Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s win: A New Dawn or Continuation of a Legacy?

As the dust settles on the confirmation of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s win in last month’s polls by Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court, one begins to wonder what exactly the future is for the country.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance and its candidate, Nelson Chamisa had brought a legal challenge saying the vote was impaired by “mammoth theft and fraud”. The rejection of this claim by the court has left Mr. Chamisa, with no alternative than to concede defeat.

It is alleged that despite accepting defeat, Nelson Chamisa has maintained that he will

Zimbabwe's President-Elect: Emmerson Mnangagwa
Zimbabwe’s President-Elect: Emmerson Mnangagwa

not refer to Emmerson Mnangagwa as president, but simply as ‘Mr’. Whatever the case, this confirmation of the election results means that 75-year-old Emmerson Mnangagwa remains as the 3rd President of Zimbabwe.

This election is Zimbabwe’s first since long-time President Robert Mugabe was ousted from power last year, in what can best be described as a ‘bloodless coup d’etat’. The question now remains as to whether this win marks a new dawn for Zimbabwean politics or it is simply a continuation of the last dispensation.

Sometime in 2011, I wrote a piece analysing the case of Zimbabwe. One of my conclusions then was that  “‘the central and dominant variable determining…developmental success or failure’ is politics. If there is any reason there is widespread poverty in Zimbabwe today, it is the poverty of its politics. This means that the solution cannot come from the same failed politics but from a “…more explicit…  integrated theory of political and economic development” which will take into account the different nuances that make up the complex and unique political entity called Zimbabwe”.

I think that my view today is not much different. People have been under the misguided impression that merely ousting Mugabe from power will usher in a new dawn for the development of the country. I felt and still feel that Mugabe’s exit, was a well-orchestrated plan to ensure that his successor is someone who will continue his legacy, without actually appearing to do so. I may be wrong, but if the current president has, throughout his political life, supported the same ideals as Mugabe, what is the guarantee that a mere change in his title will create a different vision. But, perhaps, by being voted in, he may well start bringing about policies that are aimed at improving the overall wellbeing of the masses, rather than just the political class. There is, however, no guarantee that this will happen, as has often been the case in most young African democracies.

Paul Collier has argued that the lack of checks and balances can lead democracies to make even more of a mess of a political situation than autocracies, for “…  it turns out that democracy is a little bit more complicated… Because there are two distinct aspects of democracy. There’s electoral competition, which determines how you acquire power, and there are checks and balances, which determine how you use power. It turns out that electoral competition is the thing that’s doing the damage with democracy… And so, what the countries of the bottom billion need is very strong checks and balances. They haven’t got them. They got instant democracy in the 1990s: elections without checks and balances.’

If Collier’s view is anything to go by, the current election of Emmerson Mnangagwa through electoral competition is just the first stage, and in fact, the less important one. The determining factor will be whether Zimbabwe has got the right checks and balances to ensure that the current president does not end up living a similar legacy of sitting tight when everything else around them is crumbling.

Julius Sello Malema, the leader of the South African far-left, Economic Freedom Fighters, has in one of his videos been heard to proclaim that Zimbabweans, will be the only African country in the next 10 years which will be truly independent. If this turns out to be the case, then one might agree that Mugabe might not have had a bad outcome after all. But this outcome is largely dependent on what Mugabe’s successor does. If there is true economic independence for Zimbabwe, then its current president has no excuse not to take the country into a new phase of its history.

Buhari’s Historic Victory: The Real Dawn of Nigerian Democracy?

After over three decades since seizing and losing power in military coups; after three attempts at getting in through a democratic process; after three days of a tension-filled election, Muhammadu Buhari became the first Nigerian opposition leader to oust an incumbent president through the ballot box. This puts him in charge of Africa’s biggest economy and one of Africa’s most challenging democracies.

Buhari31

Ousted President Goodluck Jonathan in an unprecedented move, called Buhari to congratulate him even before the result had been officially announced. According to Lai Mohammed, a spokesman for Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC),”At about 5 minutes to 5, President Jonathan called General Muhammadu Buhari, the winner of the elections, to congratulate him,

Buhari-and-Jonathan

This smooth concession of victory by Goodluck Jonathan would surely come as a surprise to millions of his supporters especially given that former Minister of Niger Delta, Peter Godsday Orubebe had earlier in a public show of shamelessness and stupidity, attacked the Independent Electoral Commission chairman [INEC], Professor Attahiru Jega, alleging that the result of the elections have been falsified and accusing Jega of bias and partisanship.

Buhari’s victory therefore calls for cautious optimism especially if one where to take a glance at the years since the acclaimed 1999 transition to democratic rule.

With the coming to power of the Obasanjo regime in 1999 as a democratically elected government following several years of military dictatorships, it seemed a new dawn had come for Nigeria. In his opening address to Nigerians, Olusegun Obasanjo raised people’s hopes when he said:

I shall end this address by stressing again that we must change our ways of governance and of doing business on this eve of the new millennium. This we must do to ensure progress, justice, harmony and unity and above all to rekindle confidence amongst our people. Confidence that their conditions will rapidly improve and that Nigeria will be great and will become a major world power in the near future. (The NEWS, June 14, 1999)

But as events later turned out, Nigeria was in for the greatest economic, political and social nightmare. The “democracy” under Obasanjo was one in which one man who called himself the “President” ruled the nation as a personal estate, made mockery of the constitution, controlled the nation’s coffers and dished out money to other nations as if it were his personal account. After eight years in power, the social ills of the Obasanjo regime had clearly held Nigerians to ransom. Poverty was ravaging the land, many people died of curable diseases simply because they could not afford to pay hospital bills. There was even the uncomfortable admission of the fact that the lives and properties of Nigerians were more secure under General Sani Abacha than they were under the so-called democratic regime of Obasanjo. Unemployment and attendant hopelessness rose, the standards of education fell, there was a marked increase in the number of destitute and beggars on the streets. The skyrocketing of the prices of petroleum products, with an increment made on the eve of Obasanjo’s departure form office, was a clear indication of the level of decay the country had been plunged into. Worse still, it was under this regime which claimed to be able to sweep away corruption that Nigeria bagged the highest award in corruption, coming first in the world. To crown it all, the level of election malpractice was one that also deserved an award.. In the end, it was clear that military dictatorship and democratic tyranny are two sides of the same coin.

Obasanjo Yar'Adua and JonathanThe late President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua and his Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, therefore, inherited an ant-infested firewood. In a few months they gave much hope to the people with the proposed 7-Point Agenda . But the questions of whether the fulfilment of those new ideas and reforms they were introducing could be considered a visionary hope, was never answered due to the untimely death of Yar’Adua.  It became obvious that the interests which those new reforms were going to thwart were much stronger and more obvious than those they were to serve when Goodluck completely ignored the 7 point Agenda both during his completion of Yar’Adua’s term and the term which he contested and won.

It is therefore not surprising that Nigeria continued to slump further into the morass of hopelessness that characterised the Obasanjo regime. To make matters worse, despite unrelenting economic forces driving Nigeria to become Africa’s biggest economy, the onslaught of the Boko Haram insurgency exposed the ill-preparedness and inability of Jonathan to lead Nigeria.

It is therefore not very surprising that a majority of Nigerians decided that it was time to give Buhari another chance to redeem himself. His perseverance has finally paid off, and with Goodluck Jonathan showing maturity in conceding defeat, Buhari has a huge challenge ahead. He has the experience, and hopefully, with the determination to set the records straight, Buhari might finally usher in the real dawn of an era where the ordinary Nigerian can begin to feel and experience the real dividends of a true democracy!

The Passionate Plea of a Patriotic Kenyan

As Kenyans head to the polls on Monday 4th March, 2013, it is not unusual for minds to go back to the happenings of 2007. True to his nature Kenneth Okwaroh Ochieng does not sit back and watch events unfold but proactively contributes in shaping the process. Here is a plea he has for all Kenyans to vote and make a difference in the country. If we cannot vote, we can get those who can vote to do so and make the much needed difference.

PLEASE ASK KENYANS TO GET OUT AND VOTE ON Monday March 4th 2013

Hi
My name is Kenneth Okwaroh Ochieng. Also Known As Okwaroh Ja’Paprombe on face book. I blog at Okwarohztake. I have a thousand plus friends on facebook, I follow many noble and interesting people on twitter and they follow me as well. I have over 300 connections on linked in, and have close to a thousand people in my circles on Google plus. I have travelled the world and met awesome people, made friends, classmates, workmates …

Folks am afraid but I have to do this. It is the least I can do to my country right now. My country Kenya is at cross roads. We are less than 24 hours into an extremely important general election. An election that demands of us to deal with a problematic past and juggle the promises and challenges that the future holds. It boils down to folks getting out as many a possible to VOTE. To vote enough to enable us distinguish a clear winner. Going by opinion polls that have run in the past 3 months – the race pits two arch rivals with strong personal and emotive opposing opinions that is cannon fodder for violence and ethnic animosity. Or people are reeling from the aftermath of the 2007 general election when unfortunate events led to peace-loving citizens taking arms against one another, killing over 1000 innocent people, displacing over half a million from their homes, destroying property worth trillions and crippling an economy that was in the path towards double digit growth.

I am writing to ask you that PLEASE. if you know a Kenyan, if you have any one of them in your networks (facebook, twitter, linkedin, Google+, foursquare, badoo, etc) – PLEASE ask them to get out on Monday 4th March and VOTE. If they are out there in the Diaspora, kindly ask them to spread this message to their constituencies.

Africa must indeed live up to its true potential. It begins with having civilised political transitions. We need Kenyans to get out and VOTE because if they don’t, we are headed into a RUN-OFF that is bound to be too costly in terms of resources and in terms of undermining the progress we have made in the difficult past 5 years reforming our institutions, working to reengineer our nationhood and building a responsive 21st century state.

We have already expended way above our means as a nation in real investment towards reforming the electoral process, the judiciary and internal security regime. The campaigns alone have been perversely expensive and have had significant impact on the economy already.

A run-off puts Kenya in a one month limbo when everything and anything could happen. It is appreciably an uneasy calm and we are doing our best to preach peace – but the run-off will sure ignite emotions, tension and will polarise Kenya in unprecedented measures.

As a nation we have brokered peace around the world – in South Sudan, spearheaded the renaissance of Somalia and are a beacon of regional stability, political tranquillity and economic prosperity in the East African region. Kenya calls on you to at least return a favour at this moment of need.

If you love Kenya – 1) Our beautiful sceneries – the great Mount Kenya, our cosy beaches in Mombasa, Lamu and Malindi; 2) Our rich heritage – the lion daring Maasai; 3) Our beautiful city in the Sun Nairobi where life never stops; 4) Our thrilller rugby 7s team, 5) our resillient athletes. If you love Peace, If you want prosperity and stability in East Africa, Africa and the world.

PLEASE ASK KENYANS TO GET OUT AND VOTE ON Monday March 4th 2012.

Thank you. Yours truly
Okwaroh Ja’ paprombe —–>http://bit.ly/YeTkwz

And please if you do not like my message, be the gentleman or lady and just overlook it

 

CAMEROON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS: A KEG OF GUNPOWDER BUT ANY CAUSE FOR ALARM?

CAMEROON: READY FOR CHANGE?

Throughout the time I have been in Cameroon, (about two weeks now) I have not felt for once that a very crucial presidential election is around the corner – only once in Yaounde when I was asked to present my ID card twice within a distance of 200 km did I get the sense that there was some tension in the air. In fact, I get a greater feel that on the 9th of October 2011, Cameroonians will have to go to the polls, is when I am on Facebook.

It should not be in the least surprising for anyone who has been following Cameroonian politics. The first thing to note about the country is that it is one of the countries that are called ‘democratic’ but which has never for once elected its president. It is alleged that the first President Ahmadou Ahidjo was simply a choice of the erstwhile colonial masters who preferred him to André Marie Mbida after killing Ruben Um Nyobe. Ahidjo himself decided to single-handedly appoint Paul Biya his successor, who has clung to power since 1982. When the winds of change of the ’90s brought multi-party politics to Cameroon, it was an opportunity for old goons to learn new tricks.

The most free and fair elections in the Country was held in 1992 which the opposition led by Ni John Fru Ndi allegedly won but which, the incumbent Biya having the knife and the yam, ended up declaring himself the winner. Many today, blame Mr. Fru Ndi for the 1992 lapse. That was the decisive moment, they claim. He simply had to say the word and Cameroonians would have fought to defend their votes. He rather chose the pacifist route by taking up the bible and pointing to Cameroonians that ‘when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers’. That saved Cameroon the agony of going down the path of many African nations. OR DID IT?

Since then, the incumbent Biya and his party, the CPDM have mastered the art of maintaining power at all costs. The ultimate result has been that the government has concentrated more on trying to maintain power than do anything else. Most terrible in the whole scenario is that Biya has succeeded to build even within his own party a personality cult around himself. Without holding a Party congress since 1996, he has evolved into a ‘natural candidate’ for the party. Two days ago a Congress held after his candidature had already been declared seemed to be an opportunity for him to show all that he was ‘lord’ of the party (Of course, he is. The most popular emblem of the party is now his 1985 face. It is on all party uniforms and official documents). To have selected another candidate would mean the party will have to go through an overhaul of all its intrinsic values. CPDM is synonymous with Paul Biya.

But why all this sycophancy? Why is it that the failures of the Biya regime stare at all in the face yet he keeps receiving ‘motions of support’ even from parts of the country that are so run-down that one wonders if they are part of same Cameroon? All these would have pointed to the fact that the elections are a foregone conclusion had it not been for the recent happenings of the so-called Arab Spring – especially the fall of Hosni Mubarak. This is what makes the Cameroon situation precarious.

A KEG OF GUNPOWDER?

Cameroon did not take a cue from the uprisings in North Africa as many will wrongly assume. In 2008 Cameroonians came out on a nationwide protest and strike against Mr. Biya’s bid to change the constitution, a protest that was effectively crushed by the US-trained Battalion Intervention Rapide (BIR). Since then it was clear that the force could effectively carry-out the mandate for which it was created. However, with the fall of Mubarak, even when he tried some of the tricks Biya used in 2008, (clearly showing that they were reading from the same script), it became clear to the United States that even the BIR may not be able to quell a revolt in Cameroon this time, should one occur. President Obama quickly called on Biya to hand over power as a bid to avoid the same situation whereby power could fall into the hands of someone who was not on the US control-roll. This will have been an easy thing for Biya to do but unfortunately, he has little or no guarantee that leaving power would mean freedom. He had already soiled his hands. There is the lake Nyos disaster of 1986 that still has unanswered questions; there are the massive killings that he carried out from the period of 1990 to 1992; there are the mass imprisonment of people without trial; there is the case of the 9-killed at Bepanda; there is the recent case of 2008 and many crimes against humanity which the ICC has on their lists waiting for him.

Caught in this dilemma, Biya could not declare his candidacy until a few weeks to the elections as trips to China clearly gave him reason to dare the US. While it is clear that China endorsed his bid, given that they were clearly represented at his party’s congress, the real problem is that the leadership and command of the BIR is more American than pro-Biya. Should there be massive protests in Cameroon this time around, the US will be slow in using the BIR to maintain Biya in power. However, unless the US can get a candidate they can back, it will be a difficult situation as their inaction could still lead to what they are trying ab initio to avoid. The worse case scenario, however, will be one in which the US backs another person against Biya using the BIR and Biya manages to get support from the Country’s French forces and military. A clash between the gendermarie and the military on one hand and the BIR on the other, will be inevitable. BUT THIS CAN ONLY HAPPEN IF THE US SEES A POTENTIAL THREAT TO BIYA’S REIGN AND DECIDE TO LEAVE HIM IN THE COLD!

ANY CAUSE FOR ALARM THEN?

There seems to be none as far as Cameroon is concerned. This is because of three reasons:

First is the fact that Cameroonians are generally peaceful people. No people will bear the failures of Biya with such docility. From the time Biya took power in 1982, the country has been on a steady decline in all aspects. The economic crisis officially declared in 1987 was just the beginning of worse things to come. No new infrastructure in the country can be credited to the regime. From the presidency, airports to even football stadia, everything still carries the insignia for Amadou Alhidjo. Despite all these, Cameroonians have watched the country go from bad to worse with a geometric retrogression but maintained stoic silence. This may be because they are very hard-working, such that they have been able to weather the storms and keep sustaining themselves and forging ahead, and hence, lacking some of the basic ingredients of violent revolutions such as widespread hunger and great frustration, which makes the likelihood of a popular revolution slim.

Secondly, Cameroon has a breed of opposition leaders who unlike the Alassane Dramane Ouattaras and Morgan Richard Tsvangiras, are not ready to sacrifice the blood of innocent Cameroonians for the presidency or a piece of power. John Fru Ndi showed this in 1992 and at this stage, even popular leaders like Kah Walla and Ayah Paul Abine have all shunned the way of violence. This, however, can only be sustainable if none of them decides to approach the USA or France with promises of greater concessions against China. As long as they keep hoping to win through the ballot, none will defeat Biya unless they decide to team up with the power brokers – the USA and France. If they should take this root, however, the avenues for violence in Cameroon will be greatly opened.

Thirdly, the ability of the US to maintain the status-quo is crucial. Asking Biya to leave was not because they favoured change in Cameroon but because they fear change that is not within their control. If Biya can play his cards well and retain power, the US will be all too glad to endorse him again. He may not be playing the huge role that Mubarak was playing in the Middle East but at least being as naive as he is, he is effectively the type of person the US needs to maintain a solid base in West and Central Africa. Hence the USA will back another person only when it becomes crystal clear that a popular uprising that could threaten Biya’s hold on power is imminent.

In the final analysis, one should not expect anything to really change with the present elections, unless the opposition can effectively work out a strategy that promises a fair deal to the US and France. Should this happen, then Cameroon could explode at the slightest ignition after the elections.