“The time has come, » the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things;
Of shoes and ships—and sealing wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings.”
Lewis Carroll (Alice’s Adventure Through the Looking Glass)
For 18 years, Somalia has shown the world that a country can exist without a government and still accomplish all the functions of a typical African State: kill, maim, destroy, displace millions, conjure famine, and more atrocities. Indeed, as the whole or at least half the world looked on, Somalia’s 500 MPs from various clans—themselves unelected— elected their latest president, Sheikh Ahmed, into power. The election was not held in Somalia, but in neighboring Djibouti.
What lessons can we draw from this novel experience? Instead of holding elections inside their own countries, which involve tedious and extensive rigging plans, our tyrants can simply mobilize a few hundred of their supporters and party loyalists abroad and have them vote His Excellency into power. It would be legal. Sheikh Ahmed was lauded by his former enemies in Washington and Addis Ababa as he safely returned to Mogadishou to claim his well deserved palace.
Yes, the same Sheikh Ahmed who nurtured the Islamic Court Union and whose teachings and exhortations are in accordance with the brutalities of Al Shabab. The argument is that Sheikh Ahmed is a moderate… But how much of a moderate is he? As moderate as the moderate Ayatollahs or compared to the bloody military regime of former Ethiopian leader, Mengistu? Is this a change or an illusion? Whatever the answer, Sheikh Ahmed’s election proves that national elections, however odd, whether held abroad or restricted to one’s own ethnic enclave, are acceptable to the international community.
And who says everyone is invited to take part? Why waste energy and money for an African charade that has been exposed to the whole world?
One country that tried to steal Somalia’s thunder is the “off shore” island of Madagascar. Protests and killings were registered in that usually quiet place after a very angry 34 year-old former Disc Jockey took to the streets in protest of a presidential order to close down his TV station. He now holds the reins of Malagasy power. A first in Africa. In fact, many wonder how a non-military former DJ could pull off such a fine coup d’etat.
Guinea’s coup d’etat, after being praised by the international media for its bloodless nature, saw the replacement of the late dictator, Lansana Conte by a deliciously erratic leader, Captain Dadis Camara. However, having felt insulted by the international media for calling their coup bloodless, making them look like a bunch of wimps, the coup plotters went berserk. Needless to say, their “September 28 operation stadium massacre” was an immediate international hit.
And another first
In Mauritania, General Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz, who led a military coup and ousted the country’s only democratically elected prsident, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, conducted and won the presidential elections, wasting essential resources on a predetermined electoral process. The opposition cried foul over General Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz’s 52% victory.
But that was before President Obiang of Equatorial Guinea announced that he expected no less than 97% of the total votes from his country’s elections. Teodoro Obiang Nguema was very disappointed when he scored a meager 95% of the presidential votes. Another world’s first.
Eastern Congo has also had its time in the spotlight. Tutsi rebel pastor, Laurent Nkunda, made fashionistas go forest green with jealousy as he paraded his endless jungle wardrobe. Film footages showed him in different attires, holding different canes like a serious Mzee, jovial and dancing to sweet Tutsi tunes. The whole world knew that he was backed and guided by Rwanda which, like Uganda, has had its own predator interest over Eastern Congo hidden behind an official claim of going after Hutu rebels hiding there. But in an incomprehensible turn of events, Presidents Kabila (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Kagame (Rwanda) found a ground of common accord and action that led to Rwanda detaining Nkunda.
The question is what the wanted rebel leader was doing in Rwanda at a time when he claimed that much of a so-called “liberated” territory in eastern Congo was under his control?
Another eventful operation in the same Congo registered a joint hunt for Joseph Kony, the notorious commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), — which has survived all these years thanks to a full scale Sudanese backing, — by Sudanese, Congolese and Ugandan troops. The LRA, which operates in Sudan, DR Congo and Uganda, is a remarkable example of a borderless organization. Rebels Without Borders (RWB), how does that sound?
Bad as things may seem, we can take solace from the possibility that Africa is an interesting place to watch for pioneer developments. But despite the big joke governance on the great continent represents, its woes are real.