Globally, it is a rarity for courts to nullify presidential election results; in Africa this was totally outlandish – that is until the Supreme Court in Kenya on September 1, 2017 annulled the re-election of Uhuru Kenyatta.
The shock that followed the Supreme Court verdict reverberated across Africa and is unlikely to die anytime soon, especially in Kenya where successive general elections have been dogged by concern of vote rigging and political instability, as highlighted by the violence that followed a disputed 2007 election when more than 1,200 people were killed.
“The Supreme Court decision for a repeat of the presidential election means Kenyans have an opportunity to truly elect a leader through the ballot as per the Constitution and without manipulation of votes,” says John Mwandu, a political analyst in Nairobi.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has tentatively scheduled the rematch between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga for October 17, 2017.
But as campaigns for the new election got underway, the fear of violence that has characterized recent Kenyan elections has only intensified as both sides rallied their supporters.
“While one could understand the initial euphoria and outrage that greeted the ruling, sobriety should have taken over as the dust settled and the reality of the ruling sunk in. However, each day has brought a new barrage of threats, insults, half-truths and ethnic slurs that do not augur well for a peaceful outcome in six weeks,” Gabriel Dolan, a Catholic priest based in Kenya’s second-largest city of Mombasa said in a commentary.
“In fact, the country appears to be more polarized now than before last month’s general election,” he added.
Kenyatta’s campaigns for the new elections have dwelled on bashing the Supreme Court for allegedly going against the will of the majority by nullifying the August 18, 2017 election results in which he was declared the winner by a margin of 1.4 million votes against rival Odinga.
Just hours after the Supreme Court handed its decision, Kenyatta called the Chief Justice David Maraga, and the three other judges who supported the verdict, crooks. His successive campaigns have since taken on a similar pose of hard-stance politics and personal attacks both against the Judiciary and Odinga. Kenyatta has repeatedly called his rival a witch doctor, a perennial loser and one full of riddles.
Odinga has too adopted a similar fashion of campaigns and regularly made personal attacks against Kenyatta. The veteran opposition leader, for instance, accused the president of making a televized national address while drunk. He also called Kenyatta a thief who should be languishing in jail for stealing elections.
“It is unfortunate that the campaign messages have turned personal and animosity is getting to a fever pitch among the supporters of both candidates. It is no longer about policies but hate speech and insults which is dangerous as the country goes back to elections. There may be violence at the end of it all,” says Mwandu.
Hate speech from supporters of Kenyatta and Odinga have spread to social media, where some of them openly insulted and threatened each other.
Analysts say the Supreme Court verdict offers an opportunity to streamline Kenya’s electoral system that has been synonymous with systemic cheating.
“What the ruling did was put temporary brakes on the rollercoaster of impunity that has characterized almost every election in Kenya,” wrote Rasna Warah in a column in Kenya’s largest newspaper, Daily Nation.
“The ruling may not end impunity in Kenya’s electoral processes but it will have a far-reaching psychological impact on the citizens, who have been led to believe that peace is synonymous with justice,” she added.
In 2013, Odinga filed a case in the Supreme Court against Kenyatta’s election but it was thrown out on technicalities – leaving many suspicious over the conduct of the IEBC. Dissatisfied with the court decision, the opposition held a series of demonstrations that forced the disbandment of the commission ahead of this year’s elections.
But, with the radical court action, this time there is hope of laying bare the activities of the IEBC and restore legitimacy to Kenya’s elections.
“If there have been crooks manipulating voting outcomes in Kenya then things may be different going forward because the Supreme Court has proved impunity and blatant disregard of the law is punishable,” says Mweni Matheka, a governance researcher.
Other sovereign institutions, including the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), the Office of the Auditor-General and the IEBC itself, may want to borrow a leaf from the Supreme Court and assert their independence.
All these institutions have been subject to political pressures, especially when their work went against the whims of the government.
Just after the August 8 polls, Leader of Government Business in Parliament, Aden Duale, declared that the ruling coalition would use its majority in Parliament to oust Auditor-General Edward Ouko whose office has had run-ins with the executive over explosive audit reports that showed theft and misuse of public funds.
The IEBC has not been spared the heat from both the executive and the opposition, especially after the bungled polls. Both sides have demanded to have a say in the composition of the IEBC team that will manage the repeat polls.
But in separate letters to the ruling Jubilee coalition Secretary-General Raphael Tuju and the opposition National Super Alliance Co-Principal Musalia Mudavadi, IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati on September 6 said the commission reserved the right to make changes without being directed by any of the political groups.
“Please note that the commission is an independent constitutional body, which as per Article 249 of the Constitution shall not be subject to direction or control by any person or authority,” Chebukati said in his letter to Tuju.
“It is therefore unacceptable for you to provide a list of staff that you direct us not to consider for the project team.”
The business community looks forward to conclusion of the elections to restore normalcy in the economy. The Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) estimates that the country’s economy has lost Sh21.3 billion ($210 million) since the Supreme Court ruling, as investors adopted a wait-and-see attitude. – Written by Allan Akombo
IN PICTURES | 1 Year On : Remembering Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela
In the afternoon on what was a public holiday in South Africa, news started trickling in of Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela-Mandela’s death, of illness at the Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg. She was 81.
On 2 April 2018 South Africa would mourn her passing for the next couple of weeks. As would the world.
Mama Winnie was gone, marking the end of an era, yet in death, rekindling memories of a painful apartheid past, against which she fought valiantly, controversially; the fearless, feisty fighter who famously clenched her fist to rallying cries of ‘amandla’ (Zulu word for ‘power’), had clenched her fists forever.
A hero had departed.
Anti-apartheid activist, politician, struggle stalwart and ex-wife of South Africa’s former President Nelson Mandela, Madikizela-Mandela was known as the Mother of the Nation.
Day six after Madikizela-Mandela’s death, hundreds gathered for a tribute ceremony to honor her at Constitutional Hill, where she was prisoner number 1323/69 when jailed by the apartheid government in the last century.
“It’s really hard to stand here, we are sore. ‘Big Mama’ as we called her, took us by surprise,” said Ndileka Mandela, Madikizela-Mandela’s eldest granddaughter before breaking down on stage, and was thereafter warmly comforted by Graça Machel, former first lady and wife of the late South African president Mandela.
“Winnie was my big sister, I take long to process pain, I prefer to be quiet to feel and understand it. It is too early to process the pain we are going through,” said Machel.
The funeral on April 14; a Saturday morning that brought together tens of thousands of mourners at Orlando Stadium, for the day their Mother would be laid to rest.
The mourners cheered, cried, and stood up raising their fists, chanting and shouting Mama Winnie’s name. At that very moment, blood rushed through our veins.
It felt like the whole stadium was shaking but in reality, photographers were pushing and shoving to get the perfect picture, that historic picture; and it was something we most definitely captured too.
Bogolo Joy Kenewendo: Dismiss This Beautiful Continent At Your Own Peril
The exuberance of youth might be just what the doctor has ordered for Africa. There is no doubt that the zest this minister has for her responsibilities will take the continent far.
Bogolo Joy Kenewendo has hit the ground running in her role as Botswana’s Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, while making history as the youngest person to be appointed in the position. She, however, takes it all in her stride as she has always wanted to impact people’s lives. Kenewendo’s outlook injects a fresh perspective on how she, and her counterparts in strategic positions, intend on enriching a continent brimming with possibilities. She shares her views on education, finance, empowerment as well as traditional practices.
Q. Are you Africa’s youngest minister, and how does it feel to be “a first” in your career path?
A. I’ve heard rumors that I am the youngest but I have no confirmation. It’s been a great surprise and an honor. I was so humbled by all the good wishes and cheers from around the world. I, however, say youth leadership was the flagship of the political independence and revolution, and so it should be for the economic independence revolution that I believe our generation should lead.
Most of the revolutionary leaders who brought Africa its independence were younger and some of the same age [as me].
Patrice Lumumba was 29 when he was, unfortunately, assassinated as Prime Minister. Kwame Nkrumah, Sir Seretse Khama and Julius Nyerere were in their late 30s, early 40s. Graça Machel was 30 years old when she became Minister of Education in Mozambique.
Q. Why did you choose politics?
A. I have always wanted to do something that I felt could have an impact on people’s lives. I studied Economics and worked as an economist because I believed it was a good choice for those looking to interrogate policy and make informed adjustments to the benefit of all. Where I am at the moment, I get to be part of the highest decision-making body in the country that directly affects people’s lives.
Q. Being young, African and a woman, what does representation mean to you?
A. Representation is very important. We all need to be reminded of what is possible in the world. People from what is termed “backwater villages” need to see the girl from Motopi and be comforted in that you don’t need to come from big cities, or have a “known name”, or be of “a certain age”. If you work hard and represent yourself well, someone will take note. The world is always watching.
Q. Describe your academic/career path and the plans you have for Botswana.
A. I have a BA in Economics and MSc in International Trade and I’m pursuing some more higher learning.
My team and I have plans of making Botswana the startup capital of the region and we are repositioning Botswana as a gateway into the rest of southern Africa.
We are doing so by working on our business reforms, to enable doing business in Botswana and working on a one-stop border post services with our neighboring countries.
We are also investing in transport and ICT infrastructure and of course, providing incentives, including a competitive corporate tax rate of 5% in designated and reserved areas, as well as, government offtake agreements with manufacturers who meet government needs most importantly. We offer hospitality that is synonymous with our proudly Botswana culture, all premised on Botho, democracy, accountability and peace.
Q. Africa has a prominent rural population that often has less civic participation because of lack of resources. What would you say to them?
A. Living in a modern economy doesn’t mean we should abandon some traditional ways of engagement and accountability. We should enhance them and demand for governments to notice them for the purposes of inclusivity.
No government should wish for a disengaged population, it’s in their best interest to ensure inclusivity and, therefore, such efforts should be rewarded. In Botswana, the government holds the rural and traditional courts highly and uses them as a key consultative and engagement/ participation platform.
The kgotla system has now been copied and exported by thought leaders, recognizing Tribal Management of inclusivity, a community spirit and ensuring that each gets the chance to voice his or her opinions, every stage along the way. Echoing the true meaning of lekgotla, “I am because we exist,” which in the West is democracy, ‘for the people, by the people’.
Q. Share your highlights and the most challenging moments you’ve had so far.
A. Leading this ministry and working for the people of Botswana is an everyday highlight. Every moment has been quite intense because I’m aware that the hopes of many rely on this ministry and our cooperation with the rest of government.
I thank God every day for the strength, wisdom and joy (especially in the face of adversity) he gives me to do this role.
My first international engagement following my appointment was to chair a SACU Ministers of Trade meeting which had some high temperature issues. There was no easing into the job.
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It felt like I was David thrown into the ring, before sizing up Goliath. Fortunately, as it did for David, it went well for me. I am currently coordinating and chairing trade agreement negotiations on behalf of SACU+Mozambique with the UK (to deal with the potential trade disruptions due to Brexit). It is a landmark event and, as a result, so is this agreement.
At home, our investor after-care company visits bring my team and I so much joy as they show us what’s possible – the productive capacity in Botswana. These as well as removing roadblocks for companies and seeing them flourish. In this short space of seven months, we’ve seen great progress and this is reassuring.
Q. What are your economic views of the Africa continent?
A. I am pan-African. I love Africa, I believe in Africa. Some say the ‘Africa rising’ story is no longer valid but I say ‘dismiss this beautiful continent at your own peril’.
I’m hopeful about opportunities, of increased intra-African trade, that will be unlocked by the AfCFTA [African Continental Free Trade Area] as well as Tripartite Free Trade Area.
Many more African leaders and up-and-coming leaders are alive to [the idea] that it’s only through our cooperation that we can pull ourselves out of our current debilitating state. And to that end in Setswana, we say “kgetsi ya tsie e kgonwa ke go tshwaraganelwa” (Together, we can do more).
Q. What message do you have for Africa’s girls and women?
A. Never let anyone make you believe that you are not enough.
You are enough.
Public spaces, leadership spaces, money spaces are female spaces too! The most important thing is to ensure we are not comfortable in being the ‘only woman’ at the table. Any space can do with diversity.
Please be your sister’s keeper, send the ladder down, extend a hand (a helping one, even a comforting one, will be most welcome).
Botswana’s President Denies Report Of $600 Million Loan To Zimbabwe
Botswana’s president on Friday dismissed a report that the country had offered Zimbabwe a $600 million diamond-backed loan and said his government had only offered to guarantee a $100 million private credit line for Botswana companies to invest in their troubled neighbor.
Zimbabwe’s secretary in the ministry of foreign affairs was quoted in the state-owned Herald newspaper on Tuesday saying Botswana had offered to lend Zimbabwe $500 million to support its diamond industry and another $100 million for the local private firms.
“I want to clarify these reports that we are giving Zimbabwe hundreds of millions in loans. That is totally untrue,” Mokgweetsi Masisi told reporters in Gaborone, a day after visiting Zimbabwe for business and trade mission.
“We are not giving them a single loan. The only thing we gave them yesterday were medical supplies made in Botswana and supplementary feeding worth 2.1 million pula ($197,600).”
There is $100 million credit from private banks in Botswana and Zimbabwe to help Botswana private companies, Masisi added.
“What we have demanded, which we are waiting for, is a letter of guarantee from the Zimbabweans to counter our own guarantee,” he said.
Masisi also said Botswana, which is the largest producer of diamonds by value, would help Zimbabwe with its diamond trade because “it would be useful and strategic for Botswana” as it aims to become a global center of diamond trading.
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Zimbabwe’s diamond sector has struggled since the government kicked out private companies from the eastern Marange fields in early 2016 after they declined to merge under the state-owned mining company.
Relations between Zimbabwe and Botswana have improved following a strained period when Botswana’s ex-President Ian Khama, who stepped down in 2018, routinely criticized Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe for holding on to power for too long.
A military coup in 2017 forced Mugabe to resign, ending his 37-year rule. -Reuters
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