Sunday, 9 May 2010

We were more popular than they were

I was in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania and Kampala, Uganda working on the launch of the African Gifted Foundation when the British elections were on recently. So I missed being in the thick of the UK elections. But I did pick up a uniquely African perspective on its conduct and outcome.

Firstly there was amused puzzlement. Why, I was asked, did Britain decide to use Nigeria's electoral commission to conduct the elections? It was obvious that the outcome would be allegations of fraudulant (postal) voting, demands for recounts, queues of angry voters putside polling booths with electoral officials shouting "go home, ballot paper don finish" and party leaders squabbling over who actually won.

Secondly, there was general acceptance that after many years of rule by religious "Northerners" (in this case Scottish Calvinists rather than the usual Muslim North much beloved of Western news media) it is time for the leadership to be zoned to the Christian South (in this case, Notting Hill), this being the natural way of things.

Thirdly, it was deemed right and proper that "moneybag political godfathers"should seize office in their hometowns. Afterall, if you can't use your wealth to purchase an election of your choice now and again, what is the point of democracy?

Finally, the rise of extremist groups is well understood. Such groups, having been frustrated at the ballot box by perfidious and penicious corrupt and undemocratic forces may, like their African counterparts, resort to kidnapping foreigners to actualise their agenda of resource control. Africans visiting the UK are advised to be on the alert and avoid visiting particularly dangerous areas without escort. However to be fair, some Africans feel sympathy for these marginalised groups and oppressed minorites and there is talk of a major concert designed to bring their plight to worldwide attention.

I love this newly imported British politics! It reminds me of a diehard African politician I was chatting to. he recounted a recent election struggle that had concluded in his partys favour. "Tom" he said, "it was tough. We rigged but they counter-rigged. We bribed, but they neutralised our bribes with even bigger bribes. At the end of the day, the only luck we had was that we were more popular than they were."

Democracy. Its not perfect anywhere. But it kind of works.

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