By Gershom Ndhlovu
Today Kenya is facing two distinct destinies. One is the possibility of someone with Kenyan blood in his veins on the brink of becoming president of the world’s only super power, the US. The other real possibility is that the country of Barack Obama’s paternal ancestors is on the brink of breaking up.
The reason why today Obama faces the possibility of making history as the first black American president is because of the democracy that has evolved over the last 300 years in that country. On the contrary, Kenya risks breaking up because of the failure of democracy in that country in the less than 50 years it has been independent.
On at least two occasions Obama has been to Kenya to visit his paternal grandmother who is still alive, on one occasion he was an anonymous traveller whose suitcases even ended up in South Africa, but on the other occasion as a US senator, everything went like clock-work. Even trees in the village he went to were given a coat of paint.
There is a possibility still that when he will be travelling on Airforce One as the most powerful man in the world, Obama may want to go back to that Kenyan village to eat nyamachoma and kachumbari prepared not by White House chefs, but by his grandmother, drink not triple filtered water from White House, but water from the stream near his grandmother’s village.
But at the rate things are going, this may not be possible if Kenya does not heal the rift tearing it apart because the Muthaiga Country Club (a club just outside Nairobi where the rich and powerful gather) gang of Mwai Kibaki has no respect for the democratic process. Kibaki, an old school politician wants, by hook or crook, to cling to power like his predecessors, Jomo Kenyatta who died in1978 after ruling his country from independence in 1963, and Daniel arap Moi who ruled for nearly 25 years. Kibaki was vice president from 1978 – 1988.
One fails to understand the rationale of African leaders who want to grow roots in the positions once they ascend to the top of the pile and this is one facet of Africa that the rest of the world does not understand. This is a total contrast with western leaders who are elected into office and willingly vacate when it is time to go. In Britain, former prime minister Tony Blair left even before his term ended.
It is only in Africa that there are record-holding presidents like Gabon’s Omar Bongo who now holds the dubious accolade of being the fourth longest serving head of state in the world. He ascended to the presidency in 1967. Power anywhere in the world is sweet, but it is definitely sweeter in Africa. It is the only reason that Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Angola’s Eduardo dos Santos, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and others are welded into their positions.
This lack of respect for democracy by African leaders coupled with massive corruption that goes with power, does not endear the continent to the rest of the world, but particularly the west from where Africa gets most of its development aid for it cannot even manage an election.
It is only in Africa that leaders want to rig elections for them to remain in power or, in rare circumstances, to ensure that their “anointees” take over. Sadly, Zambia has not been immune from this madness and it has been on the brink of the very things going on in Kenya today. Memories of the events following the 2001 elections when the UPND disputed the results that denied their leader, Anderson Mazoka, the presidency are still fresh in people’s minds. Even fresher is the violence that almost erupted when the PF was convinced that it was robbed of victory.
Even though they should not continue to be taken for granted in such matters, Zambians should be praised for the manner they have conducted themselves in similar circumstances