Supporting Democracy in West Africa
Regional seminar puts elections back on agenda in Burkina Faso
After two 2022 coups in Burkina Faso, which replaced transitional authorities who had overthrown the democratically elected government eight months earlier, there were muted conversations around when the next elections would be.
But at a first-ever West Africa regional seminar in December hosted by the Commission Électorale Nationale Indépendante (CENI), with IFES support, there was a breakthrough. Burkina Faso’s interim President Capitaine Traore underlined the gravity of the security challenges rocking the country, affirming that the democratic transition would end with elections sometime in 2024.
His speech, reiterating his support for a return to civilian rule, was a much-welcome development to the CENI, since he expressed his support for the body.
Over the following three days, participants from a dozen African countries held open, productive, and in-depth discussions about the timing of elections in an insecure environment, issues of election legitimacy, security planning and mapping, disinformation, and the risks of political campaigning.
Creating a more inclusive election for the Deaf community in Senegal
In Senegal, people who rely upon sign language to communicate have largely been shut out of conversations on elections and politics due in part to a lack of established vocabulary on the subject.
"Deaf people are discriminated against; some of us don’t even know the name of the President,” Aminata Dia, a member of the Association of Deaf People in Pikine, said.
Making voter education more accessible, IFES—as part of USAID’s Nietti Elections program implemented by CEPPS—convened representatives of the Deaf community in Senegal and legal experts to develop Senegal’s first sign language lexicon of electoral terms.
The Direction Générale des Élections—Senegal’s election commission—used the sign language lexicon during their institutional campaign for the legislative election in July 2022.
"With new voter education videos in sign language, members of the Deaf community like Papa Alioune Sow, former president of the National Federation of Deaf Organizations of Senegal, discovered new information about the electoral process. Before the video, I didn’t know that the vote was secret,” Papa said.
Supporting electoral integrity in Mali
In 2020 and 2021, Mali experienced two coups within eight months, disrupting democratic order and delaying the country’s democratic transition. The return to democracy was tougher than initially thought.
Initiating electoral reforms to create an independent electoral management body, among other initiatives, the transitional authorities ensured the process would not be left behind amid the instability.
Informed by an Electoral Integrity Assessment conducted by IFES with the support of USAID—providing a mapping of vulnerabilities of the electoral process—IFES assisted transitional authorities to draft a new electoral bill, which the Transitional National Council adopted in June 2022.
In addition to the historic creation of the first independent electoral body, other provisions that also serve as an important step in Mali’s democratic transition included a bill mandating a minimum 30 percent gender quota for most elections and increased voting access for persons with disabilities.