New African Review April 2013

African Update – 11/05/13

Cover story: Kenya; dawn of a new era?

Slightly over five years ago, violence erupted in Kenya following contested presidential election’s results. Over a thousand lives were lost, and property worth millions of shillings destroyed. The country was shocked, and the international community left in a spin. The aftermath of this violence provided the impetus, and the political goodwill (albeit forced), needed to address a number of historical issues running to as far back as the late 1950s.

Kenya rewrote its constitution; investigations into the violence named some individuals as bearing grave responsibility for the violence. Their names were forwarded to the International criminal court (ICC) for fear that Kenya’s judiciary would be incapable of handling the cases. For the five years following that bloody election, Kenya remained in the limelight, particularly so because of the cases pending at the ICC. On March 4, this year Kenya held its first general election not only under the new constitution, but also since that bloody election. The winner of the presidential election was Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto, both of whom have a case pending at the ICC. In spite of his having consistently rated as the would be outright winner in the election Raila Odinga and his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka came second. Kenya’s Supreme Court, where Raila had filed a petition, has confirmed Uhuru’s election. Why the twist? Why did Uhuru win in spite of the ICC case against him? Why did Raila lose in spite of his high rating?

New African Magazine, April issue, contained an extensive review of this election in its cover story.  Presented in three articles; the first part of the story gave a background treatment of the events leading to the election. In this analysis, a number of issues are brought forth that may have been key to the final results: the feeling among Kenyan’s of excessive interference from the international community that was clearly anti-Uhuru, failure of Raila’s camp to review his strategies in spite of his high ratings to win and lastly; Uhuru’s camps relentless review of strategies that went as far as using statistical as well as actuarial science. Raila tried to capitalize on the international communities’ pressure against Uhuru, which probably did not go well with Kenyans, who know very well that Raila was a key contestant to the results of the 2007 bloody elections. By his trying to capitalize on the international community’s pressure, Raila cast himself (perhaps without intention) as a stooge for external powers. The two candidates’ different approaches to strategizing means that Raila, for long held as the king of political strategizing in Kenya, went into the elections with what could be described as an old manifesto printed on papers freshly released from the paper factory. On the other hand, Uhuru hand a manifesto that seemed replicate every passing day to capture the aspirations of the moment. To quote New African, it is no wonder therefore that Uhuru and Ruto’s “message offering new leadership branded as ‘team digital’ and painting their opponents as ‘analogue’ resonated very well with voters who liked the ‘transformational leadership mantra” that Uhuru’s camp offered.

The second and third parts of the story focus on Uhuru and Raila respectively and what could have contributed to their performance at the election. It is observed that Uhuru benefited largely from a network of campaigning within the religious circles. Uhuru is a staunch catholic while Ruto is passionately Pentecostal. The pair made use of numerous occasions in the name of ‘prayer rallies’ to draw the largely Christian Kenyan electorate to their side. By carefully choreographing the ICC predicament in the biblical term of ‘tribulations’ they unleashed a charm offensive that won the sympathy of the Christian electorate. Raila’s long stretch in opposition and reform politics may as well been his destruction, the electorate knew him well, but apart from that he had made himself numerous enemies who until then had never quite figured out how to bring him down. In the face of a magnetic opponent, it was sufficient to point to the electorate tits and bits from Raila’s past as a pointer that he cannot make a good choice. Raila had fallen out so much with key players in the political sphere leading the election that he did not even have a choice for an ally as a running mate. When he finally picked one, it was same politician who had deserted him shortly prior the 2007 election, and subsequently thereafter coloured him with all kinds of negative shades.

Well in a nutshell Uhuru’s camp was the better packaged to win the election.

In other stories that appeared in the New African April issue:

Land reform in Zimbabwe, the source of the West’s grave hate for president Mugabe, is bearing fruit. It observes that in spite of agrarian revolution being “a slow process that often takes a generation for farmers to be fully productive, a decade after the land reforms in Zimbabwe began, Zimbabwe’s agricultural production has largely returned to the 1990s level.”

Togolese leader, Faure Gnassingbe, is reported as setting Togo on a firm path of progress by systematically fulfilling three key election promises he made in 2010: reconciling the country which was still suffering from “a deep malaise when it was sharply divided politically during the reign of the former president (Gnassingbe Eyadema) who was ironically his father, getting the opposition to work with the government, and renewing ties with the international community (ties that had broken under Eyadema, leaving Togo increasingly isolated). New African quotes the opposition leaders working with the government as praising the inclusion as this has been a major learning curve for the opposition. The leader notes that whereas his party’s top brass had competences in that they were well educated, “a PhD does not teach you how to run a treasury.”

The number of Britons with African descent being tauted as potential future prime ministers in the UK is on the rise. Are the days of a British Obama near? Who are these individuals changing the British political landscape?

The legitimacy of the International Criminal Court in Africa is under trial yet again in light of the court’s proceedings against the former Ivory Coast’s president, Laurent Gbagbo. Apparently, Gbagbo health has deteriorated significantly owing to ill treatment he suffered at the hands of his guards prior to his transfer to The Hague. New African observes, “Such a breach of fundamental rights should normally have led to termination of proceedings against him, but the court proved unwilling to go down that road.” Would terminating the case be sufficient? No. New African notes “The ICC will not be out of the woods simply by discontinuing the Gbagbo case. In order to increase the courts legitimacy in Africa, it will have to do more to honour the African sense of justice.”

Reviewed by: Swegenyi Shivairo for Humanitas Afrika

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