I managed to spend the entire day so far watching the Kenya elections. Which was made harder by the fact that information is extremely hard to come by, so I spent most of that time watching my own web site.
The results are unsurprising. Kibaki has somewhere around 65% of the vote, and seems sure to win, unless something surpassingly surprising happens in Rift Valley and the various other, smaller, districts that have not yet reported in. Counting could take as long as late tomorrow to be completed.
The most important things now seems to be:
How Kenyatta responds. If he challenges the vote, or hints at impropriety, it could spark discontent and violence. If he concedes gracefully, and offers his help and support to the transition, it could signal an era of cooperation and peace. So much is up to the reaction of this one young man, who has so little experience in politics it is really very alarming to watch.
How the transition is handled. Moi has set some very good first precedents, and we should be very grateful to him for that. He is removing himself gracefully from the scene, offering no resistance, or even nasty barbs, and has very publically said that he will step down gracefully when Kibaki wins. The period of transition can be handled cooperatively, giving the new government pointers they will need to do a good job, or it could be handled beligerently, setting the stage for a future in which nothing can be accomplished.
The makeup of Parliament. I am actually glad to see 25% of the seats going to KANU. If they were utterly removed from the scene, I actually think that it would cause a rockier transition, as there would be no tie to the past. Now, clearly, we want to distance ourselves from an unpleasant past, but completely severing that link would be dangerous, in that the new government is so inexperienced that it might make all the same mistakes that we are trying to distance ourselves from.
Communication. Things will not change in a day, or a month, or even a year, however well intentioned Kibaki and his government will be. It will take time. And communicating this to the people, and keeping them updated on progress in a completely open manner, will be crucial to reducing the frustration, and subsequent discontent and violence, that comes from a populace that expects immediate change and does not get it. Next week, and next month, and so on, there will still be high unemployment, high crime, high illiteracy, lots of corruption, street people, tribal unrest, and other results of the last 10 years of misrule (giving Moi and Kanu some credit, the first years of their rule were not so terrible), and these things will take lots and lots of time to overcome. In the best of situations, we’ll see these things changing immediately, but even then, it will take years before they are at the state that they were before 1986, let along making real progress.
God bless Africa. God bless Kenya.