In mature democracies elsewhere and even in some young democracies in Africa, elections are the central institution of democratic representative governments. Why? Because, in a democracy, the authority of the government derives solely from the consent of the governed. The fundamental rationale for translating that consent into governmental authority is the holding of free and fair elections. This is contrary to staged managed elections held by dictatorships and one-party governments to give their rule the aura of legitimacy in the face of public decent. In such elections, there may be only one candidate or a list of candidates, with no credible alternative choices. Such elections may offer several candidates for each office, but ensure through intimidation or rigging that only the government-sanctioned candidate is chosen. These are not democratic elections but a mere academic process of legitimising autocratic and repressive regimes.
Violence rocked most parts of Mombasa mainland as rowdy youths engaged hundreds of riot police in running battles that saw one man shot on the head and scores injured. Sounds of teargas, gunshots and burning tyres filled parts of Maweni, Kisauni, Bombolulu and Changamwe as GSU, AP and regular police battled crowds headed for Makadara grounds for a protest rally. Protesters in Kuresoi burnt several houses at Karirikania farm, as hundreds others flashed twigs placards at Keringet, Olenguruone and Kiptagich trading centres.
Like other political hotbeds in Africa, ethnical affiliations played a major part in this election although analysts in Kenya say that Odinga’s support transcends across ethnic divide. Odinga is Luo and Mwai Kibaki is Kikuyu. Both men come from ethnic groups which believe that it is now their turn after decades of being sidelined by ex-president Arap Moi, a Kalenjin. This writer does not believe ethnic group is an issue in African politics, but politicians make it one for expediency and their own political gains. Unfortunately, innocent people from different ethnic groups often fall victim to political machinations which rarely benefit them personally. However, ethnic group motivated or not, the reality is that the contentious Kenyan election has claimed hundreds of lives already. Comparatively, more people have died in this country than in Zimbabwe, the West’s most hated African country during that country’s past elections.
I am personally sceptical of the effectiveness of sanctions on regime change. I believe that sanctions can only effectively achieve their political objective if they are properly coordinated multilaterally, and are the only justified means of effecting radical change of policy. If applied alone in the absence of many other factors, as happened elsewhere, sanctions will be doomed to fail. In most cases sanctions only serve to empower dictators by giving them new draconian powers (laws) to suppress their subjects even further. Sanctions are widely used by pathological dictatorial regimes as an alibi for increased repression against their own people. Most unfortunately, the majority innocent civilian population in Zimbabwe today is silently suffering dearly as a result of the dreadful sanctions regime.