Over the next one year, there will be at least two general elections and two referendums of national importance in the Eastern African region. Rwanda and Tanzania are gearing up for general elections this year. Kenya Has a constitutional referendum early next month, whilst the people of the Southern Sudan region of Sudan vote early next year on becoming an independent nation. Now in national elections it goes without saying that the country’s relations with its neighbours tend to feature as a hot topic alongside stuff such as education, security etc. however this piece is about more than just African nations relations’ with the outside world. It is about outside participation in the African electoral process. Is it a practical, helpful intervention to help democratic space? Or is it imperialistic interference in other nation’s internal affairs.
From the end of the Cold War, till recently, ’The West’ has been the dominant voice in terms of what in the one hand is called ’fostering democracy in African nations’ and in some quarters called ’meddling in internal affairs.’ in the early 1990’s there was America’s ‘rogue’ ambassador to Kenya Smith Hempstone. That particular diplomats open agitation for restoration of multi-party democracy and assistance of pro-multiparty activists at the time is cited by many as a key influence in forcing the hand of the ruling party KANU, and bringing about the repeal of the laws that made Kenya a one party state. Today there is the constitutional referendum in Kenya, in which have, proponents and that opponents of the draft constitution, have accused each other of receiving support from ‘outsiders’ and both sides have termed this as ‘interference in internal affairs.
The ‘Yes’ camp is accused of receiving financial support and enticements from the American government to ‘force’ a divisive constitution of hapless Kenyans. The American government’s defence is that ‘a new constitution’ is the centre piece of a reform agenda that all parties signed up to when the current grand coalition came into power. The ‘No’ team on the other hand, through churches said to be receiving financial backing from evangelical churches and the American right wing to shoot down a draft that ‘legalizes abortion and introduces Sharia law’ never mind what the draft actually says. Will all this matter when the polling booths close on the evening of August 4th?
What will happen to those development projects currently supported by the U.S government if the draft flops? What happens to the relationship between Kenya’s evangelical churches and their American counterparts? what happen’s to the charity work that they do. will they continue working in a country that has (without actually having) sharia law on it books? should these things even matter or should Kenyans actually vote?