Any lessons Malawi can learn from the Kenyan conundrum?

Friday, January 04, 2008

I am no political analyst but I always follow world politics with keen interest because I am in one way or the other whether directly or indirectly affected by political events (local or international).

With Malawi preparing for her 4th multi-party General Elections (Presidential and Parliamentary) which are due in about 17 months, I feel as Malawians we need to learn one or two lessons from the upheaval that is happening in Kenya.

I am no Kibaki nor Odinga's sympathiser (I feel that should be left to the Kenyans themselves) but I feel that in any democratic setup, the election process has to be clearly transparent. Of course, as Africans we are just in a process of embracing Western style of democracy and in this 'learning' process we are bound to face hiccups, but the basic need for transparency in an electoral process cannot be ruled out in this learning process. And one way to achieve a transparent electoral process is through having an election administering body that is clearly independent of any influence of any contesting political parties. Commissioners to this very important organization should be men and women of high integrity and patriotic enough that they have the country at heart especially the poor who are usually the victims of any mis-administration of a democratic electoral process. Imagine the burning and killings happening in the Kibera slum of Nairobi!

One other thing we can learn is that as Africans in general, we have embraced democracy as a way of choosing our leadership. Gone are the days when some people would become leaders just because they were born in the so-called 'royal' families (Am talking of chiefs here). Gone are the days when election results were manipulated and voters would just 'shut-up'. With the numbers of literate Africans increasing by the day, leaders are expected to fulfill their election promises or they would face the boot.

It seems Africa is going through a period which I would call a period of Africa's Enlightenment in which Pan-Africanism within the context of democracy is growing. As Africans we are realising that skin color does not make us different from other folks. We are a people which are proud of our own identity and we also highly value democracy and progress. We have realised that self-defeatism (inferior complexity) and having a sense of hopelessness and dependency will not help us. And the only way we can achieve this is through a transparent democratic process in which we can choose visionary leaders who can help us as Africans regain our dignity through a process of economic transformation and good governance. We need leaders which are not just good at rhetoric but rather who can deliver! I therefore feel that we should not be tempted to reduce Kenya's current political problems to tribalism. I feel that there is more to it than just looking at the tip of a colossal iceberg.

Of course to ask from us a replica of America's democracy would be to ask too much. America's democracy is about 200 years old (remember 1776) while many African democracies are very very young (10 years or so). And I think we need to adapt rather than adopt Western-style of democracy since our cultural and historical background are different from the West. That aside, I am very optimistic that Africa's democracy is in the right direction. I would ask pessimists and prophets of doom to give us more time!


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