Cancer of clinging to power is spreading across Africa


JF-Expert Member
Nov 22, 2007
By Jerry Okungu

IT IS amazing how the Ivorian elections have played out. It looks like Laurent Gbagbo the supposedly defeated president borrowed a script from Kenya’s 2007 elections with a blend of Zimbabwean cocktail.

Now Allasane Ouattara, the opposition leader that was declared the winner must contend with guards from the United Nations holed up in some hotel hoping Gbagbo will soon see sense, concede defeat and vacate the presidential palace for the rightful winner.

This latest African election fiasco speaks volumes about African rulers who feel uncomfortable leaving office by any other means other than death in office or being ousted from power by military might. They have put a low premium on democratic electoral process as a civilised way of changing regimes. This grand coalition mania that is slowly creeping in our political culture was actually invented, manufactured and patented in Nairobi Kenya; thanks to the efforts of the African Union, Kofi Annan and the United Nations.

Now the cancer is spreading across Africa. On December 27, 2007, President Mwai Kibaki did not win an election but was sworn in three days later at a controversial State House ceremony that was conducted under the cover of darkness. Not a single head of state was invited to the ceremony as had been customary in the past. In a matter of hours, Kibaki named his first cabinet of 17 ministers then barricaded himself at State House as post-election mayhem consumed many parts of the country.

In the latest case, Gbagbo refuses to accept defeat in the Ivorian elections. The sitting president chooses to go to court to overturn the country’s electoral body’s results, international observers’ verdict and the United Nations’ conclusion that had indicated that Allasane Ouattara the opposition candidate had beaten Gbagbo by a very wide margin.

Amidst all this confusion and stand-off, Gbagbo decides to be sworn in immediately at the Presidential Palace, the equivalent of our State House. Soon after, he names his cabinet as the winner is sill holed up in a hotel under heavy international security. In the Kenyan situation, much as no contender went to court to nullify the elections that were obviously disputed following delays in announcing the results, the Electoral Commission was finally forced into announcing the results later by the president’s men and women the in power.

Just minutes following this announcement, Kibaki was hurriedly sworn in at State House late in the evening. When the international community realised that Kenyans would not accept this blatant theft of their rights lying down, and as the masses started unleashing mayhem in most parts of the country including disrupting road and rail transport to East and Central Africa, did the East African Community, the AU and the rest of the world realise that Kenya had reached its tipping point with its election thefts.

Strangely for Kenya, the announced election results were neither accepted nor condemned by the international community. They opted for the third option and chose to bring the PNU and ODM to the table to negotiate power sharing! The reason they did this was because probably they knew that the Electoral Commission had mismanaged the process beyond recognition such that it was impossible to know who the real winner was.

This theory was confirmed months later by the Kriegler Commission when it concluded that it was impossible to know who won or lost Kenya’s 2007 elections.

However, the lingering question is why the international community chose to negotiate power sharing between the two main opponents when it could have easily forced a re-run between Kibaki and Raila Odinga. But again, considering the violent mood in the country at the time, another election might just have aggravated the already volatile situation. We may recall that soon after Kenya went through with the Grand Coalition government that finally included the third confirmed loser, Kalonzo Musyoka, another coalition government was in the offing in Zimbabwe where Mugabe’s ruling party had grown wild after apparently losing to his opponent Morgan Tsvangirai.

Rather than accept defeat, Mugabe refused to leave office and chose to form his government despite international condemnation that included more sanctions. Sooner rather than later, the AU- supported southern African states led by South Africa negotiated a Kofi Annan type of coalition government that forced Mugabe to share power with his erstwhile opponent in the government.

If Gbagbo stays put in his presidential palace despite international condemnation; if he refuses to listen the voice the US President, the UN Secretary General, the European Union, the AU and the ECOWAS, then the international community will be left with only two choices; either to use force and eject him from power or negotiate a power sharing deal similar to Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Knowing how the international community thinks, another war in Ivory Coast would not make economic sense. They would definitely opt for the Kenyan template and accept Gbagbo as the Ivorian president for another five years despite having lost an election.

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