While elections should provide the means to better governance, they tend to precipitate bloodshed in Africa. Every election year in Kenya, for instance, people who have lived together in peace and harmony suddenly discover they are enemies. This has been at great cost to the economy and national cohesion.
Be it in Kenya, Egypt, Rwanda, Uganda or Burundi, election time equates to violence. Zimbabwe, for the longest time under President Robert Mugabe who took power in 1980, the country has escaped election violence so common elsewhere in Africa.
Mugabe’s longevity at the helm was opposed by many, leading to his ouster late last year. In his place, Emmerson Mnangagwa was installed as president. He pledged to hold elections within six months.To his credit, though many doubted, Mnangagwa honoured his pledge and dutifully, the country went to elections on Wednesday. But rather than offer the ray of hope many Zimbabweans expected, the country has been plunged into chaos following the elections.
Before the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission could declare official results, the opposition had claimed victory. That claim led opposition supporters to lay siege on the commission’s offices demanding immediate declaration of results.
As would be expected, the siege degenerated into violence that is reported to have led to the loss of three lives. In a show of statesmanship, President Mnangagwa has reached out to the opposition leader, urging him to help in restoring peace and order.
That is the right thing to do to stop Zimbabwe from sliding into anarchy and becoming just another sad story from Africa.