Orderly polls in Kenya set the pace for Angola, Liberia and other African nations

Sunday August 13 2017

Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto

Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto display their certificates after the former was announced winner of the presidential election at the IEBC National Tallying Centre at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi on August 11, 2017. PHOTO | THOMAS MUKOYA 

By CIUGU MWAGIRU
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The polls in Kenya attracted massive global attention, indicating Africa’s steady emergence into constitutional democracy.

After Friday’s announcement of the presidential poll results, it was time to take stock of the  progress made since the violence that resulted from the 2007 elections.

The chaos gave Kenya the distinction of a veritable tinderbox for which peace and stability would remain a pipedream.

In the recent general election the poll agency in particular and the country in general were given a clean bill of health.

Attention now shifts to the Angola general election slated for August 23, the third since the end of civil war in 2002.

More than 9.3 million Angolans are expected to cast their ballots in a momentous election that will see the exit of President Eduardo dos Santos.

PARLIAMENTARY MAJORITY

The ailing president has been in power since 1979 and is Africa’s second longest serving leader after Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea.

The ruling MPLA won the 1992, 2008 and 2012 elections with an almost unassailable parliamentary majority.

After Angola, focus will move to Liberia where polls for the presidency and House of Representatives are scheduled for October 10.

It will be the first time since the end of the brutal civil war in 2003 that the volatile country will vote without UN peacekeepers providing security.

Even more significantly, the elections will see the exit from power of two-term Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf — Africa’s first female head of state.

After first winning the election in 2005, she repeated the feat in 2011 and is credited with unifying a nation torn by civil war.

WON ACCOLADES

Befittingly, the Liberian leader has won accolades as an eminent African and global stateswoman, as well as respecting the constitution, unlike many of her peers.

As she prepares to join the pantheon of the world’s most respected former leaders, her possible successors are emerging. They include vice-president Joseph Boakai and football superstar and current senator George Weah.

Intriguingly, the running mate of the latter, who will be vying on a ticket of the Coalition for Democratic Change, will be Jewel Howard-Taylor, 54, the former wife of jailed warlord Charles Taylor.

Other ghosts from the civil war era include yet another senator, Prince Johnson, the rebel leader filmed drinking beer during the grisly murder of President Samuel Doe in 1990.

Unlike Taylor who was jailed by the International Criminal Court for his role in the bloodbath, notorious Johnson has reinvented himself.

DEMOCRACY

The apparently reformed rebel will be the presidential candidate of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction.

Remarkably, though, despite Johnson-Sirleaf’s stellar performance as president, there is just a single female candidate, MacDella Cooper, among the 20 contenders.

She is a fashion model turned philanthropist who promises hope and reform for the poor.

Only a handful of women are contesting the other positions. The outgoing president has pledged to support them.

In Kenya, international observers were particularly effusive in their praise of the polls.

The entire process was a victory for Kenya and Africa, though certainly not flawless.

Hopefully, a stable Kenya will defy the perennial naysayers and be an inspiration for Africa.