On Thursday, April 17, Raila Odinga was sworn in as Prime Minister of Kenya. This saw the official creation of a coalition government between President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) and Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) – a power-sharing deal that was meant to stop the blood-letting and mayhem that was visited on Kenya and the entire region, following disputed presidential elections on December 27, 2007.
The story of what happened in Kenya after the presidential elections is well-known. But for Zimbabwe, it would have remained in the annals of history as the most ineptly managed and bloodiest poll in Africa in recent times. A deliberate delay in announcing results was followed by a contrasting supersonic hurry in announcing Mwai Kibaki winner, and promptly swearing him in as president of Kenya.
So many anecdotes abound about this swearing-in – one of them being that it was done in such a hurry that the national anthem was not even sung!
Domestic and international observers castigated the poll results that gave Kibaki victory, and thus the presidency, as gravely flawed; they were supported by many Electoral Commission officials who supplied evidence showing inconsistencies in tallying votes. Chaos then broke out all over Kenya. The country degenerated into cold-blooded massacres; rape, burning and pillage became the order of the day.
It was to end this piece of Dante’s Hell that saw an agreement reached in February 2008 to form a government of national unity, mediated and executed under the guidance of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and a host of eminent former presidents and regional leaders.
Such an arrangement lacked popular legitimacy, given the overwhelming evidence from both internal and external observers, which included the Electoral Commission itself, that the results of the parliamentary elections that saw ODM win 99 parliamentary seats against PNU’s 43, all point to the fact that President Mwai Kibaki had a big case to answer as it were, and should not have been sworn in as president.
Turning to Zimbabwe, holding the March 29 elections at all was a boon, as they were relatively peaceful despite prior harassment meted out to the opposition. But there was such a great delay in announcing poll results, that it was impossible for even the world’s greatest optimists not to think that there was some grand poll chicanery afoot. For people to go to polls on March 29, and results are announced on May 2 – one full month later – begs belief in the results.
Be it as it may, they gave a win to MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai, 47.9%, against Zanu-PF’s Robert Mugabe, 43.2%.
Having failed to garner a clear majority – 51% –Tsvangirai could not form a government; so there had to be a re-run as stipulated by Zimbabwe’s constitution.
Amidst a bloody and scandalous campaign of terror against election officials, opposition members and the general populace; in addition to a declaration by Robert Mugabe that even if the opposition won the vote fair and square he would not allow anyone else to assume leadership of Zimbabwe and that only God could stop him (effecting an ardent prayer from a prominent columnist in Uganda, John Nagenda, to please God honour Mugabe’s own prayer and take him!); the plot of the grim drama getting further complicated by opposition leader Tsvangirai and the MDC withdrawing from the race – despite all this, the run-off did take place on June 27.
Mugabe competed against Mugabe, and after a hard-fought campaign that included beating up and forcing people to vote him when he was the sole contestant, Mugabe won the democratic election process - in a ‘landslide’ victory of 85% of the vote.
Like Kibaki, he was hurriedly sworn in as President – he literally had one foot on the swearing-in platform, and the other on a plane that was taking him to Sharm el Sheik, Egypt, where he could not miss swaggering into the African Union Summit as the brand new president of Zimbabwe – and, like a replay of Kenya’s politics indeed, world leaders condemned the sham elections.
Sadly though, again through their habitual laissez-faire attitude they could only urge ‘talks’ and the formation of a unity government. Now, this is what gets my goat, and raises my dander up, and all those other expressions that denote my penny’s worth anger.
World leaders set a very bad precedent when they urged Raila Odinga to accept Mwai Kibaki as his leader and form a new government, despite the glaring evidence that the process that led the latter to swearing-in as president was grossly flawed and therefore lacking credence. And very wrongly, they ascribe this kind of betrayal as a success, and want it replicated in Zimbabwe.
It is a big travesty of democracy to legitimise an illegitimate regime and leader, and a betrayal of the people who lost their lives in the process of protesting the stolen election. Of course many innocent people lost their lives as well, and it is such sacrifice that I am defending, that should not have been in vain.
Something good should have come out of this loss, instead of the political maze we have entered into, that which all of Africa’s undemocratic leaders are gleefully endorsing because they know that sooner than later, they will be benefiting from it.
Kenya and Zimbabwe, with the tacit support of regional and international players, have sunk electoral politics to a new low. What is lost on the ballot box can be regained through the barrel of the gun!
No betting for me, but if you wish you can send me a crate of something bittersweet, when you find my prediction that we are soon getting more African leaders mocking democracy, or democratic governance as is today’s parlance, in this endorsed similar fashion.
The trail has been very nicely blazed by Kibaki, and now Mugabe; who is the next one in line please?
Give me a benevolent dictator any day. Give me Muammar Gaddafi. Because with him, I know perfectly where I stand. Not for me the shifty ones who will manipulate whole national institutions like the judiciary, parliament, electoral commission and the constitution, just so they lend legitimacy to their rapacious and insatiable appetites for power.
The writer is a journalist