International attention is mounting as Kenya and Zimbabwe approach their first general elections following the signing of peace agreements and subsequent implementation of transitional governance for roughly five years. Both countries became theatres of post-election violence in 2008. In the wake of the upcoming polls, ACCORD has published a Policy & Practice Brief examining the current state of affairs in the two countries, particularly the conditions under which the 2013 elections will be held, and generating recommendations towards enhancing the credibility and outcomes of these polls.
In the brief titled Navigating post-peace agreement plebiscites: Zimbabwe and Kenya's 2013 elections, Dr Martha Mutisi, who heads ACCORD's Interventions Department, assesses the political landscape of the two countries and analyses dynamics and complexities ahead of the upcoming elections. Kenya is set to conduct its elections on 4 March 2013, while elections in Zimbabwe have been announced for mid-2013 following a constitutional referendum scheduled for 16 March. Due to the history of ethnic rivalries in Kenya, and experiences of polarised relations between the main political parties in Zimbabwe, both situations present recipes for election violence if not managed well, Mutisi posits.
Based on contextual and historical analyses, the author provides various scenarios that could play out during and after the 2013 elections and makes recommendations to a variety of stakeholders, warning that 'The political fate of Kenya and Zimbabwe, epitomised in the upcoming elections, has a bearing on peace and stability not only in these two countries, but in their respective regions.'
The brief also observes that – despite the existence of supportive normative frameworks at various levels, including the constitution – women in both countries have not yet been adequately accorded the necessary space to actively and optimally participate in the upcoming elections. The author thus calls for concerted efforts to increase women's participation in decision-making roles and politics.
ACCORD's Policy & Practice Briefs provide succinct, rigorous and accessible recommendations to policy makers and practitioners in order to stimulate informed and relevant debate to promote dialogue as a way to peacefully resolve conflict. As such, Mutisi's paper is a stark reminder that 'less-than-credible elections not only affect the prospects of democratic consolidation in Africa, but are a hindrance to sustainable peace.'