Today all African eyes are tuned to a west African court where a former first lady, Simone Gbagbo has been sentenced to 20 years in jail for her role in the 2010/2011 Ivory coast post-election violence.
It is well remembered that following the Ivory coast general election of October and November 2010, the nation was plunged into a political crisis when the Independent Electoral commission declared the opposition candidate Alassane Ouattara winner. The incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power.
At least 3,000 innocent lives were lost as the two candidates took separate oaths of office.
Today the continent keenly watches as a former first lady who wielded great power and enjoyed infinite privileges face her ultimate coup de grace; changing stations from the presidential palace only 5 years ago into incarceration.
Merely as an individual, Simone Gbagbo’s fate is of little consequence to Ivory coast and Africa. However the wrongs which her sentence seeks to correct cannot be left to suffer a similar fate because the curse of election-related violence continues to plague our continent.
In Kenya we celebrated democracy in 2002 . Our election was hailed across the world as a victory for democracy and a harbinger of the African renaissance. Five years later in 2007, we suffered one of the worst cases of election related violence that stirred the world from Vatican to Washington to Johannesberg to Accra into action.
Was Kenya too complacent after 2002 that we believed greed for power had ceased eternally?
One and a half years before our election, President Thabo Mbeki while delivering the 4th Nelson Mandela annual lecture had been near prophetic in his warning. He said , “We should never allow ourselves the dangerous luxury of complacency, believing that we are immune to the conflicts that we see and have seen in so many parts of the world”
Africans just like all humans, yearn for peace alongside democracy and economic progress. We need to be sure that by 2050, Nairobi will not be lying in ruins with our children living as refugees in foreign lands. However standing menacingly between Africa and her bright future is a 50 year old pathological lust for power characteristic of African leaders and not uncommonly members of their families.
The sentence of Simone Gbagbo is therefore a small step in the right direction.