Kenya’s giant coalition and its effect on Africa

For better or for worse, Kenya’s formation of a giant coalition in the wake of a disputed election will be replicated across Africa. Negotiations in Zimbabwe for the formation of a similar coalition is evidence of this worrisome trend.

Zimbabwes Robert Mugabe will form a coalition government with his opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai.

Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe will form a coalition government with his opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai. Picture by the Sidney Morning Herald.

Kenya’s giant coalition was formed by the three leading contenders in the December 2007 General Elections. According to the Electoral Commission of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki of the Party of National Unity (PNU) won the polls. Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) came second but immediately rejected the results on account of opinion polls which had put him in the lead. The third placed candidate was Kalonzo Musyoka of ODM-Kenya, a splinter group of ODM.

Violence after the elections led to the formation of Kenya’s first coalition since independence. Kibaki retained his position as President, while a new post of Prime Minister was created in Kenya’s constitution to accommodate Raila Odinga. Kalonzo became Vice-President in the new equation.

In Zimbabwe, its becoming evident that Robert Mugabe will keep the presidency while Morgan Tsvangirai will have the yet-to-be-created post of Prime Minister. Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) won the first round of elections in March but Mugabe refused to vacate office. Negotiations are now stuck on who between the two will have greater executive authority for the government of Zimbabwe. Like in Kenya, a third political candidate, Aurthur Mutambara, is part of the talks.

There is growing fear among political observers that the little democracy that exists in Africa will be destroyed by the trend established by Kenya and Zimbabwe. With elections scheduled soon in Malawi and Angola, the fears may have some credibility.

The prospect of retaining the presidency will encourage African leaders to subvert the electoral process and negotiate a coalition. African leaders are not exactly famous for leaving power. Indeed, across Africa, democratically elected presidents are busy changing constitutions in order to remove the two-term limits. In Malawi, a former two-term president is among contenders in the forthcoming polls. Now, with possibilities of forming giant coalitions, African leaders may have found a new tactic to lengthen their occupancy of the top seat.

Contrary to what is portrayed by Western media, opposition parties in Africa are not the bastions of democracy they claim to be. Virtually all opposition in Africa consists of people that fell out with their governments for purely self-serving reasons. The new trend of giant coalition governments will induce opposition movements in Africa to reject electoral results – even where the process is fair – and demand slots in government. We are likely to see increased ethnic and other violence in African countries as opposition candidates play to the gallery of international media while seeking sympathy for their cause.

For this, the prospects for the ordinary African remain rather bleak. He and she will be used by politicians, both government and opposition, both claiming to represent the people but in reality hungrily eying the riches of the land. Once the giant coalition is formed, it is a resumption of the usual business of hyena-style politics, with discussion revolving on whose cronies get jobs in the state apparatus.

Such is the Pandora’s box that has been opened by Kenya.

2 Responses

  1. for ur info Raila actually won the elections so if do not have any credible thing to write do it somewhere else.

  2. […] 36. Coalition scenarios and its effects on Africa: […]

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