Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Empire Strikes Back

Last week's decision by President Mwai Kibaki to tear up the 1997 IPPG "Gentleman's Agreement" is the latest blast from a new wind of change sweeping Africa. Throughout the continent, the former champions of democratic and transparent government, the very people who were expected to usher in Africa's Century, are sadly changing into a familiar form -the Big Man. Kibaki now joins Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, Nigeria's Obasanjo and Ethiopia's Meles Zenawi who have discarded the democratic rule book in a bid to extend their tenures and eradicate dissent.

For a while, I thought Kenya would prove immune to this. After all, our 2002 elections were hailed far and wide as an example to the rest of the continent. Even when Kibaki reneged on promises not to interfere with talks on a new constitution, failed to punish corruption within his Cabinet and kept silent as his wife and government goons intimidated the media, I always thought that he would not be so rash as to try and take away that which, above all else, we had fought so hard for -our right to replace him in a free and fair election.

In hindsight, this was naive. Why should Kenya be different from Ethiopia or Uganda? On this Animal Farm, democracy is locked in a continuing struggle against the darker impulses of dictatorship and we should never have imagined that with the election of NARC, we had earned five years of respite from that conflict. But we did. After we expelled Daniel "Mr. Jones" Moi, we happily acquiesced in the death of Old Major, the civil society that had been the vehicle for change when the politicians failed us. We celebrated when the leading lights of this disparate band of organisations were co-opted into government. Now when, like Napoleon and Squealer, the pigs turn against us and seek to rewrite the rules on the barn wall, we find that we cannot distinguish between them and the KANU dictators.

So what to do? The nightmare of the last 5 years should teach us all one important lesson: we cannot afford to rely on the goodwill of anyone who wants to be President. We must always keep up our guard against the return of the Big Man. And though the political class will seek to present this as a fait accompli, we need to show them (Kibaki and the other pigs in both NARC-K and ODM) that our freedoms are not to be trifled with. We need to send out this message loud and clear by voting him out in such numbers that all the Electoral Commissioners in the world could not reverse it. And we need to revive civil society organisations such as the NCEC. Popular support for these would serve notice to the next State House tenant that we intend to keep him on a very short leash.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This was my two cents worth on the issue