Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Key Issues & Concerns as Kenya & Rwanda Head to Polls

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Two member states of the East African Community (EAC), Rwanda and Kenya will be holding their elections four days apart this month. Rwanda is expected to kick-start the exercise on Friday August 4th while Kenya will be conducting the general election on Tuesday August 8th.

These two polities have similarities and differences socially, economically and politically. Rwanda’s political environment is perceived to be authoritative with President Paul Kagame viewed as a political leader bearing dictatorial tendencies. On the other hand, Kenya’s political landscape is considered to be democratic.

One of the contemporary challenges that African states face is neo-colonialism. Political neo-colonialism manifests itself in the nagging manner in which Western states and non-state actors, intellectuals and the academic establishment direct African nations to adopt the system of democracy and its principles.

This has resulted in the mushrooming of Western democratic franchises in Africa which do not embrace the existing socio-political and economic conditions of the continent. To me, the Rwandese people are not led by a despot as claimed by most of the Western world entities. They have only adopted a system that suits their local conditions.

Considered to be one of the democratic models in Africa with democratic institutions, Kenya is also well-known in the world when it comes to corruption. The Corruption Perception Index released by Transparency International in January 2017 ranks Kenya at position 145 out of 176 countries in the world. The high rate of corruption in Kenya means that the so called democratic institutions in the country are neither effective nor efficient.

Rwanda, on the other hand, has managed to effectively deal with corruption even as President Kagame continues to be accused of being a “strongman”. The same report ranks Rwanda at position 50 out of 176 countries in the world and the 3rd least corrupt country in Africa. This is an indication that governance institutions in Rwanda are very effective.

When it comes to healthcare, Kenya is no match to Rwanda despite the former having a high number of medical practitioners, medical training institutions and medical facilities. Rwanda stands out in Africa having formulated and implemented the universal healthcare system. This system enables all the Rwandese citizens to access healthcare services.

The situation is different in Kenya with most Kenyans finding it difficult to access affordable and high quality healthcare services. The day that the country’s most corrupt yet highly paid politicians will seek for medical attention in public hospitals, is the moment when the healthcare system will no longer be broken.

Despite having a constitution that is considered as one of the best in the world with democratic institutions, Kenya is really struggling with the political inclusion and representation of women. In the 11th Parliament, women accounted for only 19.7% of the total number of MPs in the National Assembly and 26% in the Senate. Unfortunately, most of these women parliamentarians are nominated. In fact, the 11th Parliament failed to pass the Gender Bill yet this is an institution admired by many in Africa.

For Rwanda, women representation in Parliament is close to 60% which is the highest in the world. Indeed, the dictatorial regime seems to be performing extremely well in the inclusion of women in political representation.

Even on basics such as environmental cleanliness, Rwanda outsmarts Kenya. Compare the capital cities of the two countries, Kigali and Rwanda. Kigali is a very clean city in comparison to Nairobi which is full of filth left, right and centre. The county government of Nairobi has failed terribly on waste management. But also the residents of Nairobi lack the discipline and common sense of keeping the environment clean.

Kenya’s economy is more developed than that of Rwanda despite the latter registering high rates of economic growth in the last ten years. However, the level of inequality and economic destitution in Kenya is high. Political and economic institutions have failed to address the country’s economic disparities.

President Paul Kagame, loathed and loved by many, has been successful in leading the country. Under his leadership, Rwanda has established effective institutions that are results-driven. Kenya is reeling from the confusion created by the constitution in terms of the governance institutions. These institutions have so far not been effective with the main problem being the poor quality of the country’s political leadership.

As Kagame is assured of winning another term in office, many still question his decision not to let go the presidency. But if majority of Rwandese have given him a go ahead, who are we to question and pester him? There are certainly various ways of attaining socio-economic progress and not necessarily the one dictated by Western governments and entities.

Deng Xiaoping, the man credited with spearheading China’s market reforms and economic resurgence, famously stated that “it doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice”, indicating that economic growth and development can be achieved through various politico-economic systems. So, why don’t we appreciate that Kagame has invented a system that suits Rwanda?

The democratic Kenya faces a high stakes election that can either be won by the incumbent, Uhuru Kenyatta, or Raila Odinga. Kenya’s economic progress has been hampered by corruption with poor accountability of public financial resources. Kenya’s governance institutions are largely ineffective with incompetent individuals.

Rwanda’s authoritarian regime has effective institutions while Kenya’s democratic regime is struggling with institutional efficacy. As the two states head to the polls, the future of their citizens will highly depend on the outcome of the elections with regards to the organization of the governance institutions. For the two, it is a date with destiny.

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