By Kibet Benard
Democracy, and by extension good governance, presupposes the capacity of political leadership to engage in reasoned debate, informed decision making and measured judgements. Democracy has been described as a dangerous and probably the worst worst form of government. Democracy requires that those who have authority use it for the public good. A democratic system of government begins by recognising that all members of society are equal.
People should have equal say and equal participation in the affairs of government and decision making in society. But that is an ideal situation. The irony is that even as electoral commissions in Africa have the task of preparing, conducting and officiating elections, only half of Africans trust their electoral commissions to deliver credible elections.
Kenya went to the polls on August 8 during which several cadres of leaders were elected. Soon after, the Opposition went to court where the presidential election results was annulled. This did not only hurt the country but had an adverse economic and social consequences. Again when Opposition leaders issued the so called “irreducible minimum” demands on reforms to the electoral body, some changes were effected. But Nasa presidential candidate’s decision to pull out of the race, citing failure by IEBC to accede to all their demands was not good for the democratic process.
From the composition of the commission’s board to vote counting, there was widespread interference by the political class. This lack of independence allows for all manner of interference of the independent body which faces many other structural and logistical challenges. Aside from independence, the commissions need to have the capacity in terms of resources and authority to best facilitate the elections especially in rural areas as well as hold accountable contestants and their supporters who breach the law. Democracy allows the majority to have their way, but the minority to have their say.
Political instability posed immense harm to economic performance, thus holding back development and progress. Political instability is likely to shorten policymakers’ horizons leading to sub-optimal short-term macroeconomic policies.
The challenges confronting Africa’s democratic experiments are many and complex and include entrenching constitutionalism and the reconstruction of the postcolonial state; ensuring that the armed forces are permanently kept out of politics, instituting structures for effective management of natural resources; promoting sustainable development and political stability; nurturing effective leadership, and safeguarding human rights and the rule of law.
To move Africa forward, emerging democratic governments would have to confront a legacy of poverty, illiteracy, militarisation, and underdevelopment brought about by incompetent or corrupt governments.
It is time for Africa and Kenya as a country to move forward, unite our nation for development and prosperity. The political class must desist from actions and utterances that threaten the common good, and realise that they are stakeholders as much as everyone else in the general scheme of things.
—The writer is a communications advisor