From: Joachim Omolo Ouko
News Dispatch with Omolo Joachim
WEDNESDAY, JULY 22, 2015
Concerns have been raised on whether Burundi could be helped never to go to dark ages marked with violence, killings, intimidations, tortures among other human rights abuses. The answer to these concerns is simple, African leaders cannot assist because they behave the same.
Uganda President Yoweri Museveni who was sent by East African communities to broker peace and reconciliation himself changed the constitution to enable him run for third term. Rwanda is the same. Kenya is no difference, so does Tanzania.
At least 50,000 refugees are living on the shore of Lake Tangyanika in rough conditions after fleeing the political crisis in Burundi. More than 105,000 Burundians have fled the country, with 70,000 crossing into Tanzania alone, since the political crisis began in Burundi. Around 26,300 Burundians have entered Rwanda, most of whom are now living in the Mahama refugee camp.
According to activists, at least 20 people have been killed in clashes with police. The government has repeatedly disputed allegations of heavy-handed tactics. But the ongoing crisis has prompted an exodus across the border.
Polling has just ended after a night of gunfire and explosions that claimed two lives in the capital Bujumbura. President Nkurunziza iwho has forced his way to run for a third term despite a limit of two terms in the constitution is going to be declared the president, so what?
Even if the US State Department has joined critics saying the disputed presidential election lacks credibility and will discredit the government, do they care? Most African leaders are not there for the people but for their own benefits, that is why they don’t care whether people are dying or suffering.
The US said it would review all aspects of its partnership with the east African country including imposing visa restrictions on those it said were responsible for promoting instability. But do they care even if the president’s office describes the latest protests as terrorist acts intended to disrupt the election.
In Burundi we are dealing with rebel leader-turned president, who claims to be born-again Christian, former sports teacher whose father was killed in ethnic violence in 1972. The African Union (AU) did not send observers – the first time it has taken such a stance against a member state, not because they are against Nkurunziza’s decision to run for the third time but because of the blame from foreign communities.
The European Union has expressed a similar view, and has cut some aid to Burundi to show its anger with Mr Nkurunziza. Most African nations still rely on European, US, World Bank, IMF and other foreign aids, so they cannot contradict them.
The other thing in Burundi is to do with tribe. Tensions between Burundi’s ethnic Hutu majority – comprising some 85 percent of the 10.5 million population- and the country’s Tutsi minority have flared up regularly since independence from Belgium in 1962.
Mr Nkurunziza led a Hutu rebel group fighting the Tutsi-dominated army until a peace deal led to him becoming president in 2005. The Constitutional Court has backed his argument that his first term in office did not count towards the two-term limit, as he was elected by MPs.
Burundi is not alone. In Nigeria it has been called the election that still “haunts” Nigeria to this day. Popular businessman Moshood Abiola officially garnered 58.3 percent of the vote, against his closest contender Bashir Tofa with 41.7 percent, in what was called Nigeria’s most democratic election since independence:
For the first time, a southerner was able to gain broad popular support from all corners of the country. But soon after the results were announced, the military regime in power, led by Ibrahim Babangida, simply annulled the results – end of story.
Nigerians were appalled, taking to the streets in protest. Babangida had to resign, and in the uncertainty following, General Sani Abacha took power – leading to the most brutal and repressive chapter in Nigeria’s history.
Similar story is in Uganda. Long-serving president Yoweri Museveni was up against opposition leader Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). But in the run up to the election, Besigye was arrested and charged with treason both in civilian and military courts, allegedly for his “anti-government” activities while in exile in the preceding years. He was also charged with rape, of the daughter of a friend.
Besigye protesters believed (and court proceedings later suggested) the charges were fabricated to stop Besigye from challenging Museveni. When it appeared that Besigye and his twenty-two co-defendants in the treason case might be released on bail by the civilian court, the government prosecutor, in an apparent attempt to prevent Besigye’s candidacy, then brought terrorism charges against him.
On the day of their bail hearing, a group of heavily armed goons were lurking around the court, ready to detain the group as soon as they were released on bail. The judge presiding did grant them bail, but the defendants declared to remain in Luzira Prison, instead of risking detention– incredibly, prison was a better deal than going free.
In the end, the legal charges, counter-charges, appeals, and dramatic court decisions made it impossible for anything like a level playing field to be possible, and Besigye ended up spending almost as many days in court as on the campaign trail. Museveni ended up winning with 59 percent of the vote.
In Kenya President Mwai Kibaki was facing tough competition from opposition leader Raila Odinga, with initial results showing that the opposition party had taken the majority of seats in the National Assembly.
While parliamentary results were forthcoming, it wasn’t the case for the presidential results. Three days after the election, President Kibaki suddenly and inexplicably received a massive boost in the tally, with the numbers ostensibly coming from his “strongholds” – but which observers say was marred by ballot stuffing and outright fraud.
The Electoral Commission of Kenya announced Kibaki as the winner, leading to his hurried swearing in at dusk at State House in Nairobi. The country swiftly descended into deadly political violence that killed over 1,000 and displaced 600,000, and eventually Odinga joined Kibaki in a coalition government as Prime Minister to end the violence.
In Zimbabwe the story is even scary. President Robert Mugabe was facing his toughest challenge yet, as the country’s economic situation was dire – inflation was averaging 165,000% and the economy had shrunk 40 percent since 2000.
Voting day itself was generally peaceful, but as initial reports of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) taking the lead began coming in, confusion set in, and a recount was ordered in 23 constituencies. More than a month went by before an official result was announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, indicating Tsvangirai won with 47.9 percent of the vote, and Mugabe came second at 43.2 percent, necessitating a run-off.
The period between the first and second votes was marked by systematic violence, intimidation and brutalisation of voters perceived to be MDC supporters, and just days to the run-off, Tsvangirai announced he was withdrawing from the run-off, describing it as a “violent sham” and saying that his supporters risked being killed if they voted for him.
Although Tsvangirai’s name remained on the ballot, Mugabe (obviously) won the second round as the only candidate. Tsvangirai later joined the government as Prime Minister in a Government of National Unity.
In DRC the story is similar. The 2011 election was the second since the official end of the Second Congo War in 2003, but it was marred by widespread fraud in the electoral roll and in vote tallying. One survey showed hundreds of thousands of ghost voters in the form of duplicate names in the register.
Some duplicates could be attributable to technical glitches, but tampering was a more likely explanation due to the scale. In several of the Congolese provinces, the double entries were equivalent to more than 12 percent of voters; the margin of error for duplicates on similar databases used in Western and some Asian elections is less than 1 percent.
And in the tallying, some constituencies in Katanga province “reported impossibly high rates of 99 to 100 percent voter turnout with all, or nearly all, votes going to incumbent President Joseph Kabila”, while in Kinshasa, where opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi enjoyed strong support, results from nearly 2,000 polling station stations were simply “lost” – roughly a fifth of the city’s total. In the end, Kabila officially won the poll with 49 percent of votes cast, against Tshisekedi’s 32 percent.
Fr Joachim Omolo Ouko, AJ
Tel +254 7350 14559/+254 722 623 578