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Two tales of power-sharing in Africa

Mr. Odinga, when things were still easy (via ActionPixs, Flickr,CC)

Mr. Odinga, when things were still (not that) easy (via ActionPixs, Flickr,CC)

It was the new model for slowly ousting autocrats: Power-sharing deals were cut in Zimbabwe and Kenya to resolve difficult political situations and avert outright civil-war.

Both of them have stabilized the situations, but have not brought the change the world-community had hoped for: In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe’s corrupt ZANU-PF regime continues to block its coalition-partner MDC, though prime minister and former opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been able to drum up some support and money from the West. Mr. Mugabe has also given some rhetoric hints he might want to re-open to the West, but remains dedicated to show that he is still the man: Last week, prosecutors brought charges of terrorism against key MDC-member Roy Bennett, leading to Mr. Tsvangirai announcing a boycott of the cabinett work.

The trial has been put on hold since, but it is not clear how the government’s work will be affected in the future. On the ground, the MDC has been able to bring a bit of financial stability and a slight improvement of health conditions, raising hopes that this year’s cholera outbreak during the rainy season might not be as bad as it was in 2008.

In Kenya, the country is still struggling to rebuild itself after the civil-war-like clashes during the last election in 2008. Mwai Kibaki, the president, and prime minister and former opposition leader Raila Odinga have emphasized they work along well. But the government has not done enough to prosecute the crimes committed during the post-election-violence, which led to peace-broker Kofi Annan handing a list of suspects to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The next elections are due in 2012, and another clash between the tribes of Kikuyu, Luo and Kalenjin could emerge as reports about rearmament in the west of the country are surfacing. The worst drought since 1991 has complicated the situation even more, and if the current government does not start to tackle the disputes about land that poison the tribes‘ relationship, Kenya may soon face disruptions that could shake the whole region.

So do power-sharing-agreements work? Mr. Tsvangirai looks as he has still decent plans, but Mr. Mugabe plays a hard ball-game and might be around for some more years. Mr. Odinga could have well been soaked up by the usual self-interest being in government usually brings along in most African countries. He might speculate grabbing power in 2012, but this could proove foolish: The current status quo in Kenya does not allow waiting for reforms another three years.

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