Can Zimbabwe learn from Kenya’s peaceful election

Some three million Zimbabweans voted in the referendum on a new constitutionIn our series of letters from Africa journalists, London-based Ugandan writer Joel Kibazo considers whether Zimbabwe can learn from Kenya's largely peaceful election process.

I have always thought elections are something we should celebrate, not fear.

Yet in a number of cases in Africa, an impending election induces tension and feelings of panic in the country where the election is being held and amongst its neighbours.
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    If nothing else, the outcome of the Kenya election, not to mention my poor predictions for the Africa Cup of Nations, served to confirm there will be no alternative career for me in predicting the future”

I was having drinks with friends in Kampala recently when one of them suddenly changed the subject and said: "Hey, I hope you are all ready – you know what happened last time."

For a brief moment I was puzzled, not knowing what my friend was speaking about. Then he went on. "It is the Kenya elections and you can't leave things to chance."

Those difficult days in early 2008 came flooding back to me: Violence had broken out in Kenya following the general election and within days we in Uganda had to contend with severe shortages of fuel and other supplies.

I was among those driving around trying to stock up yet at the same time using up the meagre fuel I had left.

The violence had suddenly closed the main routes to landlocked Uganda and nothing was coming in or going out across the borders, except the refugees fleeing the violence.

Mercifully, after two months of crisis, which led to the deaths of more than 1,000 people and the displacement of more than 600,000, the two leading candidates came together to form a coalition government which has been in power since then.
'The big mo'

So this time, as the Kenya elections approached, my friends were taking no chances and many had ensured they were stocked up on the essentials of life.

I thought I should sample the mood in Nairobi ahead of the elections.

I had spent a lot of time in the city in the run-up to the 2007 election when there were strong signs of some of the civil strife that was to break out.

This time, there was no getting away from the calls for peace.

I decided it would be an idea to sample a political rally so I headed for Nairobi's Uhuru Park.

Even that turned out to be a very loud rally calling for peace by faith groups.

There was no getting away from what everyone was hoping for.

Well, the message seems to have got through and much to the relief of all, bar a few incidents, the much-watched election went off without incident and, what is more, the announcement of Uhuru Kenyatta as the winner of the presidential race brought no incidents.


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