Kenya’s Poll success, Africa’s Victory
Former Zambian President Rupiah Banda had two options during the September 2011 poll ‑ stand down from incumbency and endorse the victory of then opposition leader Michael Sata, or dispute the outcome of the elections, cling to power and then contest the election results in the courts of law.
Reliving the experience endured during the September 20, 2010 poll in which he lost to his old time rival and opposition Patriotic Front leader Michael Sata, Banda said the stakes were high but despite all this, he chose to preserve the peace Zambia has enjoyed for the past 48 years. Banda said he exercised leadership before egoism and opted for the restoration of unity, stability and democratic integrity, hence, stepped down and instead served the Zambian people in other capacities.
He said he was overwhelmed by the responsibility to uphold Zambia’s unwavering record of peace, stability and democracy, forcing him to walk away from a closely contested election result.
The former statesman made the revelations while addressing delegates at the Crown Plaza Hotel in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, during an international conference hosted by the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) and Kenyatta University School of Law on Kenya's March 2013 general elections.
In the election, Banda’s Movement for Multiparty Democracy secured a paltry 35 percent of the votes, against 65 percent for Sata’s Patriotic Front.
His experience in the last Zambian presidential election, Banda said, brought forward a number of challenges spurred by an election contested by three major parties and seven smaller parties.
The campaign featured all the hallmarks of a tough contest.
There were moments of great intensity and unbridled passions among supporters of both parties, and concern among incumbent officials during his reign, as to what would happen to him should the ruling party lose the elections.
“As the results were being counted, it was more important to me, to preserve the peace and avoid unrest in my country.
“I can only hope that this decision plays a role in changing the expectations we hold towards incumbent presidents in elections across Africa.
From the beginning of his career in public service, Banda’s motive was to leave Zambia more united as a nation than when he started and hopes that history will show that the country has emerged successful.
During the conference, Banda stated the importance of Kenya emerging from the March 4 election as a united country because the continent is hoping the country will show integrity in the pre- and post-election period ‑ being the first country to hold elections in 2013.
He said Kenya has shown the limitless potential of her people through unity.
But unfortunately, the country has experienced the violent realities of social division and it is hoped the forthcoming poll will be peaceful, free and fair for the public good, he added.
He further noted that African democracy has taken root, and its progression is unstoppable, adding that during the past decade, more countries on the continent, especially in SADC, have held successful elections than at any point in history.
The region has discovered systems of governance that are capable of keeping the army in the barracks, settle disputes without bloodshed or prisoners, and peacefully transfer power between presidents, parties, and social movements, he said.
“There have been challenges just as there has been success. In the recent past, electoral challenges have been experienced in Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau, Mali and Kenya.
Last year, 29 different elections were held in Africa and only in Guinea Bissau was the electoral process interrupted.
Successful elections were held in Senegal, Lesotho, Sierra Leone (where Banda led an observation mission under the Carter Foundation), Ghana, Libya and Egypt, to name just but a few.
Banda called on various players, including the media, to give prominent coverage to successful elections on the continent.
He challenged the media to give positive coverage to successful elections just as prominently as they do failed elections.
“The work of enhancing and consolidating democracy in the continent is vested in all of us. We must contribute in our little way towards this quest.”
He emphasised that political stability has enabled African states to access and mobilise resources, with more than half of the continent’s GDP growth since 2002 coming from the service sector, not mineral resources.
However, the former leader regretted that despite the positive strides, millions of economically vulnerable people are yet to see the benefits and in some cases, have even been victimised by governance failures.
“Others see no point in elections, especially when there are examples of benevolent dictatorships in which you trade some freedoms in exchange for growth.
“The frustrations of electoral fraud, corruption and misgovernance have eroded public trust in democratic institutions in many cases, which I think is a great pity.”
He reiterated the call for the spirit of dialogue and unity among Kenyan political stakeholders ahead of the March 2013 elections. Elections will be held under the revised 2010 constitution. Among the tenets of the new constitution is that a winning president should to garner 50-plus-1 votes cast while also obtaining at least 25 percent of the votes cast in a majority of the 47 counties. The Kenyan law demands a run-off in case these thresholds are ot reached by any of the presidential candidates.
“As Kenya moves forward with the elections, many people will be looking up to you as an example.
“When Kenya succeeds, Africa succeeds. The whole continent is watching Kenya to learn from your experiences and to make sure the country turns a positive page on electoral violence.”
The Nairobi conference attracted academics, lawmakers, ambassadors and high commissioners accredited to Kenya, political parties, and civil societies, among other dignitaries.