Ogolla, Bomas scenes and region's big task

A photo of CDF General Francis Ogolla during his memorial at Ulinzi Complex. [John Muchucha, Standard]

The deaths of General Francis Ogolla and nine officers of the Kenya Defence Forces while on duty in Elgeyo Marakwet County are a poignant reminder of life’s fragility.

Interestingly, General Ogolla’s copter crash revived the bitter debate over the night of August 14, 2022, when ‘national hero’ Wafula Chebukati was ruling the roost at the Bomas of Kenya.

CDF Ogolla allegedly wanted the results changed. We hear he texted his seniors from Bomas. Like a callous ogre, this claim haunted him in life and death. But since nobody took responsibility, and not a single soul was prosecuted for it nearly two years later, the puzzle deepens.

Serious as it is, Wanjiku is eager to hear the full story. Lest we forget, the sanctity of elections and renewal of trust in institutions should never be lost to complacency or name-calling in funerals and rallies.

We’ve enough laws to deal with electoral offences. Else, we risk more fiascos!    

Author CS Lewis, in ‘The Great Divorce’, cautions that “a sum can be put right but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.”

Let’s all agree. It’s time to cultivate electoral maturity in Kenya and beyond.

Worth noting, General Ogolla’s accident on April 18 coincided with national celebrations marking the Independence Day of Zimbabwe, achieved on April 18 1980 from the British, but which has basically been blighted by bad governance and shambolic elections.

All factors constant – resentment towards divergent views, threats on the opposition and civil groups, extra-judicial killings, graft and zero efforts to foster democracy and equity – alarm bells are loud in Harare. It’s a similar sketch in Uganda, DR Congo and Ethiopia.

Methinks the Bomas debacle, recent sham elections in Nigeria, Uganda and DRC, overthrowals across West Africa and the parallels between Zimbabwe’s troubled history and now South Sudan’s perilous situation are a cautionary tale, hence the urgency of reforms in our region.

Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa, a Robert Mugabe ally, is accused of curtailing free speech and using the justice system to cripple the opposition. Mr ‘crocodile’ has perpetuated Zanu-PF antics. It’s why some nations won’t lift sanctions that have miffed Zimbabweans to the core. And in Uganda, strongman M7 has stayed put surrounded by his kin.  

Felix Tshisekedi and Bola Tinubu face legitimacy questions. Polls in their countries are just coronations. Closer home, observers are wary of South Sudan’s ill-preparedness to hold elections this December. Such a landmark in time could yet again elude Africa’s youngest country where 75 per cent of citizens need aid due to civil war.

UN chief Antonio Guterres fears that preconditions vital for a credible election haven’t been met, and faults the transitional government of President Salva Kiir and deputy Riek Machar.

Mr Kiir, who also chairs the East African Community, should make it a personal matter. If he fails to pull off proper polls, he’ll be accused of stealthily extending his rule. He’s been at the helm since 2011.

Again, a failed South Sudan election, after recent edgy ones in Nigeria and Kenya, will be another ‘wild goose chase’ moment for Africa’s democracy credentials. Mr Kiir’s legacy hinges on the integrity of the upcoming polls.

Last year, he and other parties to the 2018 peace treaty extended it for two years following a missed deadline. But how long can the centre hold?

President William Ruto, a pan-Africanist par excellence, should extend a helping hand to our pet neighbour to allow transition from turmoil to tranquillity. But first, Mr Kiir, the man with a gargantuan cowboy hat, must become a moderate leader who won’t betray his people.

Addressing technology failures, power abuse by incumbents, vigilante violence, negative ethnicity, graft and coercion can prevent ‘Bomas’ moments. Let electoral reforms be not just the region’s political milestone, but also a commitment to the rule of law. Godspeed.

-The writer is a communications practitioner. X:@markoloo