The Kenya Forum | African politics: power share or power grab? - The Kenya Forum

December 6, 2010


Former South African president has been despatched by AU to mediate on power apportionment in Cote D’Ivoire. Will he organise a power sharing scenario? Is this just an attempt to ensure a defeated president stays in power?

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African politics: power share or power grab?

African politics: power share or power grab?

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is not a happy man. The power-sharing agreement with his long-time adversary Morgan Tsvangari is not to his taste and ‘Uncle Bob’ has by all accounts been pouring his heart out to South Africa’s President, Jacob Zuma.

“I told President Zuma I am a lawyer and I am not happy to be in a thing which is semi-legal”, Mugabe was quoted in The Sunday Mail. “I feel awkward in a thing like that, absolutely awkward”, he continued. Poor Bob, fancy being involved with something that is only ‘semi-legal’.

Forum readers will of course recall that Mugabe lost the 2008 presidential and parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe but South Africa’s then president, Thabo Mbeki, was able to negotiate a ‘power-sharing’ deal that put Mugabe and Tsvangari and their respective parties in an uneasy coalition.

‘Power-sharing’, of course, is a subject of which we Kenyans have great experience.

The African Union (which includes Egypt, just completing their own, utterly corrupt elections) have now despatched former president Mbeki to Cote d’Ivoire where another old crook, sorry, incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, is clinging to power supported by the military and his own appointees in the high court, despite being considered by the ‘international community’ and ‘reputable authorities’ to have lost the recent election to the former Prime Minister, Alassame Uuattara.

Mediation in Cote d’Ivoire is of course urgently needed if the country is not to return to a state of bloody civil war but Mbeki and Gbagbo are old friends, so what is the price of another ‘power-sharing’ agreement?

Speaking in 1994, at a summit of what was then the Organisation of African Unity, Nelson Mandela said, “We must face the matter squarely, it must be said that the fault is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are ill-governed”. He went on, “We know that we have it in ourselves as Africans to change all this. We must assert our will to do so. We must say that there is no obstacle big enough to stop us from bringing about an African Renaissance”.

Thabo Mbeki followed up on the theme of ‘African Renaissance’ when speaking at a conference in 1998. He said, “The African Renaissance, in all its parts, can only succeed if its aims and objectives are defined by Africans themselves, if its programmes are designed by ourselves and if we take responsibility for the success or failure of our policies.”

The Forum agrees with former South African presidents’ Mandela and Mbeki. These were wise words, great words even. But we would wish to advise Thabo Mbeki that ‘the African Renaissance’ will never come about if the precedent is established under which defeated presidents’ cling to power undemocratically under the name of ‘power sharing’.


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