Fate of African democracy is being determined in Kenya, Ivory Coast

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Inuka Kenya Trust CEO, John Githongo. Photo/REUTERS

Inuka Kenya Trust CEO, John Githongo. Photo/REUTERS 


Posted  Monday, January 3   2011 at  00:00

I was struck in December by a comment reported by a local paper and attributed to a toy vendor in Abidjan named Sailboun Coulibaly.

Said he: “This is the worst Christmas I have experienced so far. Even in 2002, when there was war, was better. The problem now is that people are tired. Two Presidents, two governments, all too much for the people!”

Mr Coulibaly’s sentiments struck me because at the height of the 2007/8 post-election violence, Raila Odinga publicly warned that Kenya risked going Ivory Coast’s way.

A once much heralded, stable and prosperous African country brought to grief by political incompetence, cynicism and corruption sliding into civil war.

Two years later, one may be forgiven for picking out the similarities between Ivory Coast and Kenya once again.

For it is as if we have been living under two governments under the same roof.

I should like to argue that save for the passing of the new Constitution, the results have been terrible and should not be wished upon poor Ivorians.

The “Kenyan model” of serikali ya mseto does not work except for those who loot or aspire to loot and those who believe in peace at any price.

The government of national unity model is one of Kenya’s most insidious exports to the rest of Africa.

Only President Khama — head of state of a “small” country but Africa’s moral giant — has been clear in saying Gbagbo must go. And if necessary by force.

The future of African democracy, ironically, is being played out in two countries at opposite ends of the continent — Kenya and Ivory Coast. The international community cannot afford to blink either.

Kenya’s greatest “success” has been the passing of a new Constitution — the result of the convergence of huge will for change among ordinary Kenyans and tremendous external pressure.

This rare convergence led to a new Constitution being “inflicted” on the country’s political and commercial elite (often the same thing).

The external pressure left the elite no option but to concede. Now the fight back has started and dramatically — with the passing of the motion to pull Kenya out of the Rome Statute on December 23 by parliament.

This confirms the analysis of many pre-referendum observers that the government was full of watermelons whose true colours are only now becoming visible.

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