20 January 2013

Tanzania Goes Digital As Kenyans 'Decentralise' Rigging

This week has been one of those few where I feel like I could write about so many things but my editor still offers me the same word count and space. I will therefore stick to what is on offer and simply find a way of making a melange of all the things I would have loved to mention in detail.

Looking at Uganda the death of James Mulwana one of the first successfully indigenous entrepreneurs who filled dedicated his life to hard work and achieved a lot. With all his success his humility was simply disarming.

Although I never got to know him personally I know that his works were there for all to see. As a child the lovely Ship Toothbrush advert that used to air on UTV (now UBC) was for a company of his that later grew into Nice House of Plastics.

The above company made lots of things but was more famous for the ubiquitous Nice pens (and later Nice Clear). During my early school days, you either used a Bic pen a nice pen or a fountain pen if you were sophisticated enough.

Mulwana's work did cross borders and the first time I walked to a corner shop here in Rwanda to ask for a toothbrush I did not even have any other choice other than Nice Toothbrush.

As he was laid to rest the adage that a picture is worth more than a thousand words came to light with the picture of Pres. Museveni consoling the widow, Sarah Mulwana, he has surely lost a dear friend.

We also have to give it up for the Tanzanians who managed to beat the other East African countries to be the first to go digital. The East African Community set itself Dec 31, 2012 as the deadline for switching from analogue to digital TV transmission but many failed to get there.

In Kenya the move to switch to digital was met with threats for court action. Elsewhere there is a deafening silence on the topic even when you still find billboards along the roads talking about the same deadline.

Not to be outdone, a Kenyan joked that it was easy for the Tanzanians to switch off analogue users because they were not that many anyway. What was not a joke though was the amount of money that the owners of Citizen TV are willing to spend just to do a good job.

The guys at Citizen had choppers on standby to cover all the spots where there was any worthy news concerning the nominations of candidates in the different party primaries. Unfortunately most of this news was simply about rigging and violence.

The last general elections in Kenya were famous for rigging at the very top and at the very last minute. The antics of Samuel Kivuitu and his crew were all about rigging an election when all the votes are in and the decision made affecting just the fate of two men at the top. Now it has been decentralised.

This time though the rigging and violence by both TNA and ODM camps just served to make me wonder whether we are really ready for the democracy we are always crying out for.

On the first day there were cases of illegal polling stations, candidates appearing on ballot papers of two different parties while Alfred Mutua discovered he had posters with his face but a different political party!

Other parties could barely organise enough logistics to conduct decent primaries. Some were using exercise books while others simply had people lining up behind their preferred candidates something that is even rarely seen when school children are electing leaders.

The worst case scenario could be the chaos in Siaya where Raila Odinga's brother was announced winner in very bizarre circumstances. Even before the election had kicked off there was talk of how Odinga's brother and sister were all in the race for political positions? Such blatant rigging reminds me of the NRM primaries in Uganda that were also full of so much drama. I hope this does not become an East African way of doing things.

Away from the rigging, the rate at which politicians are switching parties is simply disgusting. By the time Kenyans go to the real polls in March some politicians may have been to more parties than the votes they will eventually garner. My prayer continues to be that we do not witness any more violence. Politicians come and go but Kenya has to stay.

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