chapter  8
25 Pages

Supporting the opposition or the ruling party: stark choices in East Africa

ByEmil Uddhammar

In the last two decades, East Africa has taken some notable steps towards shaping democracy: multiparty elections were introduced in the 1990s in Kenya and Tanzania, and 2005 in Uganda. In Kenya, one change of presidential power has taken place after multiparty elections, even though most members of the incoming Kibaki government in 2002 were part of earlier governing circles in Moi’s

authoritarian regime. In Tanzania, after independence no multiparty election has resulted in a shift of power, and in Uganda only military coups or civil war have led to changes of government. Multiparty elections in Uganda have been judged as flawed by external observers, with the main opposition leader facing arrest on dubious civil charges only months before the poll in 2006, and similar harassments in 2011.1 Civil liberties have been introduced to an extent in the region and freedom of the press has been considered ‘partly free’ since the mid-1990s – though in Kenya only from about 2000.2

While the last presidential elections in Kenya were heavily disputed and marred with violence afterwards, the parliamentary elections – although far from flawless – did result in a clear opposition victory and a majority coalition that could replace the Speaker of the House with an opposition candidate (much as happened later in Zimbabwe). This shift of parliamentary power has not happened in the two neighbouring states. It has been pivotal for power sharing deals in Kenya (and later in Zimbabwe). In addition, a new constitution won a twothirds majority in a popular – and peaceful – referendum in Kenya in August 2010. The new constitution includes important limitations on the ‘imperial’ presidential powers as well as a regional devolution of power.