In 2018, Paul Biya of Cameroon was re-elected for his seventh term. Biya, who has been the president of Cameroon since 1982, has a long record resorting to force to maintain his grip on power. The most recent election was marred by allegations of fraud and concerns that many were too afraid to even vote. Despite this, the United States congratulated Cameroon on the election.
Earlier this year Togo also had an election in which the incumbent president Faure Gnassingbe was reelected. Faure Gnassingbe has been the president of Togo since 2005. He was installed in power by the military after his father died. Despite more than five decades of electoral fraud and the use of violent force against political dissidents, the United States did not rush to sanction the government of Togo over the concerns of fraud in Togo. In Guinea, protests against President Alpha Conde’s bid for a third term became very bloody as several protesters were killed by the security forces in Guinea. Again, no sanctions were placed on Guinea.
My question is what standard is America utilizing to determine that Guyana should be singled out for sanctions over the current electoral impasse, but African nations which have engaged in much worse violations of human rights still continue to receive American support?
What makes the American involvement in Guyana even more problematic is the fact that in the past America intervened in Guyana to not only help subvert the democratic process in order to ensure that Cheddi Jagan was not elected into power, but to also stir up racial division in the country as well. America is partly to blame for much of Guyana’s political struggles over the past few decades and I fear this move to place sanctions on Guyana will only help to stir up even more division in an already deeply divided nation.
Even if the sanctions accomplish the task of getting the incumbent APNU+AFC led government to concede defeat, many supporters of the government will likely view the American sanctions as an assault on Guyana’s sovereignty in order to install the PPP into the government. Guyanese are already distrustful of the electoral system in the country, which is why accusations of rigging have continued to persist in Guyana even after fair and free elections were restored in 1992. For instance, when the PPP lost to the APNU+AFC in 2015, the PPP claimed that the results were rigged.
In 1964, President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana sent a delegation to Guyana in an attempt to mediate the conflict between Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham. The attempt was not successful, but I mention it to show that at the time when the United States was exploiting political division in Guyana, there were other international actors who were seeking unity. In 2020, it does not seem as though the international community understands how deep the political division in Guyana is. The international community simply wants Guyana to abide by the recount results which show a victory for the PPP opposition party, but my concern is that the sanctions will only add to the distrust and resentment among the political parties in Guyana which is the very reason why Guyana continues to have such contentious elections.
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.