Another obituary for the demise of democracy in Africa is playing out again in Zimbabwe where the so-called opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and the sit-tight Robert Mugabe of ZANU-PF would soon be locked in a bad marriage with a predictable end. This contraption, proudly called “Power sharing” is presently taking Africa by storm and signaling a death knell to the future of the continent’s fragile democracy.
The scenario is familiar. Usually, after a fiercely fought election where the incumbent glaringly loses but is unwilling to vacate the seat he considers his birthright, massive bloodshed by supporters of both gladiators would ensue, wrecking havoc on lives and properties. International negotiators would emerge to broker a piece deal that will allow for concessions and compromises with both sides sharing key positions.
This arrangement assumed prominence after the December 27 election in Kenya where the opposition Leader Raila Odinga won majority votes cast but a recalcitrant Mwai Kibaki acting to the true sit-tight characteristics of Africa leaders refused to vacate the seat. This resulted in violence that claimed the lives of more than one thousand Kenyans, turning the once prosperous tourist destination into a theatre of war.
It appears ‘power sharing’ rather than respect for electoral laws is gaining currency in Africa. Vanquished leaders have found a new strategy to perpetuate their leadership through fraudulent means. If this trend continues unchecked, the people of Africa will likely become pawns in an absurd political chess game. Democracy must prevail as a guarantee of respect for human rights and the rule of law. It is a tragedy that the entire African Union leadership has turned a blind eye to the callous oppression of Zimbabweans by Mugabe and the fraud perpetuated under Mwai Kibaki during the December 2007 elections in Kenya.
Power-sharing deals that are made outside an acceptable democratic framework should not be allowed to become an alternative to democratic processes. Power sharing should only be used as a last resort and ought to be a transitional arrangement to facilitate fresh elections where there is probable cause to suspect rigging. The current trend would also signal the complete capitulation of any viable opposition necessary for good governance across Africa.
This is especially true in the case of Nigeria where the opposition jostled to queue up for plum positions in the name of Government of National Unity GNU after the fraudulent April 2007 elections. Now this same set of greedy opposition leaders would rail at PDP for plotting to make Nigeria a one party state. The ultimate truth is that this democratic caricature cannot take the place of genuine wish of the people. It will only set the ground for future civil strife and encourage impunity. Power sharing is a threat to the future of Africa democracy. It should not be encouraged.
Bayo Olupohunda is an educator, writer and independent journalist whose writing interests span the arts, culture, education, social issues and development politics. He is a contributing writer for the influential Nigerian newspaper, The Guardian. He was also recently a Columnist for 234Next Newspaper in Nigeria. His articles have been published in Major Nigerian and foreign media. Bayo has also worked in education advocacy as the Project Coordinator in Education for Goethe Institut Lagos. He currently runs an education advocacy organization and teaches Literature and Creative Writing in an international school.