africa / Opinion / Politics

Elections don’t mean a thing, if they aint got the win; the paradox of a ballot box in Africa

It is mind boggling how self interest can drive a leader to risk the fate of a nation. Millions walk into the voting booth with enthusiasm and hope. Putting the failures of their government and leaders behind them and looking ahead in the horizon with faith. Hoping to make it to the flickering light at the end of the tunnel. They match, cheer, sing and hum the patriotic tunes as they vote for the candidate who might this time walk them through the mud and swampy thicket. The leader they hope will clear the path to the land of their dreams and not the graves of their fore-fathers. One who would hold the ladder steady while they climb to greater heights. For some it is the only time they can raise their voices. There is a feeling of empowerment, the freshness of a new day, turning the page to a new chapter—feeling wanted and recognized by their government.

Abuzz with optimism and pride, they cast the vote into the ballot box—a box filled with darkness and mystery— uncertainty awaits. A dark box where what goes in might not come out– a box that swallows hopes and dreams. A box that they used to long for—but now approach with fear, anger and hate. They start wondering who is inside that box. Is it indeed a box or a dark hole in which they cast their future. A deep hole that swallows their dreams. A hole in which they sow the seeds of hope– but out sprouts the weeds that kill the crop.

Elections are becoming a rest stop along the president-for- life journey for many of our leaders. They pull over to take a leak, stretch out their legs and jump right back in the driver’s seat to take the wheel. Should we just flip the coin since no one wants to concede power? Or better yet roll the dice since everyone wants the piece of the pie. We used to fear the bullet and now we are equally scared of the ballot. It is no longer a game—we can’t simply call shotgun. The stakes are high and passengers have the right to choose who is behind the wheel and who sits near the wheel.

Behind the ballot box is a mystery room. A room which continues to rob our brothers and sisters of their civil liberties. The little room where elections are now decided. The negotiation room. Many wait with eagerness—with ears glued to the radios and puffy tired eyes staring at the television sets. As reality sinks in, some choose to flee their homes in fear. What happened to that ballot, they wonder? Mugabe vs. Tsvangirai came down to a power-sharing deal—and the two foes continue to fight for the wheel– without regard for passenger safety in the back seat. With every intersection, they hold on firmly as the drivers swerve recklessly. Gbagbo vs. Outtara has left Ivory Coast on the brink of civil war. Thousands have fled and others wait in fear—once again in Africa we have one car with two drivers behind the wheel. Why should we bleed after casting the ballot?


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