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Saturday, May 27, 2023
MINNESOTA, USA, Mar 27 2023 (IPS) - The dark road to democracy began with the manner in which the Kenyan Presidential election of August 2022 was handled. Today, the Church in Kenya is calling for dialogue between the ruling regime and the opposition. The issue here is not about dialogue, but the legitimacy of the President William Ruto. The situation in Kenya reminds me of a similar situation in Rwanda in early 90s.
In 1994, the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation and Africa Council of Churches sent a combined mission to Rwanda. The mission’s findings reported that ” the churches in Rwanda have been discredited by aligning themselves far too much with the former Hutu dominated regime and its tribal politics”.
According to the report, one member of the mission stated, ” In every conversation we had with the government and the church people alike, the point was brought home to us that the church itself stands tainted not by passive indifference but errors of commission as well”. Unfortunately, the church in Kenya today is aligning themselves with the ruling regime.
The Kenyan Tragedy
Seven months after Presidential election in Kenya, every organization, institution and government which had kept silent as if the Kenyan Presidential election were free and fair began to speak. The current crisis in Kenyan could have been prevented.
The attitude adopted by African Union (AU), the international community, governments, international press and human rights organizations after last year’s presidential election made the current situation in Kenya inevitable. In a democracy, except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his or her rights to assemble freely and associate with other persons or to impart ideas.
The Kenyan regime has to come to terms with this realty.
In the 21st century, the forces against the development and sustenance of democracy and the enjoyment of human rights by the citizens of Africa are strong and powerful. A political map of Africa to show states ruled by the gun and states ruled by the ballot, if made, will show only a handful of the latter. Such map will not. however, show the real human tragedy which the gunmen and their supporters and apologists have wrought the African peoples.
In Africa, oppressive regimes, and most of those regimes are illegitimate like the case of Kenya today, is the driving force of conflict. The use of the gun like the current situation in Kenya today is only a short- term remedy and also creates a chain reaction to the problem.
Promoting democracy in Africa does not only serve moral interests of the United States of America but it helps to prevent war, reduce the influx of refugees. Preventing wars in Africa and creating a peaceful democratic society is cheaper than fighting wars.
When General MacArthur conquered Japan, he wrote a new constitution for the people of Japan. This constitution became the pillar of Japanese democracy. The United States and other nations of Western Europe helped Japan build its economy.
Today, Japan is the leading economic power house in Asia. If this worked for Japan, a nation without natural resources, how about Africa with abundant natural resources? General MacArthur did not do it alone, but it took the commitment on part of the Japanese people to rebuild their nation.
In the case of Kenyan’s current crisis, it is important to address the issue Hon. Raila Odinga has raised about the server to bring transparency in the election process. Kenyan people need to address the issue of accountability, corruption and transparency.
The policy makers in Washington should revive an effective policy that will enforce political reforms and curb electoral malpractices across Africa. Overhaul bilateral relationships with individual countries and attached conditions to U.S. foreign aid.
Such conditions should include human rights violations, political reforms, electoral reforms, accountability, good governance and transparency. Washington should emphasize respect of territorial integrity of each nation. No country in Africa should have the power to invade another country for selfish interests. A civilized nation cannot engage in military coups, rebel activities, political assassinations and massive human rights violations.
The United States has a responsibility to promote democracy and good governance across the continent of Africa. For any democracy to develop and mature there should be accountability, transparency and an effective constitution which reflects the will of the people and allows political freedom such as (a) Freedom of speech and expression, which includes freedom of the press and other media. (b) Freedom to assemble and to demonstrate together with others peacefully and unarmed and to petition. (c) Freedom of association which shall include the freedom to form and join associations or unions, including trade unions and political and other civic organizations.
Rev. Gabriel Odima is President & Director of Political Affairs, Africa Center for Peace & Democracy, White Bear Lake, MN 55110 USA
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