Friday, February 4, 2011

The New African Trend-Lose and hang on.

There is a brand new variant of democracy sweeping the African continent, which basically runs like this; the ruling party holds multi-party elections, after immense pressure from donors and/or western governments. If by any chance the ruling party wins, the results are accepted with much fanfare and there is an elaborate presidential re-inauguration and a resumption of the status quo. Things go back to basically how they were before the elections with some new minor new appointments and a recycling of the old power brokers. The opposition makes feeble attempts at crying foul, the international community basically describes the election as largely free and fair, election results are appealed in courts by the opposition, which litigation they invariably lose and everybody waits for the next four or five years to repeat the same process over again.

In some cases, the ruling party may suspect that even with election rigging, manipulations and intimidations, there are enough opposition votes to make the outcome unpredictable. In this case they may do the following; cancel the election outright before the results are announced and denounce the whole process as being corrupt and influenced by evil factors within the country, the Algeria Style.

In the Zimbabwe style, perfected by paranoid strong man Robert Mugabe, the government delays the announcement of the results and manipulates of the process until a way can be found to announce a narrow victory margin in its favor. In the meantime, opposition strongholds are attacked and the supporters maltreated so severely that they go into hiding until the government announces the results. If there is still considerable resistance, swift talks are held with the opposition to form the sham known as a unity government in which the ruling party enters into a power sharing agreement, keeps the vital ministries of defence, finance, development, mines, and foreign affairs, and cajoles the opposition into accepting ministries such as social welfare, gender affairs, and in some cases education. The opposition leader may be made prime minister, a largely ceremonial post stripped of many powers and ruling party members told not to listen to him, as the largely symbolic role of Morgan Tsvangirai in Zimbabwe shows. The Mugabe variant may also paint the opposition as agents of neocolonialism who want to take the country back to the colonial past.

The Mwai Kibaki variant is similar to the Mugabe Mugabe case, but in this more sinister variant, the element of tribalism is introduced. Members of certain tribes are are eventually convinced, through a deliberate process of misinformation, disinformation, prejudicial statements and appointments, that the destiny of their particular tribes, and the welfare of their tribes, can only be maintained or enhanced if the ruling party is kept in power. In this more effective variant, the voters, who in most cases are mainly illiterate view the election not in terms of opposition parties trying to oust the ruling party in a democratic process, but an attempt by other tribes to dominate and control them. When the ruling party or opposition are able to rally sufficient tribes to their camps, their work becomes easier and the need for spending money on individual campaign is minimized and replaced with efforts to promote tribal divisions, discord and disharmony.

In the Lauren Gbagbo version, the opposition is branded as mostly foreigners who want to control the real indigenes of the country. Laws are promulgated to discourage people of foreign descent from taking part in the politics of the country, though their forbears may have been in the country hundred of years before the country even attained independence. If the last name of candidates can be found in another country, then of course they must truly be from that country. Alassane Wattara and even people like Kenneth Kaunda have suffered from this variant. If this strategy fails and the electoral commission announces the opposition as winners, the government takes the results to the supreme court full of ruling party cronies who find loopholes that will enable them overturn the results and declare the ruling party winner. If the international community cries foul, hunker down and do not give in and wait for calls to form a unity government, and then adopt the Mugabe pattern.

In the Mubarak variant, perfected by the Egypt strong man Hosni Mubarak, arrange regular elections to satisfy western donors and regular arrest and accuse opposition activists of crimes ranging from threatening the security of the state to easpiona and in extreme cases treason. Ensure that by the next electoral cycle most of the main opposition leaders are either mostly in jail, in hiding or self imposed exile. Hold elections every four or five years and win 90% of the votes.

In the more honest Qaddafi version, hold no elections at all, convert every citizen to revolutionary loyalists, line the coffers of foreign pro-democracy activists, clamp down on the media, and close your country to the outside world. At least you are not a hypocrite.

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