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of Kenya's complicated political transition and possible lessons
for Zimbabwe's democratic transition and consolidation
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Cyprian Nyamwamu to the Zimbabwe's
Transition in Comparative Perspective Conference
Zimbabwe and Kenya have
for a long time been compared and contrasted in terms of their political
history and post independence developments, even before the 2007/08
political crises in the two countries. Apart from Kenya and Zimbabwe
sharing the destiny of being settler colonies which won their independence
through armed struggles, the two countries seem to have inherited
social and economic structures that have influenced the politics
and transformations ever since. The post-election crises "bonded"
the two countries further together and many Zimbabweans think that
there is a lot to learn from the Kenyan post-crisis experience in
all it's dimensions, but particularly the political management
of the transition from crisis to where Kenya is at the moment.
Kenya has embarked on
a new journey of opportunity towards solving its four principal
challenges of her governance problematique. Institutional capture
of the state led to the entrenchment of the culture of impunity.
Impunity having pervaded the state and society, followed serious
inequality that has led to great intolerance, violence and insecurity.
The four I s problematique should inform the democratic project
in Zimbabwe too.
Zimbabwe is undergoing
a very complicated and slippery political transition not very dissimilar
to that of Kenya. It is institutional capture of the state in Zimbabwe
that has led to an entrenched culture of impunity in the sate and
society. Impunity leads to lack of accountability and this leads
to inequality in the nation. Those close to the state have access
to economic, political and social goods that those who are outside
the state may never access. These inequalities create a sense of
grievance and injustice, which leads to intolerance and instability.
This is the characteristic of a patrimonial state. Zimbabwe like
Kenya and most African countries now live under the burden of patrimonial
states which are largely deprived to political legitimacy given
the narrow elite base they tend to serve at the exclusion of the
majority of the population. The cost of sustaining such a state
of affairs keeps increasing as its capacity to deliver on its social
and political obligations diminishes.
Under such circumstances,
it becomes necessary that an agenda of reforms, reconstruction and
reconciliation is undertaken through national democratic projects.
These are two challenges in constructing sustainable national democratic
projects. The first challenge is on how to construct sustainable
national democratic projects in situations where certain sections
of the population have grievances against the ruling class where
as the ruling class have fears of losing power and influence. The
second challenge, which is related to the first, has to do with
the absence of national elite consensus in most African societies.
The lack of national elite consensus explains the reason why the
actions of the ruling class most of the time threatens not only
the very survival of the nation-states but also even the very economic
and strategic interests of the elite.
The National accord in
Kenya offered the basis of the Kenyan national democratic project
in its imperfect form and progress has been made. However dealing
with institutional capture, impunity, inequalities and intolerance
in order to achieve national reconciliation, democratic governance
and economic development remains a huge headache for Kenya as it
is for Zimbabwe. Kenya has a new democratic constitution which in
itself offers a firm foundation for Kenya's transition where
as Zimbabwe is struggling with its constitutional reform agenda.
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