2015 and maintained a single seat majority in parliament. Prior to the election, the APNU+AFC government had also lost a vote of no-confidence by a single vote when a dissatisfied member on the AFC side of the coalition decided to support the motion of no-confidence to express his disapproval with the government. The APNU+AFC attempted to bring a legal challenge against the no-confidence vote, but the Caribbean Court of Justice ruled against them.
It was clear to anyone who was seriously observing what was happening in Guyana that the APNU+AFC had made a number of errors and miscalculations which hurt them politically and shifted the momentum in the favor of the opposition leading into the election. In Guyana it has become somewhat common place for elections to be filled with accusations of rigging on both sides and 2020 was no different. Both sides also claimed victory before a victor could be officially determined. A recount was done which gave the PPP a victory over the incumbent APNU+AFC, but the government refused to accept the results.
The United States eventually decided to intervene and put pressure on the incumbent government in Guyana by placing sanctions on members of the ruling government. President David Granger finally decided to accept the results, although he said that he did concede that the APNU+AFC had lost and intended to challenge the results.
Despite intervening to uphold democracy in Guyana, the Trump administration has continued America’s policy of supporting dictatorships in Africa. The Trump administration has been particularly close with the regime in Togo. The regime in Togo is Africa’s oldest military regime. The current regime came to power in 1967. The coup brought Gnassingbé Eyadéma into power. Eyadéma ruled Togo until his death in 2005. Since then Eyadéma’s son Faure Gnassingbé has been the president of Togo.
Togo was the only African nation to vote in support of Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Togo was also selected to be the pilot country for Trump’s “Prosper Africa” program. As I mentioned before, Togo held elections in February. The result was an unsurprising win for Faure who is now serving his fourth term. The result was unsurprising because Togo is not a nation which has fair and free elections, but the United States and the rest of the international community continues to recognize Faure as a democratically elected leader, even though Faure was originally installed in power by the military in 2005. Faure was never democratically elected.
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Guinea’s election was held in October. Leading up to the election there were mass protests against Alpha Condé’s decision to seek a third term. These protests were met with violent repression. Not only were nearly 100 people killed in crackdowns against protests leading up to the election, but activists who opposed Condé’s bid for a third term were kidnapped by the government. Although the election has ended, the repression against opposition leaders has continued in Guinea.
What stood out to me was the contrast between America’s reaction to the elections in Guyana and America’s approach to unfair elections in Africa. The United States joined other international actors to pressure the government of Guyana into accepting the results and giving up power. As the United States was attempting to enforce democracy in Guyana, Condé’s government was working to undermine both democracy and human rights in Guinea without much outcry from the United States. One can certainly theorize about why it is that America decided to intervene in Guyana specifically. It could have been about Guyana’s oil or about America’s desire to have a strategic English-speaking ally located right next to Venezuela. Whatever the case may be, the fact is that America intervened in Guyana to place sanctions on Guyana’s leaders, but America continues to support leaders are much worse violators of human rights than the previous government in Guyana was.
The Trump administration — which is one that has displayed dictatorial tendencies throughout his four years in office — is now behaving in the same manner that the government in Guyana did when it lost. This has included claiming that electoral fraud has taken place without providing concrete evidence as proof. Trump is refusing to concede and claiming that he lost, despite what the electoral results demonstrate. The difference is that Guyana (nor any other country for that matter) will not rush to impose sanctions on Trump or anyone else in the American government for violating democratic norms.
Trump is unique in American history in that America has never had a president who has disregarded America’s established democratic norms in the manner that Trump has done, but the hypocritical foreign policy of deciding when and where democracy applies is very typical. The United States intervened in Guyana in the 1960s to help Forbes Burnham into power. The United States then in turn ignored the election rigging which Burnham carried out in order to remain in power from 1966 until his death in 1985.
The electoral drama in the United States really helps to underscore this hypocritical aspect of American foreign policy. As Americans continue to struggle with the threat that Trump poses to America’s democracy, little thought seems to be given regarding America’s continued support for leaders who regularly trample upon democracy in their own nations — leaders such as Faure Gnassingbé in Togo.
With Trump there is an added layer of hypocrisy. One Guyanese commentator sought to open “the eyes of those condemning the Donald Trump administration (The Republican Party)” by reminding those Guyanese condemning Trump “that it was the Donald Trump administration (The Republican Party) that stepped up overwhelmingly and pressed for free and fair elections in Guyana.” I wonder how he feels now knowing that Trump is doing the same thing that the APNU+AFC was doing in Guyana.
I also cannot help but note the irony in the fact that for decades the United States has undermined democracies around the world, yet the greatest threat that America’s democracy has ever faced is a man whom the American people elected as president. More than 70 million Americans were ready to elect him a second time.
Dwayne is the author of several books on the history and experiences of African people, both on the continent and in the diaspora. His books are available through Amazon. You can also follow Dwayne on Facebook and Twitter.