KINSHASA (Reuters) - Africans watched with dismay and bitter resignation on Monday as Kenya slipped into post-election bloodletting.
Tuning pocket radios to the BBC or Radio France Internationale, people across the continent have followed mounting opposition protests in Kenya’s slums with mixed emotions.
Some offered encouragement to the protesters, others urged caution, but overwhelmingly they were angry and disappointed at the latest setback to democracy and peace in Africa.
“It never stops to baffle me how African leaders will do just anything to stay in power, even when those they are leading ... do not want them anymore,” R. Ine, of Aba, Nigeria, said on a BBC Internet chat site.
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki was sworn in on Sunday shortly after being declared winner of Thursday’s election, which his main challenger Raila Odinga says was rigged.
The riots and bloodshed that followed were a complete contrast to the optimism that greeted Kibaki’s election five years ago which ended nearly four decades of single-party dominance.
“In Africa, we are the same. Kenya, Kinshasa, it is the same thing,” Congolese doctor Dieudonne Kasongo, 53, told Reuters in the capital Kinshasa.
“We are still hoping someday we will reach the dream of real democratic elections.”
While African leaders were largely reticent, dismay among ordinary Africans was widespread.
The African Union expressed concern over the violence that has killed more than 100 people, called for calm and drew attention to its standards for “free, fair and transparent elections”.
“We’re still awaiting reports of election observers, while still observing the developments there,” said Ronnie Mamoepa, Foreign Ministry spokesman for South Africa, the continent’s economic powerhouse and diplomatic heavyweight.
In Ivory Coast, the violence stoked memories of the mass protests which overturned a fraudulent election result in 2000, but only at the cost of scores of lives.
“When there are deaths of citizens, we can only condemn it,” said Alphonse Djedje Mady, spokesman for a coalition of Ivory Coast’s opposition parties.
“We are profoundly disappointed with elections in Africa and the refusal by incumbent presidents to conceive of defeat. Today no president goes into an election ready to be defeated,” said Alioune Tine, head of Senegalese human rights group RADDHO.
Liberian-born human rights campaigner Emmanuel Cole, who works in Kinshasa, sounded a note of resignation.
“Elections in Africa are always like that. We want to stop the bloodshed,” he said.
Additional reporting by Alistair Thomson, Diadie Ba, Peter Murphy, James Macharia; writing by Alistair Thomson; editing by Robert Woodward