Even if inadvertently, political leadership in Africa thrives on blood-thirst to illustrate prowess in being in charge. More Africans have been killed in post-independence Africa than in colonial era throughout the continent.
Congo (Leopoldville) now Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger Republic, Uganda, Togo, Benin, Madagascar, Congo (Brazzaville), Equitorial Guinea, the new nation of Southern Sudan, Egypt, Burundi, Rwanda, the Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia and, of course, South Africa. The list could be endless.
Currently, Togo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon are burning, with African citizens being murdered, either in the struggle for political power or ordinary conduct of elections. The latest on this massacre list is the East African nation of Kenya billed for a re-run presidential election next week (October 26). The previous presidential elections was held about three months ago. But in a legal feat for the first time in Africa, a Kenya court nullified the election and ordered a repeat within 60 days.
In a strange combination of acclamation of the court ruling by the opposition party, the ambiguous reaction of the ruling party and rejection of the proposed re-run election by the opposition, all marked by protests, over 70 Kenyans have died, according to human rights organisations. On the other hand, whoever cares or even expresses awareness that in Nigeria’s heighbouring countries of Togo and Cameroon hundred are being slaughtered for the past few weeks?
The opportunity of enhancing Africa’s electoral reputation with the nullification of the presidential elections in Kenya is being (if not already) lost. In its place is the violence that has descended on the East African nation. For this, both President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition rival, Raida Odinga, must bear responsibility.
Otherwise, trial of the election petition, which nullified the Kenya presidential elections, lasted only three weeks (yes, exactly three weeks) from the date of the elections. In Nigeria, such an election petition trial could have lasted up to three years (and probably more) to create all sorts of concocted impossibilities. First is the taboo of not nullifying a presidential election on the untenable reason of not creating tension. The real cause of political tension is the rigging of presidential elections in the firm belief there would never be a legal redress for such in Nigerian courts. For 16 years, Nigerians had to face that provocation. And, of course, lately, Nigerian judges have been exposed for what Nigerians know them all along – massive corruption and allocation in Abuja, Lekki Lagos and millions of dollars into the bargain. Were Kenyan judges to be of that stuff, they couldn’t have been bold enough to nullify a presidential election.
In fairness, before 1999, capable judges distinguished themselves. Justice Dolapo Akinsanya of Lagos High Court in October 1995, nullified Ernest Sonekan’s Interim National Government. That similar legal feat in Nigeria was frustrated by General Sani Abacha’s coup instigated by misguided and naïve so-called Nigeria progressives, who, unashamedly, turned round to criticise Abacha.
In the matter of the nullification of the Kenya elections, all the glory, which could have been earned by that country, was largely tainted by current President Uhuru Kenyatta’s intolerance of rule of law. Uhuru Kenyatta must be unaware that 2017 is different from the Africa of his father’s (Jomo Kenyatta) early days of intolerance of rule of law, when even parliamentary democracy was manipulated to install authoritarianism.
While President Kenyatta told the world that he accepted the court verdict, which nullified his election victory, he betrayed his inner feelings when he, at the same time, described the court ruling as a coup against the people’s will and vowed to re-visit the judiciary. And indeed, when Kenyatta did, he introduced legislation to stranglehold judiciary from, henceforth, easily nullifying elections. The implication was that elections would be won by all means, only the Kenyatta way.
In return, opposition leader, Raila Odinga, unleashed his supporters in violent protests against all arrangements for the re-run elections, fixed for next week.
That was the background to the decision of opposition leader, Raila Odinga, to boycott the election. More remarkably, a leading member of the Kenya electoral commission, Rosaline Akombi, resigned and fled to the United States on very disturbing excuses. First, her observations on arrangements for the elections convinced her the elections would not be free. More alarmingly, she had been almost suffocated with death threats and indirectly through her relations. From all indications, it would be a major concession for President Kenyatta to postpone the elections, which, in any case, was statutorily fixed. When the election was nullified, the court ordered strict adherence to the constitution and the Electoral Act making it mandatory that polls must hold within 60 days from the court verdict. Failure to maintain that deadline may render the new poll another nullity.
By the way, opposition leader, Odinga, never challenged the election result in court, owing to lack of confidence in the judiciary. Instead, a busy-body did that job and unexpectedly won. In Nigeria courts, such a busy-body would have been frustrated by the court on the grounds of “no locus standi.” Accordingly, Odinga was never interested in a re-run presidential elections, which, if held many times over, he would not win because he belongs to the minority Luo tribe, quite insufficient to attract majority votes. It is, therefore, merely convenient for Odinga to boycott the elections, to once again, avoid defeat.
On the other hand, President Kenyatta harms himself with his unconventional suspected political tactics. Weeks before the nullified presidential elections (a couple of months ago), a top official of the electoral commission was mysteriously murdered. The decision of another electoral official for next week’s election to quit and flee to United States is a dent on the international reputation of Kenya. Kenyatta’s intimidation of the bench, in all electoral matters, is not helpful.
Yet, ordinarily, President Uhuru Kenyatta will always benefit from election pattern in Africa, always determined by ethnic affinity. Unless Kenyatta’s majority Kikuyu group embraces Odinga, elections in that country will always go the Kenyatta way. As in most parts of the world, there is no provision in Kenya constitution or electoral law for election boycott, which is a dangerous trap. Postponement of next week’s election in Kenya? Only by the grace of Kenyatta. But the election was already postponed by at least a week, to hold it next week.
Boycotting the elections will not be a legal basis for Odinga to have the elections nullified a second time. A further confusion was introduced by the chairman of the electoral commission who claimed that even though he was proceeding with the elections, he was not sure of a free and fair elections. The Kenya government and the ruling party of Kenyatta rejected all excuses of poor arrangements for the elections, which they insist will hold as scheduled.
Statesmanship from within or outside Kenya is imperative to halt the ongoing bloodshed, which can only escalate in the coming weeks and days.