African politics will never cease to amuse me and when it comes to voting, it has become so interesting, because you will never hear of an election where voting was free and fair.
Last month, Ali Bongo was elected the new president of Gabon, taking over his father Umar Bongo. The president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy immediately sent him a congratulatory message on the victory.
But as the message was received the opposition side was preparing to take action claiming that the elections were not free and fair. One question is when will elections in Africa be free and fair?
In 2007 Kenyans were persuaded to vote, they were told an election was one way to speak and be heard, and vote they did in millions.
But the election result provoked an ugly dispute and so the scorned populace reacted publicly but extremely unwisely by turning against their neighbours, attacking and killing many.
It was the worst form of expression, and the worst action to cause change but perhaps it was not entirely unexpected, as years of simmering anger burst forth.
Many African countries have tried more legitimate forms of expression such as protest when have been dissatisfied.
We have all seen the terrible images of protesters being beaten and shot at by police in many countries.
The question is in what legitimate sane and safe way can Africans express themselves politically and be heard, and have their concerns acted upon?
The shock therefore is when the lovely continent of Africa is suddenly and bizarrely crumbling.
There is shock expressed that Africans could turn to violence.
It is now clear and cannot be ignored that the underlying long term causes of Africa’s political crisis are not much different except in degree from the conditions that include the highly centralized power structures in some countries the tribalism, the acute economic inequality and the huge masses of frustrated poor.
I am not condemning this innocent view that I got from some friends’ argument that mostly middle and upper class Africans have been privileged enough.
In fact I give a round of applause to it when it is not completely blind because an idealistic belief in one’s country and the democratic process is necessary for the idea of a nation to become reality, and it is the belief in most African’s.
Democratic institutions that lead millions to vote and in fact the voting itself is said to be free and fair on the whole.
The tallying or lack thereof is another matter and the fear is that the electoral mass in most African mind than the choes is what we are now seeing in many African countries.
It will completely eat away at any idealistic belief in the democratic process and institutions and then there really will be nothing left but machetes and guns.
A friend of mine I met on a bus when I was travelling to Nairobi told me that he hates politics saying that he absolutely holds no trust in his leaders and has no reason to trust them.
“Cynism is the Ugandans default position when it comes to politics”, he said adding that when one grows up with public execution as entertainment on television, the first thing one learns about politics is that the state is also an instrument of terror.
He said adding that they learnt the lesson not just during Idi Amin’s era, but had it callously repeated as if they did not get it the first time by government after government that followed.
No generation has been left behind as we watched adults do anything to put food on the table, bribe, beg, spy, steal or become politicians, we learnt that this is what you do to survive and right or wrong is not the issue.
One lesson he told me as we were getting off the bus to go for a short call at Mbarara where buses make stop over for people to buy refreshments and ease themselves is that deeply in grained in every Ugandan is that their society forces exist to both protect and attack them, lest he said that they dared forget it lulled by campaign talk during the presidential elections of 2006, the government graciously ordered the “black mamba” paramilitary Unit to storm the courts as opposition members tried to seek legal recourse.
“The whole statement seemed boring to me because I don’t know what Black Mamba’s are”.
As we boarded again the bus and enjoying our roasted chicken the guy continued telling me about politics which am not interested in and he said that the 2006 action of bringing the military Mamba’s rudely reminded them that those in power would not let go simply because of the game called election. By the way what are black mambas? I forgot to ask him.
As we approached Kampala he got off the bus and I continued to Nairobi but pondering with some questions in my head like what lessons are the young African Children learning right now, before they can learn anything else?
That if you hate someone or feel cheated, kill, if not so, burn down their property. What about the kids who watch the swearing in ceremony, learn that the way to deal with a crisis you have caused is to keep insisting with a straight face that there is no problem or after adopting all this crap of seeing people bribe, rigging votes, making riots, they also say, ‘Yes we can’.