AFRICA’S ELECTIONS

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It has been over thirty years or a generation or so, since multiparty politicking took hold of our continent. After ‘flag independence’ the ruling parties active during the struggle were given free hands (in all and sundry) by the innocent African sheeple. ‘One party state’ and ‘president for life’ were the rules rather than the exceptions. Absolute power soon led to absolute corruption. For instance, Mobutu Sese Seko unswervingly claimed probity when it came to the country’s resources (mineral wealth and all other revenues), except the diamond fields! Those, he insisted, were his own personal properties subject to no jurisdiction whatsoever. This might not have been said only in jest, given his comprehensive corruption and contempt for his own people!
Such attitudes gradually gave rise to the ‘economy of affection’ (to use a phrase made popular by Goran Hyden),even in countries that avowed to follow ‘socialism’ (Tanzania, etc.) Today this silently established guideline has become the central organizing principle of politics in almost all African countries, rendering the core features of political contestations (based on merit, competence, cogency, etc.) ineffective. All the noises we hear during the continent’s various frequent elections are for cheap consumption. At the end of the day, it is identity politics the holds sway in Africa’s politicking! One usually elects a politician, not because he/she is the most qualified, rather it is because he/she belongs to the same tribe or clan or family, etc. of the contestant. Such built-in irrational inclinations are effectively undermining (along with other centrifugal tendencies) the project of nation building, let alone the lofty ideal of forging the African Unity! There are enough experiences (on the continent) to indicate multiparty elections, without the participations of committed parties with convincing ideologies, have resulted in nations that are becoming increasingly demoralized and on their way to gradual fragmentation. Why is it our continent has literally no principled party worth its political skin? Here is our old friend Yash Tandon still at it. See his article next column.
How many Kenyans vote on issues or on the merit and integrity of candidates? Unfortunately, the received wisdom on political control of the state is; ‘wealth comes from the barrel of political power’ or putting it more bluntly; ‘It is Our Turn to Eat’ (Michela Wrong)! If those who have not been eating start to complain, how is the grievance to be handled? After all, a whole lot of people on our continent have given up on the possibility of ‘making it’, without some serious political connections. This attitude permeates the whole continent. It touches all institutions;from the state house to district commissioner’s office to ordinary police station, etc. etc. The election ten years ago in Kenya was bloody and disruptive. The current ongoing election is also pregnant with potential violence. Peace and harmony require sacrifice. Look at those who fought their way to power and how they managed to destroy their legacy and legitimacy, from ANC to MPLA, etc. etc.! Countries that were once touted to be economic powerhouses are now in shambles. Situations in Cote d’ Ivoire, DRC, Libya, etc. should make us think hard. We need to face our difficult realities honestly and must be determined to pave the way for the creation of a state that inspires confidence and tries to secure the future for all its peoples! See the disturbing article on Biafra on page 42 & 46.
According to the ‘eating logic’, if one is not included in the regular eating jamboree, then one must find a way to secure one’s turn to eat, so to speak. One option is to get out and it is certainly the most disruptive. Sadly, this is the prevailing notion of ‘the state’, particularly in places like Kenya. Capturing state power is tantamount to building wealth. The state is considered the most important vehicle for parasitic accumulation. The question of secession in the Coast province of Kenya (Mombasa, etc.) and Biafra in Nigeria(yet again) are here to haunt us because of the logic of eating! Unfortunately, while such difficult issues are brewing on the ground,(also fanned by outside forces)the ruling political elites (both the incumbents and the opposition)are busy looting the sheeple’s resource. Africa needs committed activists with caliber to deconstruct the existing phony electioneering, with a view to initiate meaningful discourse that might transform the existing degenerate governance system away from its crude notion of eating.”If God wanted us to vote, he would have given us candidates.” Jay Leno. “The problem with political jokers is, they get elected.” – Henry Cate, VII. Good Day& Good Year!