Elections can be well described as a formal group decision-making process which the masses select an individual to hold public office and represent them in matters affecting their country, state, constituency or whatever section they are in. it is quite a popular way of practising democracy and has been in existence since the 17th century.
Despite elections being a democratic mode meant to ensure just selection and peaceful transition of one government to another, they can also be the source of injustices and civil wars, if not well carried out. In some of the mature democracies, for example that of the United States of America, elections are viewed as a national phenomenon that gets to be shared by every citizen to practice their democratic rights. This however is not the case in some of the world’s developing countries.
Burundi, for example, in 2015 had a general election in which the opposition boycotted but the president, Pierre Nkurunziza still went on to win re-election. The opposition objected as they felt Nkurunziza was not constitutionally eligible to run for the seat but he eventually did and remains to be the incumbent, leading Burundi since August of 2005. Such acts show how much African democracy need to grow as compared to those of developed countries, who also had their own share of civil wars until they decided that their countries are bigger than any individuals.
Currently, some of the most highlighted elections in Africa are that of Rwanda, 4th August 2017, as well as that of Kenya, 8th of August 2017.
Rwanda’s general elections follow a referendum back in 2015 that approved the constitutional amendment allowing the incumbent president, Paul Kagame, to run for a third term, as well as shortening the presidential term from 7 years to 5 years, although the latter change would not come into effect until 2024. Some would relate the third term running of President Kagame as typical African politician style, but some critics of the notion would object as it was a decision made by the citizens followed by President Kagame remarks referencing that he will run as it be the will of his people but Rwanda was not looking to have an eternal president.
Paul Kagame was facing competition for his country’s top job from two other candidates, one Phillipe Mpayimana, a former journalist and author who ran as an independent candidate, and Diane Rwigara, a 35-year-old woman who passionately criticised the government of President Kagame. Democratic Green Party leader, Frank Habineza also declared his candidacy.
Paul Kagame however overwhelmingly won the elections with 6,650,722 votes, equating to 98.80% of total votes cast against the 49117 (0.73%) and 31633 (0.47%) of his opponents Phillipe Mpayimana and Frank Habineza respectively. On the 5th of August 2017, Paul Kagame was announced polls winner thus set to rule Rwanda for yet another 7 years.
Kenya, on the other hand, is heading to its August 2017 polls ten years after the country experienced post-election violence in 2007, which led to the formation of a coalition government between the then president, Mwai Kibaki, and the leader of the opposition, Raila Odinga, who got the title of Prime Minister.
This will be the 2nd election Kenya undergoes under their 2010 promulgated constitution that gave a 6-piece structure of government divided into national and devolved. The incumbent president, Uhuru Kenyatta will be seeking to defend his seat from the opposition leader, Raila Odinga who is looking forward to winning after unsuccessfully running for the country’s top job thrice previously.
This is probably going to be considered as the tightest race in the Kenyan political history as the polls are unable to indicate who exactly will emerge as the winner. Some show Raila to triumph over Kenyatta as others show vice versa with however a small margin between these two candidates remaining a common factor among the all the polls.
In connections to the violence that broke out after the 2007 elections, peace campaigns have been organized to sensitize citizens from violence, regardless of whichever candidate wins. Kenyans are then set to hit the polls on the 8th of August to elect their new country chiefs, with all the hopes that it will be free, fair and peaceful.