Nairobi, January 3, 2003: When former President Daniel Moi
took the dais to give his last speech to the nation as head of state,
the joy in many a hearts in Kenya and the entire African continent
While the Western media anticipated some "good news"
in the event of an ugly spectacle were Moi to refuse to hand over
power, Kenya and Africa were optimistic that democracy was about
to be given a new lease of life in a continent famous for bloody
World leaders swiftly flushed a thumbs-up to Kenya and Kenyans
for not only upholding democracy, but for voting for change as well.
Locally Kenyans went into a celebration mood for the "Christmas
gift", as the ruling party Narc termed the victory, coming
only two days after Christmas and three days before year-end.
For many, including heads of state present at President Mwai Kibaki's
inauguration, praises for Africa and Kenya were not in short supply.
They said Kenya, and by extension Africa, had taken a major stride
ahead in terms of peace, governance and democracy after strongman
Moi voluntarily handed over power.
This was in praise of the relative tranquil environment under which
the polls were held.
But in this new year looms a contest in Nigeria - Africa's largest
democracy - that could provide an acid test of the continent's hopes
for peace and clean government.
President Olusegun Obasanjo's election in 1999 ended 15 years of
military rule and led to a wave of hope in Africa. Peaceful changes
of power to the opposition from long-established ruling parties
in Ghana and Senegal in 2000 added to a feeling of optimism.
However, Zimbabwe's March 2002 presidential polls were widely condemned
by observers, amid allegations of violence against President Robert
Mugabe's opponents and vote rigging.
To our neighbour Uganda, the Kenyan transitions should be taken
as a cue by President Yoweri Museveni that time to end his ban on
political parties is here.
Just before Kenyans gulped their champagne glasses empty and the
ink that documented the historic and euphoric handing over dried
up, a 65 year-old champion wrestler in dark glasses over-shadowed
the fete and undeniably drove Africa two huge strides backwards.
As Kenyans were being issued with a valid cheque, concomitantly
the Togolese nationals were being given a blank one. Is the Togo
Bank of Democracy this bankrupt? Many in Africa and the world over
will say no. This dark-glassed black rogue many Africans and democrats
love to hate is currently the longest serving dictator and head
of state in this dark continent.
He is Gnassingbe Eyadema, now Togo's life president. Eyadema, who
all Togolese born after 1966 have known as the only president, was
cleared on the same Monday - Kenya's red latter day - by parliament
to cling on to power for life through a change of law that would
have seen the tyrant retire next year. The law was introduced through
democracy pressure from international donors. This was indeed a
blow to Africa's hope to fully democratise and discard the murky
blood of autocracy.
Eyadema is a man who has ruled as the a typical African Big Man
after seizing power in the West African country in 1967 through
a coup. He has cheated several attempts to kill him.
Thriving as a Cold War ally of the West, Eyadema has in the past
crushed or played off his opponents if pushed to swallow the democracy
pill which seems too bitter for him.
It is said in the streets of Lome that the history of Togo starts
with Gnassignbe and ends with Eyadema. In Togo, there are Eyadema
primary and secondary schools, Eyadema universities, Eyadema hospitals,
Eyadema streets. Everything is Eyadema and Eyadema is everything