“When the hurly burly is done/ when the battle is lost and won.’’
This famous line in Shakespeareana was going through my mind as I watched and watched the poll results trickling in ever so slowly on Kenyan television screens, tracing the seesaw progress of the two leading presidential contenders this past week down to the photo finish.
The calm manner in which the collating of the results was done, despite all the cliffhanging and nail-biting, gave me hope throughout that this time around we were going to get to the end of this journey unscathed.
Of course, once bitten twice shy, and we always have reason to believe that what can go wrong will go wrong. Once, we have seen Kenyan election results thrown out by the law courts, and once, infamously, we saw Kenyans jumping onto each other’s throats, pushing their nation to the brink, literally.
I believe that what the Kenyans have shown us is that they becoming a learning people. Having gone to the precipice in 2007 and having experienced serious hiccups later, they have learnt their lessons, decided to cure their shortcomings and moved along on an upward trajectory. They have clearly refused to do the same thing the same way over and over again, expecting different results, the proverbial signs of insanity.
So, those who went to observe the elections were treated to a more serene scene than those I allude to above. They were looking at a people that is beginning to appreciate that elections need not be bloody battles, even though they be highly competitive, sometimes aggressive and bruising.
I thus commend the Kenyan people for showing us this face of their country, which tells me that it is possible to do politics in a civil manner.
Significantly, they have also shown us that time-hallowed stereotypes need not always be taken into consideration in the shifting political sands of Kenya: that a leader from Mount Kenya could embrace one from Nyanza and champion his electoral campaign was almost an impossibility only the other day.
Whatever else may have been lost in this election, that is a plus, a huge one. Now, we can expect the two communities to concentrate on what the Kenyans do best, and that is turn this ethnic détente into economic synergies allowing their young men and women to organise themselves together in the creation of wealth with the aim of heaving their communities out of the abyss of poverty and backwardness.
Let us face it, the only political messages that are worth looking at are those that aim at improving the lot of the people we claim to represent, to make their lives better, to seek to be inclusive in our programmes and to care for the least advantaged, seeking to achieve economic and social justice, the only basis for realistic peace.
I am a realist, and I of course never lose my focus on the fact that politicians will always lie, because that is the lot of them. Lying is to politicians what eating meat is to lions; they simply cannot help themselves.
What is required of them is that they do not destroy the habitat I which we all live.
As I pondered all that, I was naturally following on what the election observers from outside Kenya were doing and saying. I think that the practice of having election observers is a good one and which should be encouraged and enhanced.
Still, we could do it better by choosing who gets to be an observer. These should be people who have credentials showing they have practised observation in their own countries, and they should have shown that in observing elections in their countries they have proved their credibility and honesty.
For instance, if you want individuals to observe good footballing practices, you want to pick those who have practised football where they come from. It does not help matters if those who come to observe such activities have no idea of the offside rule or the difference between a corner kick and a penalty.
It is with this understanding that I would like to ask whether there was any justification for having Tanzanian observers in the observer teams for the Kenya elections, whatever regional organisation they were representing. When did they last have an election that even a casual onlooker could have recognised as credible, free and fair. When?
There is a legal phrase in Latin: “Nemo dat quod non habet (you cannot give what you do not have).” It is usually used when deciding whether a proprietary right has been passed on to the current holder. But it can be used in situations where credibility is vouchsafed by someone whose own credibility is doubtful.
If in your own country you have not been able, or been willing, to observe and speak out against what is wrong, how can you now presume to observe and say anything at all in other countries?
Let me be fair: It was not Tanzania alone. I also saw a former Ethiopian president among the observers, and I was wondering about the same thing.
Jenerali Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: [email protected]