It’s the final minutes of the 2010 World Cup Quarterfinals match between Ghana and Uruguay. The game is a draw. If you win, Ghana will become the first African country to qualify for the semi-finals. You lost in the most horrible way.
Ghana won a free-kick deep in Uruguay’s half and almost scored in the game that followed. Besides Luis Suarez – he from Liverpool and Barcelona – clears the ball off the line with his hand. It would have been over had Asamoah Gyan scored the resulting penalty but he agonizingly hits the bar.
I can’t remember ever seeing such an exciting penalty shootout. I couldn’t stand the experience. Only these last so many hours have brought me close to this feeling and it is thanks to the results of the presidential elections in Kenya. By the time you’re reading this, we’ll likely know the winner, and barring last-minute spins, there’s likely to be a lot of buzz from the losers.
For all its imperfections, the IEBC, which is responsible for organizing the polls and announcing the winner, must be commended for allowing anyone who wishes to access Form 34A and conduct their own independent count. At least we know that disagreements—and there will be many—are probably not about an inability to add ones and twos.
Watching the two leading candidates swapping first position every two hours is great for neutrals, but not for those who are betting on the outcome. Additionally, reading comments from experts, non-persons, and the uninformed hasn’t helped the situation for most. You’re actually wondering what Kenyans said about the elections and counting process in Uganda last February when we were being pushed back into the dark ages by the internet blockade.
There are many lessons to be learned from Kenya, even if you initially acknowledge that even that bar is too low. In many ways, the fact that the regional economic giant organizes its politics around tribal and regional blocs leaves it vulnerable to electoral tensions that many of its neighbors cannot endure.
It’s like a yoke around their necks, and it helps them step out each voting round to avoid the ghosts of the past. It is Baganda who says “Ekijja omanyi kinyaga bitono” which I think can be falsified to “forewarned is forearmed”. Recognizing their imperfections has allowed them to know what they can improve on – and it shows.
The same is not true for most neighbors who wouldn’t know what to improve because they wouldn’t even know where to start even if they wanted to. In fact, it seems easier to pretend there are no problems, or to distract and blame outsiders, or even argue with them.
For all their electoral organization, Kenya and Tanzania have not supported or even inspired many of their neighbors to do the same. This can’t be good for them and for the region because it means that with every cycle the organizers suffer the disenfranchisement of the diggers.
Back to this match between Ghana and Uruguay. The 2022 World Cup is about three months away and both Ghana and Uruguay will be in Qatar. What’s special is that a significant number of players who played that night will still be in the Uruguay team, while not a single player from Ghana’s 2012 squad plays in any of the top divisions.
Therein lies an important lesson about not just thinking about the future, but organizing it and working towards it. One organized and built systems to ensure continuity, while the other simply sought quick wins with no long-term gains.
Decades from now we will look back on 2007, 2013 and 2017 and grit our teeth at the losses and mistakes made. But we will be proud of the lessons we have learned and the results that have led to credible elections – whatever that’s worth on the continent. Ironically, Ghana is one of the few countries on the continent that seems to have nailed this election issue.
Whoever becomes President, we hope Kenyans find joy and pride in this moment, much like Africa did in hosting the World Cup.
Mr. Rukwengye is the founder of Boundless Minds. @Rukwengye