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Lessons from Kenya

By Eddie Cross

I HAVE been watching the events in Kenya very closely and feel that there are a lot of lessons Zimbabwe can draw. Even to me as an outsider, the recent el

ections seem to have been seriously rigged in favour of the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki.

I watched with interest and some considerable hope on Sunday as Raila Odinga built up a sizable lead over the incumbent president.

Then the sudden shroud of secrecy over the whole process and the surprise announcement that Kibaki had won. I still find the mathematics difficult to understand as Odinga’s party collected a clear majority of seats in parliament. How Kibaki intends to govern with Odinga holding a majority in the House is a mystery to me!

But what are the lessons for Zimbabwe? Many will say it is the need for a united opposition; some have already done so, but in fact Kenya has a much more fragmented ethnic and tribal background to Zimbabwe and no particular tribe occupies the dominant position of the Shona people here. In my view that is not the lesson.

The real lesson is that we must ensure that we control and record the vote count in the forthcoming election from A to Z.

Africans are not dumb, they know what to do and who to vote for and in fact, in my experience, are often more sophisticated when it comes to politics than their Western counterparts. In reality we do not really have to campaign in the classical sense here in Zimbabwe, not for this election as the issues are so clear. What we have to do is show the people here what we will do with their vote and with the subsequent responsibility. Much more difficult is how to ensure that all Zimbabweans can vote and that when they do, it is properly recorded and then counted and reported.

In the case of the Kenyan elections it seems as if the state permitted a free and fair election and campaign (something we are yet to achieve in Zimbabwe) but when the final count was taking place and it became clear that Kibaki would lose the election, the state stepped in and the vote was stolen from the people. A great shame as a normal democratic transfer of power would have been first prize.

Inflation is now certainly at 8 000% or more and still accelerating. Shortages are as bad as ever and the state shows no signs of understanding what they are doing or coming to grips with reality. How we survived 2007 is a mystery, but we did. Now we have to survive 2008 up to the elections and then deal with the situation that will be presented to us by that event. That is not going to be easy or quick and we will have to dig deep.

Eddie Cross writes from Bulawayo.

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