The DPAPS has a mandate to promote democratic elections and good governance in Africa, through the provision of electoral assistance, in accordance with relevant AU policy instruments, among which Article 18 of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, since signed in 2007 and entered into force in 2012.
This article provides that “ (a) State Parties may request the African Union Commission, through the Democracy and Electoral Assistance Unit and the Democracy and Electoral Assistance Fund, to provide advisory services or assistance for strengthening and developing their electoral institutions and processes; and (b) The Commission may, at any time, in consultation with the state party concerned, send special advisory missions to provide assistance to that state party for strengthening its electoral institutions and processes.”
This mandate complements the deployment of election observation missions in the Member States holding elections in pursuance of the African Union Commission's mission to promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance.
Over the past decade, two developments have reinforced the strategic significance of elections to democratisation in Africa. The first is the adoption of the 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration in 2013 which provided a solid foundation for the second development, namely the adoption of Agenda 2063 - The Africa We Want in 2015. The credibility and acceptance of the legitimacy of the election results depend on the extent to which an EMB is perceived by voters and candidates to have conducted an electoral process, and the professional capacity of an EMB has a direct effect on the credibility of the outcome of an electoral process.
Against this backdrop, the AUC’s support focuses on preventing, managing and resolving election-related disputes, violence and political instability. Both election observation and technical assistance to EMBs hold great promise in this direction.
The 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration commits African leaders to “anchor their societies, governments and institutions on respect for the rule of law, human rights and dignity, popular participation, the management of diversity, as well as inclusion and democracy”. In order to achieve this noble goal, African leaders committed themselves “to:
● Strengthen democratic governance including through decentralized systems, the rule of law and the capacities of our institutions to meet the aspirations of our people;
● Reiterate our rejection of an unconstitutional change of government, including through any attempt to seize power by force but recognize the right of our people to peacefully express their will against oppressive systems;
● Promote integrity, fight against corruption in the management of public affairs and promote leadership that is committed to the interests of the people; and
● Foster the participation of our people through democratic elections and ensure accountability and transparency.
Some existing institutional frameworks encourage the promotion of the management of peaceful, democratic and credible elections, specifically, the provision of technical assistance to EMBs in the Member States is also inspired by the African Governance Architecture (AGA), which plays a critical role within the framework of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). This is especially so, given the importance of EMBs in the prevention and management of election-related conflicts and violence. It is therefore crucial that the APSA operationalization framework such as the AU Peace Support Operations and the Post Conflict Reconstruction and Development incorporates institutional capacity building of EMBs and stakeholders to build resilient democratic governance institutions.
Agenda 2063 has seven aspirations. Two of these aspirations demonstrate the new thinking in Africa that democratic governance and peace are critical for the continent to achieve socio-economic development and structural transformation in the short, medium the long term.
Aspiration 3 of Agenda 2063 envisions “An Africa of good governance, democracy, and respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law”. This is the key objective pursued through the African Governance Architecture (AGA). Aspiration 4 envisions “A peaceful and secure Africa”. This is the key objective of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), especially in pursuit of one of the flagship projects of Agenda 2063 on ending all wars and silencing guns in Africa.