Days of Rage
Even though the election that was supposed to be the “envy of Africa” has already happened in Ethiopia two years ago, there are glaring similarities between the victory of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) in Ethiopia and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in Kenya.
In 2005, the Ethiopian electorate -- 90% of the registered voters lined up in front of polling stations, standing in line for up to ten hours to cast their vote. In one of the most organized and peaceful voter turn out in history, the CUD candidates trounced “all the Prime Minster’s men” winning all 23 Parliamentary seats and 137 City Council seats in Addis Ababa alone.
Meles Zenawi promptly put the Ethiopian Defense Forces under his command and gave “shoot to kill” orders against the electorate, shut down the independent press and prohibited all public gatherings practically declaring martial law, which to this day has not been lifted. Overnight, Ethiopia was turned into a police state with the entire opposition leaders being harassed by Zenawi’s security guards 24/7 and eventually sent to Kaliti prison for 21 months. The voters said go away, Zenawi said no way and keeps. killing, maiming and jailing innocent Ethiopians to this day.
Fast forward to December 27, 2007 history repeats itself in Kenya. A very highly contested election with 70% voter turn out where the President’s chief lieutenants were trounced by the ODM candidates and Mr. Odinga is leading Mr. Kibaki. All of a sudden Mr. Odinga’s lead evaporates into thin air and Mr. Kibaki is sworn in for another term under very suspicious circumstances. The EU observation team promptly declined to give its blessings to Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga rejected the results while the enraged Kenyan voters took to the streets.
All over Africa the “big men” who handpick the National Election Board and staff it with their minions are frustrating the electorate from North to South and East to West. The corrupt, greedy kleptocrats who love their power more than life itself and keep lining their pockets and that of their cronies at the expense of the people, while ad libbing democracy, rule of law, constitutional order blah, blah are the true curse of Africa.
The IMF and the World Bank keep pouring money into the bottomless pit and the United States and the European Union keep allowing their hard working tax payers to be pick pocketed by these corrupt dictator under the pretext of an ally against this and that
Unlike the Idi Amins and Mobutus of yesteryear, today’s “big men” are handled by the K Street boys, who carefully coach them from what to wear to how to charm the “Deciders” to which buzzwords to use. Everywhere in Africa, the people are screaming for change and are using the ballot box to effect change. But, the “big men” want to maintain the status quo and remain the President/Prime Minster for life looting the treasury and making themselves, their families and their cronies the nouveaux riches aristocracy.
The economic boom touted by the dictators and their “partners in deceit” the IMF and the World Bank never ever trickles down to the people. The people become poorer, hungrier, sicker and wallow in utter misery, anger and frustration in the teeming shanty towns kiddy corner from the gleaming skyscrapers. It is the inhumanity, the love of power and insatiable greed of the chosen few that is keeping Africa underdeveloped and underfed. Belligerent tyrants who lie, cheat, steal and dash the hopes and dreams of Africans inflame the rage, the helplessness and the hopelessness of a disenfranchised populace.
Shame on. Mr. Kibaki for stealing this election in broad daylight and cause his nation the unnecessary trauma. While Mr. Samuel Kivuitu, the Chairman of the Election Commission bears full responsibility for the horror we have witnessed in Kenya, I applaud him for finally doing the right thing - telling the truth- that the election is rigged.
In the future, the only surefire way to stop these types of senseless and barbaric death and destruction in Africa is to play democracy by the rules of the game and make the National Election Board, the Judiciary and the Press truly independent and respect the people’s vote.
I hope this serves as a wake up call for the honorable men and women in the United States Senate and help pass HR-2003 the “Ethiopia Democracy and Accountability Act of 2008.” which has global implications for democracy in Africa and throughout the Third World. Don’t let Senator James Inhofe ( R-OK) tell you it is all a hoax like global warming. What happened in Kenya is not the exception, it is the rule in Africa. I also hope the Presidential candidates - Democrat or Republican will pay particular attention to the rigged election in Kenya, its aftermath and all the contributing factors.
People power is sweeping Africa and Africans are saying, get elected democratically or get out of the way. The democracy genie is out of the box. Let’s hope the next American President will have “ivy leaguers” who can help him/her formulate sound US policy towards Africa or else we will be witnessing many more “days of rage” in the “dark continent.”
Oh, listen up our Congressional represenatives and future “Deciders” Senators. Obama, Edwards, Clinton, McCain. Governors. Huckabee, Romney and Mayor Guiliani, Ethiopian-Americans are going to be a factor in 2008. We are going to mobilize, organize and register to vote in droves in all the 50 States, but we are going to make you work very hard to earn our votes. It is going to be a “defining year” for all of us.
PS: African dictators please. Mind your manners and save us the national crisis. When you are voted out, you are voted out; no ifs, buts, and ands about it.
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