Tuesday, January 01, 2008

kenya has let us down

Prior to the December 27 presidential polls in Kenya, it was universally agreed that the biggest economy in East Africa was also setting the right pace in terms of democracy and general respect of freedoms. The first five years of the Kibaki presidency had literally turned round the image of a country once seen as a waste under Daniel Arap Moi, into a thriving, enviable economy in the region.
At the back of this praise was the 2002 presidential election, where Uhuru Kenyatta, the then ruling KANU party candidate, lost to Kibaki of the NARC and gracefully conceded defeat. For once in this region, we saw a ruling party hand over power to an opposition party.
For the rest of us, especially in Uganda, we could only afford to watch on with envy, considering the fact that our own 2001 presidential elections had been declared unfair by the Supreme Court and some not-so-romantic images of paramilitary squads like the Kalangala Action Plan still fresh in our memories.
Therefore, going into the 2007 presidential election, we knew our Kenyan brothers had already set the pace for us. If the 2002 election was like setting a house foundation, we expected this election to be the harnessing of the ring-beam with the hope that the 2012 polls would be roofing the democratic thatch.
How mistaken we were! We heard the opposition complain about the composition of the electoral commission during the campaigns and saw a few skirmishes claim lives. But where in Africa don’t these things happen? Even our darling Kenya could be guilty of these small failures.
But we knew they would stand the biggest test---let the people choose and respect their choice of a president. That we knew was a sure deal.
By Sunday December 31, it was clear that the maxim ‘In elections those who count the votes are strong than those who cast the votes’-had caught up with Kenya. We have looked on with horror as a country hitherto known to be peaceful descend into anarchy.
We have looked on with disgust as a country taunted as being respectful to media freedoms clamp down on media with decrees on what they should air.
We have seen a country previously respected for its thriving economy slowly witness a slump with its thriving tourist sector already threatened by scenes of violence and mayhem.
It was very disturbing to see thousands of Kenyans flee their previously peaceful country and seek refugee at shelterless border towns in Uganda. We have with worry reports that gangs are attacking innocent people in churches and burning them, reminding us of the 1994 Rwanda genocide, where even the altars turned into slaughter grounds.
And of course we can never blame the majority ordinary Kenyans. They did their part and cast their vote. The degeneration of Kenya into a Police state will by posterity and history be blamed on the political leadership. It will be placed on those, who threw away conscience and altered results in places like Molo.
The blame will squarely lie on the politicians, who put egos before State, who put self-interest before country, who roused ethnic sentiments at the cost of national unity.
The rest of us in this region will look on and say, Kenya took one step forward and moved three steps backward.

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