Two major elections have happened in East Africa in the last couple of weeks: one in Rwanda, where the incumbent won with 98 per cent and the just-concluded Kenyan general elections, marred with credibility issues.
The East African Community must address chronic election problems among its member states or else this will kill the integration spirit again.
Elections in sub-Saharan Africa bear unfortunate traits – either too easy to win, like in Rwanda, or so difficult to settle, like that of Uganda and Kenya.
Kenya holds a special place in the East African Community. Its strategic location and historical economic set-up makes Kenya a de facto leader of the region. Uganda, South Sudan and the vast parts of eastern DR Congo depend on Kenya’s stability and economic health. If Kenya catches a cold, they all suffer.
In 2007, when Kenya’s elections went bonkers, the riot that marred Nairobi suburbs severely curtailed Uganda’s economy. Uganda depends on Mombasa for imports and exports.
Unfortunately, Uganda’s own democratic credentials, and its chronic vote tinkering during elections, leave it in a remote position to demand for clean elections in Kenya. South Sudan, like Uganda, does not even deserve a mention in a discussion of elections or democratic governance.
The two most-affected countries with legitimate interests in Kenya’s elections lack the legitimacy to enforce their interests, except in perpetuating the rigging itself.
The business community could now look up to Tanzania as a regional leader. However, Tanzania also has its own flaws. President John Pombe Mugufuli has increasingly demonstrated traits of intolerance to dissent.
Even then, Tanzania’s ports are not favored as much as Kenya’s for poor infrastructure, distance, and security in its vast hinterland.
In essence, the EAC is a bloc locked up in contradictions and democratic deficits. Rwanda is equally as dependent as Uganda and South Sudan on Tanzania’s and Kenya’s ports.
While we ponder on how the Kenyan elections impasse will resolve, the regional leaders ought to tap into this situation as a primer to formulate acceptable standards for the region to resolve the embarrassing deficits in its democratic profiles.
You cannot have an economic partnership with different election standards. The legitimacy and sustainability of the EAC depends on a stronger and more integrated region.
The disagreement over the Standard Gauge Railway project between Uganda and Kenya is one such example where two leaders from the same regional economic bloc disagreed on a basic principle.
If the EAC were a coherent entity, why would the cost of building the same railway be highly inflated and delayed in Uganda, and yet easily tested and operated in Kenya within an acceptable time-frame?
Special tribute to Raila Odinga
Dear Odinga, regardless of the outcome of this election in Kenya 2017, you have done a great part in shaping the politics of Kenya.
Your name will go down as one of the greatest sons of Kenya and East Africa. You pushed for a modern constitution and continuous reform of the electoral process. You may have not benefited, but the future generations will remember you.
For Kenya, you were not only a presidential candidate or master of alliances, you were a patriot. Those who call you a tribalist are ignorant of the fact that you said “Kibaki Tosha” a Kikuyu in 2002, and he ended up being president.
He betrayed you by refusing to implement a new constitution and you parted ways, but it never killed your determination.
Eventually, through ODM, you delivered a modern constitution to the country. Kibaki robbed you of victory in 2007 but you soldiered on. You managed to bring together many communities across Kenya. History will set you free.
Special tribute to your father Jaramogi Odinga Odinga, who refused to betray Mzee Jomo Kenyatta who was in prison then but was later paid by imprisonment by the same Kenyatta.
President Daniel arap-Moi jailed you for eight years under torture but you never gave up on the people of Kenya. Those of us who have followed you will always respect you.
When everything fails, try prayers
Every problem can be solved if you pray. One psychologist said: “Prayer is the greatest power available to the individual in solving personal problems. Its power astonishes me.” If you find yourself with many problems and limited possible solutions, just pray.
You can’t get a man physically healthy until you get him spiritually healthy. Many diseases which affect us physically first attack our spirits.
Therefore, as you seek physical treatment, first pray to God. Once your spiritual health is right, the physical health is guaranteed.
Slowly you will realise that through prayer, you will feel better, work better, and sleep better.
Reduce taxes on solar power products
I recently read a story in one local daily that noted that the 18 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) on solar invertors and batteries had increased the cost of solar power and some people had resorted to buying substandard appliances.
While I commend government’s efforts in trying to raise revenue, it must urgently reduce taxes on solar products to help meet the energy needs of poor Ugandans.
Access to affordable energy is crucial in eradication of poverty. Initiatives such as the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL), the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), goal seven and others highlight the need to have equal access to clean, affordable and reliable energy.
Although the government of Uganda is making heavy investments in the construction of hydro-power dams and extending the grid across the country, government needs to broaden its scope and focus more on investing heavily in other renewable energy sources particularly solar energy considering that Uganda is well endowed with sunshine.
Increased investment in solar energy would also help reduce carbon emissions from use of fossil fuels in especially urban centres.
Further, solar-powered water pumps would enable rural households to access clean water and would improve the quality of education and life of girls and women respectively.
With less household chores such as fetching water from wells, girls would better be able to stay in school and women would have a better life.