Over the past few days, democracy’s soft belly was exposed more than ever before. Who would have predicted five or ten years ago that the Land of the Free, the Chief Priest of democracy, the United States of America will have the very same electoral problems facing an average African country?

In Kenya, the humour has reached a crescendo. Photoshop images of President Trump being sworn in by Miguna Miguna and Orengo akin to the time the former Prime Minister Raila Odinga opted for alternative swearing-in ceremony after disputing the election of the current president Uhuru Kenyatta are doing rounds on social media! Kenyans are even offering the services of the Chief Justice Maraga to help in cancelling the disputed election.

But what is emerging is the sheer hypocrisy of Western Media. When an African presidential candidate opts to sue what they see as rigged elections, the entire Western institutions – governments, media and even inter-governmental organizations, side with those who claim malpractices. The pressure is put on the government and at the time even force the formation of a government of “National Unity”.

The USA elections coincided with those of Tanzania where the incumbent, Mr John Pombe Magufuli aka the Bulldozer swept back to power with a landslide majority both in the presidential and parliamentary vote. And true to custom, we had an outcry from the opposition who were literary wiped out.

The US Embassy in Tanzania issued a statement in which it said that there “were credible allegations of significant election-related fraud and intimidation”. The USA thus accepted the allegations of the opposition, which claimed the entire election was a “travesty” and should not be recognized by the international community.

Fast-forward to 6th November and we got an emotive press statement from Rudy Giuliani, which outlined what sounded very familiar to African voters.  Rudy Giuliani vowed to fight the results every inch of the way as he asked, “Do you think we are fools?”

At the centre of the controversy are the mail-in ballots, which Rudy claimed Biden could as well voted 50 times or could have come from Mars or Canada! In Tanzania, the allegations were about stuffed ballot boxes and denial of the opposition representatives from the voting centres and counting process just as Rudy argued that Republican agents were told they could observe from a distance!

Put the politicians aside and let’s look at how the UK Media framed the two disputes. The choice of words such as “Rudy…launch a furious attack on US democracy (The Independent, UK); Eric Trump and Rudy make bizarre claims of fraud and dead people voting (The Mirror, UK); Trump falsely claims he won the election (The Guardian); even the centre-right Telegraph could not help dig in some tooth on Trump with a headline titled “Trump has committed sacrilege …”

The choice of adjectives when it comes to reporting the armed militias threatening hate war in America is simply amazing. The Telegraph had a headline “The truth behind America’s ‘civilian militias’……Armed and extremely patriotic”!

Now let’s look at the same papers on Tanzania’s election. The framing cannot be more different. Where Trump is vilified for seeking what his team terms as electoral justice, Magufuli’s victory, despite the overwhelming expectation of it, is framed as fraudulent, doubtful, irregular.

The Telegraph announced his re-election with the title “Magufuli re-elected amid serious doubts” Guardian was almost similar “Magufuli wins re-election amid claims of fraud….”;  the Independent opted to highlight mass protest –“Tanzania’s opposition demands new election, mass protest”.

The difference is stark. On America, the overriding objective seems to safeguard the system decency. Trump is portrayed as seriously injurious to America’s democratic credential. It is as if highlighting any failures, inadequacy or even outright malpractice is unacceptable when it comes to elections in the west. The fate of the allegation of the undue influences of Russia in the US and UK elections were quietly swept under the carpet of committees.

On Africa, the game is quite different. The modus operandi is to side with whoever characterise any election as fraudulent, undemocratic, and violent.

The West media has inadvertently revealed its deep seat suspicion of Africa’s emerging democracy. These overused frames are now reaching their expiry dates. Elections across the West are anything close to what we have been told they are.

The question is when will the time come when the media class in Africa stop regurgitating these negative stereotypes and borrow a leaf from their Western counterparts in defending the integrity of their democracies.

Ahmed Aideed

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