Elections shouldn’t bring life to a standstill in this region

The month of August in Kigali has reached the part I love the most. It is that time when, starting from Assumption Day, the rains come back to ensure that I get to see more of my favourite colour, green.

The month of August in Kigali has reached the part I love the most. It is that time when, starting from Assumption Day, the rains come back to ensure that I get to see more of my favourite colour, green. You see the dry season around here can be quite hectic. The grass loses colour and where you have just earth the dust rules. The city council struggles to keep the beauty of the city in shape.

This year though it is also the time where the season of the election is done and over with. Here it has been a carnival mood and some have expressed concerns that they will miss it and all the fun times it came with since the next one is a seven years away. President Paul Kagame was sworn in for his new term of office on Friday at a colourful event held at Amahoro Stadium.

There are so many highlights of the event but I would zero in on the Pan-Africanism that filled the air as over 20 current and former African leaders showed up to witness the wearing in and handing over of instruments of power to President Kagame. The iconic photo of the leaders of Sudan and South Sudan sharing a light moment is one that clearly brings a smile to anyone’s face.

As always, the president’s speech was inspirational and straight to the point. My best bit was where he reminded the French leader that Africa has no civilisational problems. Of late there seems to be lots of clashes between Africans and western commentators. I often just ignore most of the statements that clearly dipped in Western arrogance and more importantly ignorance regarding this continent.

For me the biggest issue here will always be the intellectual laziness that springs from looking at Africa as though it were just a one country. With that in mind even extremes in one place are pushed to fit the character of 54 countries many of which have different communities even within themselves. When one designs a template as to how African elections should be they expect to work for all of them without doubt.

And yet different African countries have different histories, different demographics, different external and internal power brokerage mechanisms and even different aspirations. Instead of trying to explain why in one country, elections may pass without a fuss and why in another they are a matter of life and death, some just go with what they prefer to have as a template and the rest are seen as not conforming.

And yet I really think that places where elections are a matter of life and death are places where citizens feel quite disempowered that an election in five years gives them immense false hope that they will have a say in how things are run. So they invest a lot of resources in form of money, time and emotions into the election.

Once it is over, the side declared victorious will celebrate and almost mock the vanquished as though they are not even intending to live in the same country thereafter. In such a situation, tempers flare and the western assigned journalist can bet on violence after the election.

This is something we can gradually move away from as we acquire more experience on how to run elections but more importantly if we devolve power further down the chain so that citizens can be able to seek accountability from leaders at all levels instead of waiting for an election season to raise their hopes of doing the same.

Our brothers in Kenya are not yet really done with their election that is now a matter before the Supreme Court of Kenya. The task for the judges will be to look at evidence provided so as to decide whether the election was conducted according to what the law proves. There has always been a dilemma here with judges concluding that things didn’t go right but it was not enough to alter the outcome of the election in general.

In the meantime people can get back to leading their lives as they follow the proceedings of the court case but also keep in mind that their political system is now devolved and some of the people who should answer to them are governors and Members of the County Assembly (MCAs). The process of devolving power from the top is clearly one still in progress.


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