The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Are We Ready for 2013?

opinion

Towards the end of last year, one story kept many people worried. The story of South Africa's living legend Nelson Mandela being in hospital. The usual trend of a calming South African government and a worried social media universe went into full play.

The usual cases of false alarms announcing the old man dead were visible on our timelines. But the South African government played the key role of the person who attends to the sick without betraying signs of fear or worry. The 'vulture' media houses were preparing their obituaries just in case the situation took the worst case scenario.

Those not working in the media were actually quite shocked to learn that the big media organisations in this world always prepare draft obituaries for any famous or important person so that in case (God forbid) the person died, just a few tweaks here and there would see the organisation coming out with the first story on the issue.

What the above story teaches us is that even for the bad times, preparation counts for so much. This because we would all be angry if a famous person died and the major news organisations took ages to compile the person's life story. So whether it is Mandela or Hugo Chavez, the focus is on how prepared we are to deal with a situation.

This year will see Kenyans going to polls in yet another election that already looks charged just like was the case in 2007. The bets are being placed against the race between Raila Odinga's CORD alliance and Uhuru Kenyatta's Jubilee alliance.

In some ways, the two-horse race carries all the hallmarks of previous political fights, for instance that between Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, tribal battle lines between central Kenya tribes and other tribes, especially the Luo, Kanu VS Rainbow, ODM VSPNU.

We have seen what this has turned into before and it has not been good. In 2007, the election was so charged and tinkered with that inevitable violence that broke out and over 1,000 lives were lost. But the pain was not only in Kenya. Neighbouring countries were immediately affected by the crisis as well.

Kenya's access to the sea and its rather robust economy means that when it sneezes it's neighbours instantly catch a cold. Kenya exports so many products to Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, South Sudan as well as Ethiopia and Somalia. Any problem in Nairobi instantly affects the flow of the same goods.

In 2008 when the violence was at its peak in Kenya, fuel prices shot through the roof in neighbouring Uganda and had a domino effect on the general cost of living. Transport was a nightmare as many were stranded in Kenya and even outside it since it was impossible to transit through the country.

When the dust settled, in neighbouring Uganda there was talk of how to be better prepared for such a disaster next time. It turned out that the fuel reserves in Jinja were nothing but monuments of corruption. It was agreed that more reserves would be built and filled with fuel in case of another emergency. Whether that has been done or not is the question.

The talk of exploiting the Dar es Salaam port as an alternative to Mombasa has also turned out to be largely talk by politicians of things they always intend to do but never get down to actually do.

As members of the East African Community, what measures do we have to deal with a similar situation in Kenya? Shall we again wait for Kofi Annan to fly in and calm the situation? What plans has the African Union got to ensure that we do not have to deal with a repeat situation. It is always shameful that the AU speaks out when things are already bad.

The 2007 post-election violence in Kenya was largely sparked off by the election results being tinkered with followed by a world record presidential swearing in ceremony. The other problem was also that the supporters of either side were not prepared for the eventuality of a loss.

So my question again here is whether adequate steps are being taken to avoid another Samuel Kivuitu situation but also whether the supporters of Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga have an idea that any of their candidates could lose the election once the counting of the votes is done. I only want to hope for the best.

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