Mar 14th, 2013 1:38 PM UTC
By Wangui Muchiri
The real winners of the Kenyan election to me are first and foremost, Kenyans. Kudos for maintaining peace and calm through out the electioneering and election period against all odds and predictions. Now more than ever, as the world continues to watch, Kenya needs to uphold the virtues espoused in their national anthem: Peace. Love. Unity.
Kenya’s election has received a nod from several institutions, the AU, European Union, Canada, South Africa, China amongst others, as having been free and fair.
Contrary to widespread predictions that the race would end in a runoff, President elect, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta was able to receive over 50 percent of the votes cast in the first round as required by the constitution for a candidate to be declared president. His main challenger, Raila Odinga, has not conceded and will be going to the Supreme Court to challenge the outcome of the polls. In all this a key proud moment for Kenyans is that its new Constitution more than proved the value of the paper it is written on, Kenya’s political leaders and Kenyans as a whole honoured it.
Right now, the issue at the top of everyone’s mind is what the President elect’s International Criminal Court (ICC) case means for the governance of Kenya. One school of thought, as expressed by the Brookings Institution says, that Kenyans have seen the ICC intervention in Kenya as largely a political, rather than a judicial, process. They contend that a large fraction of Kenyans have come to regard the ICC intervention as an attempt to remove both Mr. Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, from political contention rather than seek justice for the victims of the violence.
On the other hand, there is a school of thought, which says, the ICC did not invite itself to Kenya. The ICC intervened in this case after Kenya’s parliament were unable to establish a local tribunal to try the crimes that followed the 2008 election.
Since the just concluded election, there have been more developments on the ICC front. The ICC has dropped their case against Uhuru’s co-accused, former Civil service head, Francis Muthaura, on the grounds of lack of sufficient evidence. The prosecution has since admitted that it has dropped 5 witnesses in the Ruto-Arap Sang case, while it has dropped 7 witnesses in the Uhuru-Muthaura case.
As a result, a status conference in the ICC court against Kenya’s president-elect, Uhuru Kenyatta, is set for Monday, 18th of March.
In his victory acceptance speech, Kenya’s president–elect said he would continue to cooperate with the ICC, but at the same time asked the international community to respect Kenya’s sovereignty.
Whichever way it goes, Kenya’s just concluded election shows that Kenya has come of age, and the resolve of its people across the deep tribal divides to maintain peace and calm in Kenya is to be hailed. This is a new dawn for Kenya.
Dec 14th, 2012 8:31 PM UTC
By Dr. Sipho Moyo
Ghana is a country I’ve come to admire profoundly for its democratic credentials over the last five elections since 1992. And now, I have seen that country successfully transfer power for the sixth time in a row without an implosion. Ghana has done it again… it’s pulled off yet another peaceful election last week on December 7!
What makes this truly commendable is the fact that Ghana has maintained its reputation as an oasis of peace in a troubled region where smooth elections are not always taken for granted. Ghanaian activist and Free Africa Foundation President Professor George Ayittey highlighted a number of key factors that account for Ghana’s political maturity in an article for CNN this week.
I want to focus on three critical factors – from Professor Ayittey’s article – that Africa can learn from. These factors have helped Ghana in becoming not only the political inspiration of the continent, but the country from which we have come to expect much.
First, the existence of a free media, particularly print and broadcast media and the proliferation of FM radio stations in Ghana, has provided a precious tool for exposing problems, holding government accountable and ensuring transparent elections.
A second underpinning aspect has been the existence of a strong and vigilant civil society – enabled by freedom of association, of expression and of movement as well as the use of new technology and social media.
The third important dynamic has been the maturing of political leaders, which in the words of Professor Ayittey, was “stupendously displayed in the 2008 elections,” and has been demonstrated in this recent election where once again the difference between votes for the two leading candidates has been marginal.
Ghana concluded its elections on Sunday, and voted in President John Dramani Mahama of the New Democratic Congress, who beat his rival Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party. President Mahama avoided a run-off by a whisker, garnering 50.7 percent of the votes, compared to Akufo-Addo’s 47.7 percent.
The elections were declared free and fair by the African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), and the US government amongst others.
However, even with an election that close, Ghana’s main opposition party will not be taking to the streets to challenge the results, in which they are sighting counting irregularities. According to the chairman of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), Jake Obetsebi-Lamptet they will be taking their matters to the Supreme Court. Yes, in the midst of an electoral dispute, Ghana continues to bolster its image as a peaceful nation.
You really do have to admire Ghana. My sincere congratulations to Ghanaian citizens for a peaceful election.
Image credit: Kofi Akrofi
Feb 24th, 2012 3:22 PM UTC
By Wangui Muchiri
Senegal has often been celebrated as an oasis of peace amidst its coup ridden neighbours in West Africa. However, with the recent violence that has rocked Dakar ahead of Sunday’s presidential elections, many have began wondering if Senegal could be on the brink of losing its reputation as Africa’s most stable democracy. Protestors are up in arms against anti-riot police in down town Dakar, bringing business almost to a stand still and dozens have been reported injured.
The conflict is based on President Wade’s bid for a third term. Opposition parties are said to have vowed to cause mayhem, should the 85 year old incumbent win the election. Their bone of contention lies in the fact that the constitution clearly bars President Abdoulaye Wade from contesting in this year’s elections. Some opposition members are calling for a postponement of the election saying that it would be impossible to hold a free and fair election in Senegal.
President Wade on the other hand sees things very differently. He has argued that the constitution he helped changed to limit presidential tenures to two terms, came into effect after he was in power, and therefore it was still technically legal for him to run another term. The ruling party has ruled out the possibility of changing the election dates. Unless something drastic happens, Senegal is therefore set for elections on the 26th of February.
In the midst of all this, the AU has appointed former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo to head its delegation ahead of the Sunday’s election. Obasanjo has been quoted as saying that he is ready to go beyond merely observing the elections to mediating should the need become necessary.
President Obasanjo is said to have already met with President Abdoulaye Wade and several members of the opposition who include, Ousmane Tanor Dieng, Youssour N’dour and Alioune Tine. Senegalese newspapers also report that he has also met with the head of the constitutional court, the legal body that has final say over election disputes. It was the court that disqualified Youssour N’dour, one of Africa’s most famous musicians, from running. And it was also the court that ruled that Wade could run for a third term, on the argument that he was elected before the new constitution including term limits went into effect.
International observers, including the EU and US have called on restraint and urged for a peaceful, free and fair election. At the end of the day as the Africa Review puts it, whatever the outcome, Senegal’s model democracy is this week set to face a stern examination that will either shatter the proud tradition, or leave it even stronger. Many hope for the latter.
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