The date of the US presidential election is set for 6th November 2012. President Obama knows exactly the time frame he has to win back popularity after a beleaguered presidency marred by economic crisis and resistance to reform. Meanwhile, in Kenya, in spite of premature political jostling for the 2012 leadership race, the date of the Kenyan presidential vote is still not decided. A clause in the new constitution inaugurated in August 2010 stated that elections must take place in the eight month of election year, but due to Kenya’s own delays in implementing constitutional reform, MPs within current government have attempted to push out the election date to a probable December 2012, while civil society have protested the change, stating (and I paraphrase) ‘please let’s not start all this business of amending of the new constitution already!”
Casting our minds back just a few years, who can forget the joy that we felt to see a Kenyan-American elected to the most powerful political seat in the World. There was celebration in Kenya, a national holiday was announced, ‘Obama Day’. We were all in desperate need of good news, still reeling as we were from a flawed Kenyan election only months before that had brought the country, quite honestly, to the brink of civil war. In the States and Europe, the banking system had very recently undergone a collapse caused in part by the US subprime mortgage market, however, at that point we thought that the worst was behind us.
Could we ever have predicted that a shaky Kenyan coalition born out of an election marred by manipulation, bloodshed and infighting, would have somehow endured its term. That Putin would be running for President yet again in Russia, while Obama’s election in 2008, so full of optimism, would mark the beginning of a wave of yet more ‘interesting times’ on a global scale.
We might never have guessed that in May 2010, Britain would chose to rule itself by Coalition just like Kenya; that autocrats in the oil rich Middle East who enjoyed ultimate power for decades would be toppled by people’s revolutions during an ‘Arab Spring’ that was given momentum by online social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Natural disaster has also played its part, most notably through chaos caused by the earthquakes in Japan. A global economic crisis that hit at the heart of the developed world in 2008 is still causing shockwaves, unbalancing nations that we once considered infallible. Today, Europe’s currency is under threat, there’s mass unemployment, a double dip recession looms, governments are making drastic spending cuts to compensate and international banks that were once considered ‘safe’ still threaten to fail.
There is an old Chinese expression that goes; ‘May you live through interesting times’. It’s regarded as a curse. Why, because ‘interesting’ tends to be defined as troublesome and uncomfortable. The world has certainly had an interesting ride over the last few years since Kenya’s last election. In 2012 world leaders and voters alike can only pray for ‘boring’ times ahead. Fingers crossed.
RIP Wangari Maathai - Tireless Kenyan environmental conservationist, visionary, founder of the Green Belt Movement, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and by all accounts, all round exceptionally nice lady, died today aged 71.