Kenya is no stranger to post election violence and chaos. In 2007, following the elections there was widespread rioting and violence, in which over 1000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced. The violence set the economy back many years. In 2017, again there were disturbances following the election, again people were killed, and again the economy suffered.
In all of these cases, there is a common factor – Raila Odinga. Raila has stood for the presidency four time. He has lost four times. He has cried foul play four times.
In fact, so accustomed have Kenyans become to Raila’s post-election complaints that a term has been coined to describe them – the Raila Doctrine. The doctrine, created in one of the many post-election court cases Raila has been involved in, simply states, “a presidential electioncan never be declared as free and/or fair unless Raila Odinga wins.”
Over the past few months, there have been signs that our own Nelson Chamisa is taking a leaf out of Raila’s book. He has made numerous outlandish statements claiming that “if we don’t get 70% of the vote, then they would have rigged the election,” and “If Mnangagwa wins 5% in a free election, I will give him my sister.” These statements despite the fact that all pre-election polls, including one by the highly regarded Afrobarometer, point towards a Mnangagwa victory.
Wise to the fact that he is likely to lose the election, Chamisa seems to be already preparing the groundwork for an appeal, or put more simply, is getting his excuses in early.
But this weekend he went a step further. In a quite staggering claim, his most outrageous yet, Chamisa told a rally in Kadoma that “I know that if I don’t win then it’s not a free and fair election!”
This is truly remarkable. Even Raila, the creator of this style of “I win or I’m taking my ball back” politics, never explicitly stated that the only criteria for a free and fair election is him winning. That was always the implication. But Chamisa has taken it to a whole new level.
Beyond their ridiculous and frankly laughable nature, the problems with Chamisa’s comments are twofold.
First, he is dangerously inflating the expectations of his supporters. While it is natural to be optimistic, by telling his supporters that there is no way they can lose, he is giving them false hope. And as we have seen in Kenya, once the bubble of hope bursts, the outcome can be unpredictable and chaotic. Let there be no doubt, following these comments, if the post-election environment becomes violent, Chamisa will be to blame.
Second, Chamisa’s message is not only aimed at his supporters, but predominantly at the international community. Also at Kadoma, he explained that this is the message he is “… telling everyone. SADC, Europe and the US”.
With international bodies having notified that the main criteria for the removal of the crippling sanctions being a free and fair election, Chamisa is essentially telling them that unless he wins the election, sanctions should remain. Just like his trip to the US to lobby for the maintenance of sanctions after Mnangagwa had become President, Chamisa is directly acting against the interests of regular Zimbabweans, the very people he claims to be representing.
And so my plea to Chamisa supporters and the international community alike, is to please ignore these absurd statements. Contest the election, make your best case to the electorate, and wait for the results. If you win, be proud. And if you lose, be humble and gracious. Let us learn from the Kenyan experience. We do not need a Chamisa Doctrine here.
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