Letter from Africa: Take it or leave it

Zanu-PF supporters raise their fists and shout slogans during an election rally in Harare, Zimbabwe, on 28 July 2013

In our series of letter from African journalists, London-based Ugandan writer Joel Kibazo considers how the West appears to be losing its political clout in Africa.

The growth in Africa's economic fortunes and development over the last few years appears to have also brought a new confidence in the way the continent handles itself in the global arena.

In the economic sphere and business, competition, particularly from Asia, has meant that Africans have alternatives to the West.

Much has been said about the growing influence and presence of the Chinese on the continent and increasingly someone's latest smartphone is likely to be from South Korea with a service provider that might be in India.

Start Quote

Who do the British think they are to say who they will deal with or not and in what way? We are not their colony anymore”

End Quote Kenyan diner

But it is in the way Africa handles political issues that this new confidence is most apparent.

The holding of elections is now commonplace in most of Africa, but what has changed is that we Africans no longer seem to want approval of the international superpowers on the outcome.

Where once the norm was to tread carefully and wait for a verdict - or should that be blessing - from the US, the UK , France or Russia on an election, these days it appears it does not matter what those powers have to say.

"Take it or leave it" appears to be the order of the day - and even where there is a domestic dispute about an election outcome, it will be the views of neighbours or other fellow Africans that will carry the day.


The sight of the Western powers scrambling for a face-saving position that will leave them with some semblance of respectability after an election is becoming all too familiar.

The two biggest examples in recent months are the election outcomes in Kenya and more recently in Zimbabwe.

Kenya election result 2013

  • Votes cast: 12,221,053
  • Uhuru Kenyatta: 6,173,433 (50.07%)
  • Raila Odinga: 5,340,546 (43.31%)
  • Turnout: 86%

Source: Kenya's Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission

In Kenya, the official line of Western governments was that they did not interfere in the affairs of a country and any election outcome was to be respected as it would be the will of the people.

As I said, that was the official line but there was little disguising the nervousness of the West that surrounded the prospects of Uhuru Kenyatta winning the presidency.

He is accused by the International Criminal Court in The Hague of orchestrating deadly violence after the 2007 election, an allegation he denies.

Many Kenyans were angered by the UK's representative to Kenya, Christian Turner, when he said his government would not get in contact with ICC indictees unless it was "essential".

Kenyan supporters of Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto - 9 April 2013 President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto deny ICC allegations of orchestrating deadly violence after the 2007 poll

I was in Nairobi in the run-up to the elections and the ill-feeling towards that statement was palpable.

Over dinner, a friend said: "Who do the British think they are to say who they will deal with or not and in what way? We are not their colony any more."

Ironically, the British high commissioner was only a few tables away in the same restaurant.

Kenyans, in their wisdom, decided to elect Mr Kenyatta and it took a good three weeks before the UK's representative could gain an audience with the new president.

When he eventually did, it was not only to deliver a message of congratulations, but an invitation to attend the Somalia conference in London being hosted by UK Prime Minister David Cameroon.

The newly elected president accepted and attended the meeting in May.

The point had been made. What the British or any other Western power had to say was of little consequence.

It was for Kenyans to decide and they had.

Zimbabwe presidential poll results

  • Votes cast: 3,480,047R
  • Robert Mugabe, Zanu-PF: 61%, 2,110,434 votes
  • Morgan Tsvangirai, MDC: 34%, 1,172,349 votes
  • Turned away: 304,980
  • Assisted voters: 206,901

Source: Zimbabwe Electoral Commission


In Zimbabwe, following the recent presidential and parliamentary elections, the US, the UK and Australia expressed concern after official results gave President Robert Mugabe a seventh consecutive term in office with 61% of the vote.

The Movement for Democratic Change claimed electoral fraud and has taken the matter to the court.

Results published by Zimbabwe's Electoral Commission in the week after the vote showed that more than 300,000 voters had indeed been turned away.

Yet for all that, the African Union observer mission said the presidential elections were "free, honest and credible".

President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, the regional power, congratulated President Mugabe on his re-election, urging opposition groups to accept the results of what he called "the successful harmonised elections".

I would say it is all over bar the shouting: The Constitutional Court has up to two weeks to deliver its verdict, but I do not expect it to change the outcome.

And the views of the West will not matter one single bit.

For good or ill, Africa has clearly decided to go its own way.

If you would like to comment on Joel Kibazo's latest column, please use the form below.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    The West over the years has squandered its opportunities in helping to change things in africa despite the mounting of signs that the continent's demographic change and social development was a desirable cause for a review of Western foreign policy dimension and economic relations . The West just lost it .

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.


    How does African constitutional monarchy compare with constitutional monarchy in Europe?

    Leopold Donchield Zu Leone II argues that most countries in Africa are already practising what we know as sub-national monarchy, while just a few with constitutional monarchy system already in place.
    click below:

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Not just Africa, the rest of the world is waking up to the West's hypocrisy.

    Democratic accountability is nonexistent in the UK & US.
    All government action is about commercial advantage, not principle.

    China has shown that Democracy is no prerequisite to development.
    Education and economic security are.

    Oh, stomping round the world killing thousands of innocent people doesn't help either!

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    The people who want free and fair elections are the Africans themselves, Kenya and Zimbabwe notwithstanding, but they unfortunately don't have much say in the quality of the candidates running for election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Bring in Egypt, and the fact that the US continues to aid the Egyptian military, notwithstanding the coup and the bloodbath and you start getting some insight as to why the West is not viewed as an honest and impartial broker by many Africans. Commerce has, and continues to be, the real driver for the West's position and interest in Africa.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    @john no 11
    AFRICA does not need any your ill gotten money period.

    The West needs african resources and will do anything to make the continent dependant on them but Africans are now savy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.


  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Africa has realised that the West has serious economical problems of it own. It has never been the West interest for Africa to sustain itself but to depend on foreign aid and charities which is dangled to countries with no human rights record to give Europeans companies a free hand exclusively especially in mining industry, cash crops like tea, coffee, tobacco industry, banking industry etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    The elections in Zimbabwe according to AU observer & former Nigerian president were, 'fairly fair'. Aptly put. This is where Africa stands today. The best leaders it seems are too good for us. We have to make do with Corrupt, clueless, murderous & myopic heads of state. We must persevere & insist on high standards. Eventually quality leadership will emerge.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    As African I find it sad that the West thinks Africa won't survive without its help. Sadder still that that could be true in a few number of cases. That makes it difficult for an ordinary African to decide: detach from the West's apron or not. But Africa will not truly develop if the West keeps interfering, and the West can't stop in its desperation to maintain its relevance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    The first phase of African development should be about introducing ACCOUNTABILITY into government, putting checks and balances in place in order to curb the influence and corrupt powers of African government officials. The new players cannot help Africa in these areas because they too are corrupt. The current rush for material wealth by Africans is not going to be productive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Africa has been dealing with Europe for over 500 years for good or bad. By now the conclusion HAS to be for bad. Though no country can in reality develop another country, The West knows how badly it treated Africa. Having say that development is individual. To better oneself is personal. And it all starts with one brain. A aim, a plan and a determination to achieve your aim. Reread the bible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Currently in Africa it is being stripped bare by China and one day they will wake up and realise this. The life of the poor in Zimbawe, South Africa and Kenya has not really changed over the last twenty odd years, but government cronies with blood on their hands have got very rich. Britain should stop all foreign add and look after our own poor in this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    So Africa doesn't want to listen to the West?
    I don't want to listen to Africa when it's got it's hand out begging for aid.
    It works both ways.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Europeans need to understand that Africans are human beings, that colonisation is now a thing of the past, stop dictating over other nations, stop throwing wars into other countries, refrain from their system of sponsoring war-bound rebels and help build a peaceful relationship with others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    As an African and a Kenyan at that, i don't share the Writer's opinion because of one very simple fact; one or 2 isolated cases here and there do NOT make an outbreak! Kenya has always been a notorious state, Zimbabwe under Mugabe even more so. Just because under the West's eye they cannot be as corrupt as they want is the reason they are trying to break off, not for the citizens interests at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    @ John I have many issues with Africa as whole and also can't stand the likes of Mugabe but I get very frustrated with this western view that it is helping the world. I have come to understand that many westerners are programmed to believe that they are the saviour of the world but trust me that is far from the truth. To me the world and Africa as a whole is where it is because of the west.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    African countries don't need the West's blessing on anything. But it should learn from the West's mistakes. No nation is perfect or corruption-free. Politicians in the US & Europe are sometimes convicted sent to prison. I cannot wait to see the day African countries' infrastructure would rival that of any country in the West. Africa is endowed with all the resources the rest of the world want.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Why we in the West continue to waste our money on the African continent through state aid is beyond me. Zimbabweans want Mugabe in charge after everything he's done and all the people he's killed? Fine. Kenyans want to vote along ethnic lines, ignoring the crimes of their leaders? Not my problem. I have no interest in helping people who have little or no interest in helping themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    it is always laughable when people keep saying that the West is helping Africa. We keep begging you to stop the Help but you keep refusing. Isn't that telling that those supposed help are actually not real?


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