The December 27 elections in the Central African Republic have been marred by fighting between government and rebel forces. In the flare-up, thousands of people have been displaced.
Citizens who were interviewed before the election talked of fear of violence.
"We no longer know what to do," said one woman. For those of us who wonder why Africans take rickety boats across the Mediterranean Sea, the answer lies in that woman's heart wrenching despair.
For people like her, the choice is either living life in dehumanising poverty with violence always a near and present danger or taking their chances on a rickety boat across the Mediterranean Sea.
A key figure in the tension and violence leading to the elections in CAR is former strongman Francois Bozize. After returning from exile, he announced that he would contest the elections. But the constitutional court barred him from running.
Bozize, who was under UN sanctions for suspected involvement in torture and violence, then began a campaign to discredit the elections. This spiteful campaign has involved acts of intimidation and incitement to violence.
Why would a man who failed miserably as president now want so badly to return to power? What is it that he now so desperately wants to accomplish? The answer, sadly, is that for Bozize, like for so many African politicians, this mad desire for power has no objective other than self-enrichment and self-aggrandizement.
We saw the same nihilism and narcissism with Robert Mugabe's self-perpetuation in power. We see it in Uganda where President Yoweri Museveni is seeking re-election for the umpteenth time. We see it in Nigeria with President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military dictator who was elected president in 2015, but whose stewardship has been, by all accounts, disastrous. We saw it with President Daniel Moi whose long rule brought Kenya to its knees.
A few years ago, I listened to a newly-minted Kenyan MP telling an informal gathering how he had to sell his properties to fund two previous failed campaigns. Then, exuding sublime satisfaction, he leaned back into his chair and said, "And now, look at me."
During the course of the monologue, I waited to hear why the MP had wanted so badly to get into Parliament. What was the national agenda that he so badly wanted to push? What was the legislation that he now wants to champion? What is the transformative agenda he now wants to drive? Nothing. The monologue was a dizzying and deeply disturbing insight into the psyche of an African politician.
How do we stop this pathology so well exemplified by Francois Bozize? What is the cure for this mad rush, violence-wracked drive for power that has no objective beyond self-aggrandizement? The answer is holding these cynical and violent individuals to account.
How come the UN can sanction Bozize but not the AU? A terrible indictment of the continental body.
Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator