KENYA’S electoral nightmare is a perfect mirror image of what can go wrong if democratic institutions remain weak and amenable to manipulation, especially in emerging nations and democracies.
The electoral debacle in Kenya is a reminder that democracy is never sufficiently entrenched, that it needs constant watch and nurturing. It should also serve as a lesson that those who come to power through democracy are not necessarily its best guardians and champions.
What was once a bastion of democracy and pluralism is now a chaotic shell, bruised and reeling from electoral incompetence and cheating.
All this because of the desire by a few individuals to dominate the political landscape and milk the country for self-enrichment. While politics is supposed to be about service to one’s country and people, things are different in developing countries. Politics in our part of the world is a means to super richness and power to control. It is about being master and not servant, although ideally politicians are supposed to be servants of the people that they serve – the electorate who put them into power.
The Kenyan problem is also a good example of how things can go wrong if tribal domination perceived or real, cronyism and uneven distribution of resources are not brought in check.
Of interest is also the fact that both Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, the two men at the centre of the current political squabble were once comrades in arms. Odinga was part of the movement that helped Kibaki rise to power, ending the reign of Kenya’s strongman, Daniel Arap Moi.
Events in Kenya present lessons for Namibia and the rest of the Southern African region as they forge ahead with consolidating good governance and democracy.
The political environment in some of the SADC countries is becoming somewhat turbulent with rising political tensions and anxiety as the region reaches a defining moment in terms of democratisation and as opposition emerges from unexpected quarters.
The political tradition in our part of the world has been that comrades wrestle power from non-comrades and that succession is pre-determined. That is now changing as can be attested to by events here at home and elsewhere in the region including South Africa.
It is the dichotomy of this change that is a source of some of the political troubles and turbulence that we are currently experiencing.
What is supposed to be healthy competition for positions in some instances has tended to poison relations between the different players hence political tension.
The Kenyan electoral debacle should thus serve as a wake up call for emerging democracies like Namibia.
Let us learn to manage change and transition albeit carefully because resisting change is not an option. Let us not only preach national unity but practice oneness because as events in Kenya have shown, it is easy for tribes to turn swords on each other even after many years of independence and having a united nation.