By the time you read this, the world will have a good idea of who is going to win Kenya’s presidential elections, which took place Tuesday.
Because of the history of elections in Kenya itself and Africa in general, tension is high amid fears of violence as incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition kingpin Raila Odinga face off.
Uganda is particularly concerned because as Kenya’s neighbour and major trade partner, through which 90 per cent of our imports find their way into the country, any large-scale violence would be highly disruptive.
These fears are not unfounded because ten years ago, a Kenyan election ended with thousands dead, many refugees entering Uganda, and some leaders arraigned before the International Criminal Court (ICC).
To be fair, this time round, the leading players in the election have consistently called on their supporters not to engage in violence, which is commendable.
What remains to be seen is whether the leaders will live up to their pledge for peace. As for the ordinary people of Kenya, they need to keep in mind that their country is bigger than any of the people seeking to lead them and will remain long after today’s politicians have gone.
Politics is, therefore, not worth fighting or, worse, killing over. Unfortunately, elections in many African countries have become a matter of life and death. This is partly because they tend to be neither free nor fair, leading to public mistrust.
Yet they are exacting a big dent on the concerned economies with coffers emptied to organise, investors putting plans on hold to study the situation or tourists readjusting plans accordingly to avoid getting caught up in trouble.
Thus, instead of propelling a country forward, elections at times stand in the way of socio-economic progress, which Africans badly need to overcome widespread poverty.
Kenya and other African countries where elections are a tension-filled affair have the big challenge of finding a good balance between promoting democracy and good governance without undermining the little economic gains being made.
Always remember that destruction takes a moment, but rebuilding takes ages.