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Elusive democracy but relative peace in East Africa

Discussion in 'Habari na Hoja mchanganyiko' started by ByaseL, Sep 17, 2010.

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    ByaseL JF-Expert Member

    Sep 17, 2010
    Joined: Nov 22, 2007
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    Jerry Okungu

    IT has been a busy period for partner states in East Africa. If it wasn’t Burundi holding its elections early in the year, it was Rwanda’s turn to hold its own amidst all manner of accusations.

    With Burundi and Rwanda done with, our eyes must now turn to 'Bongoland' to see how the incumbent Jakaya Kikwete will fare in his final bid for a second term.

    Hot on the heels of Tanzania will be Uganda’s turn to usher in either a new president or stick with Yoweri Museveni for another five years.

    Either way, it will hold its elections; now that all the main political parties have chosen their flag bearers.

    The five partner states of East Africa have more or less the same electoral systems all of which purport to practise democracy with a few variations from time to time.

    Again, of the five partner states, only Kenya and Tanzania can claim to have heads of state that grew up through the ranks in civilian governments.

    For the rest of them, these were either soldiers or freedom fighters that finally removed their uniforms and became statesmen after fighting human rights abuses in their own countries for decades.

    Looking at Tanzania’s process; yes it is a multiparty democratic state but only in name and design.

    Ideologically and in national orientation, the CCM party that ushered in independence and domesticated socialism is still very much the party to beat.

    Its grip on power and grassroots network are so entrenched that it is almost unthinkable to imagine that there will be a change of guard in Tanzanian politics any time soon—probably in the post-Kikwete era.

    Since its return to multiparty politics in the early 1990s, many political parties have sprung up with gusto in Tanzania and withered with time.

    Their founders have equally disappeared from the limelight as the struggle against the CCM has become increasingly insurmountable.

    The reason political parties in Tanzania have found it difficult to dislodge the CCM from power is simply because despite its glaring weaknesses in the areas of fighting corruption and even abandoning its socialist policies, Tanzanians have grown over the years to trust the ruling party more than the latecomers.

    If you talk to Tanzanians that are knowledgeable in the affairs of their country, one thing will emerge across the entire spectrum of the society.

    They view all politicians with the same mistrust. They have no trust in any of them be they in the opposition, back bench, cabinet or in the CCM.

    Therefore, given a choice between the CCM and any other party that has never been in power, they would rather go with the devil they know than the angel they have never tested with power.

    While I lived in Tanzania for the better part of 2008, I wasn’t sure that President Kikwete would last his first term. It was at that moment in history when corruption in Tanzania probably reached its peak.

    That was the period Kikwete was forced to fire the entire cabinet, including the Governor of the Central Bank.

    However, since he weathered the storm, it is incredible that just two years later, Jakaya Kikwete looks set to sail through with ease to his final term.

    In Rwanda, Paul Kagame was re-elected for another seven years with a 93% vote count; one of the highest public endorsements ever in the region.

    This high number was partly because he had no meaningful opposition for the presidency.

    Amidst all accusations of media and political suppression, it was a foregone conclusion that Kagame would earn his seven-year term with ease.

    Whether he reassures all Rwandans that all will find their voices in the new dispensation is another matter altogether.

    But perhaps the one compelling reason why Rwandans svoted Kagame to a man was their memory of the 1994 genocide that left close to one million people dead.

    For Kagame to have steered his country out of that dark period and successfully turned the country around in the last 16 years is no mean achievement.

    For Yoweri Museveni, his ruling Uganda for the last 24 years can only be compared to that of Daniel arap Moi who did the same number in Kenya under the KANU dictatorship.

    However, the fact that 15,000 NRM Ugandans gathered at a national stadium for two days to choose their flag bearer for the ruling party was an indication that the NRM, like the CCM would definitely rule Uganda for a number of years to come

    What the Ugandan political parties must come to terms with is the fact that they must face squarely the achievements of the NRM since it came from the bush to form the first stable government that has brought peace to most of Uganda.

    After nearly two decades of chaos under Obote, Lule, Amin, Binaisa and Okello, one cannot deny that the NRM finally found a working formula for peace and stability in Uganda.

    It is that formula that other aspiring parties must confront rather than live in denial. And for the record, Ugandans will not simply buy rhetoric if they are not assured of peace in their villages and food on their tables.