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Village Rhapsody: Key lessons Zimbabwe must learn from Kenya

About 65% of eligible voters, according to the Kenyan electoral commission, participated in the parliamentary, local and presidential elections, a significant decrease from the almost 80% voter turnout in 2017.

with EVANS MATHANDA On the morning of August 9, long queues of registered voters were seen at polling stations where Kenya’s president for the next five years was being chosen.

In 46,229 polling stations, voting commenced at 6am local time.

About 65% of eligible voters, according to the Kenyan electoral commission, participated in the parliamentary, local and presidential elections, a significant decrease from the almost 80% voter turnout in 2017.

About 18 000 monitors, including 1300 foreign observers, kept an eye on the general elections.

After months of acrimonious shoving and mudslinging, Kenya’s fiercely contested presidential election passed fairly smoothly, sending a sense of relief laced with jubilation across the country as they waited for the final presidential results.

As William Ruto, a tenacious rival cast his vote, Raila Odinga, one of the front-runners, was feted by supporters in his Nairobi stronghold.

Of the most important lessons Zimbabwe must learn before the harmonised elections in 2023 is that there is nothing more celebrated worldwide than a peaceful election.

Major protests and clashes often only occur after the citizens have cast their votes, and the elections have been mainly peaceful.

Like Kenya, previous elections in Zimbabwe were followed by violent periods of unrest that included allegations of vote-rigging, drawn-out courtroom dramas, incidents of street violence, and even a murder mystery.

Elections in 2008 and 2018 were stained by violent incidents in which several people died in the name of the vote.

After elections, it may take several weeks or even months until a new president is sworn in.

The risk of repeating the same mistakes as in the 2018 post-election violence remains high because Zimbabwean authorities have not addressed accountability for previous electoral violence and police abuses.

The inability to address military and police abuses in prior Zimbabwe elections runs the risk of giving them license to act inappropriately leading up to next year’s general election.

The different players in the peace network must encourage and support peace initiatives if Zimbabwe is to avoid a repeat of the violent outcomes of recent elections.

It takes a lot of work to ensure a peaceful election.

Kenya had contested elections in 2007 when a disagreement over the results escalated into a storm of electoral violence that killed over 1200 people and, many thought, it may have tipped the country into civil war.

Following that crisis, Kenyans voted for a new constitution in 2010 that gave some authority to local governments and assisted in stabilising the country’s democratic system, which is now regarded as one of the strongest in the region despite its imperfections.

This demonstrates how historical events significantly impact Kenyan policy changes that enabled a smooth, free, and fair election.

For this reason, Kenyans calmly poured into polling stations around the nation, some in the early morning hours, to elect their president, members of parliament, and local authorities.

Even though there were other contenders, most people were likely to vote for Odinga, the 77-year-old former prime minister, and Ruto, the 55-year-old vice president.

Outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ruto have been in charge of Kenya for the last 10  years.

Massive infrastructure investments were made during Kenyatta’s presidency, making Kenya more developed.

Interestingly, the Kenyan election commission offered a web portal where users could track the provincial presidential results in real-time.

Provisional election results started coming in late at night on Tuesday

Newspapers, political parties, and other organisations were able to collect unofficial results because the electoral commission provided polling place tallies as they became available on its website.

Discussions from both inside and outside of Kenya were sparked by the voting display on the webpage.

Since the public can keep up with real-time developments, this can help to reduce more inquiries.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission must adhere to these guidelines to maintain its credibility and raise levels of transparency to cut down on claims of election manipulation in 2023.

  •  Evans Mathanda is a journalist and development practitioner who writes in his capacity. For feedback email: evanngoe@gmail.com or call 0719770038 and Twitter @EvansMathanda19

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