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African Political Writer Discusses Recent Trend in Unity Governments

A number of African analysts have been expressing their views about the recent trend in coalition or unity governments on the continent after an election. Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka of Nigeria recently described the unity governments in Kenya and Zimbabwe as illegitimate. He reportedly said such governments are an attempt by certain African leaders to retain their grip on power.

Kenyan-born African political writer Ali Mazrui is director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at the State University of New York at Binghamton. He said the unity governments in Kenya and Zimbabwe were created under two different circumstances.

Mazrui told VOA he's willing to accept the Kenyan unity government because it was created out of necessity.

"In Kenya, we are dealing with a second term for an incumbent president whose election was in doubt which caused them tremendous problem, and then he tried to solve it by having a coalition government. I think can more or less accept that as a necessity for the moment. But in the case of Zimbabwe, I think that normally should be unacceptable. There should be pressure to make him step down," he said.

Mazrui said the re-election of President Mwai Kibaki in Kenya was not ideal because it had the country drifting toward a civil war. But he said it was not an appeasement either but rather a compromise.

"You can't call it appeasement. In reality the skill of mutual annihilation in Kenya was much worse than anything experienced in Mugabe. The country was literally drifting toward a civil war," Mazrui said.

He said the casualties from the crises in both Kenya and Zimbabwe were the same, but Mazrui said President Kibaki's sin was much smaller in skill than the sin of then President Mugabe of Zimbabwe because of the number of years that Mugabe had been in power.

On South Africa's recent election, Mazrui said he was against the pressure that eventually led to the resignation of then President Thabo Mbeki because he said he did not want South Africans to play around with their constitution every time they were dissatisfied with their president.

Mazrui described as a bright spot in South African politics the founding of the new opposition Congress of the People (COPE) party.

"One bright spot is because the African National Union (Congress) has split, it's possible that South Africa will now develop a system of government where one party does not monopolize power for too long. So one healthy situation with regards to South Africa is that it may moving toward a genuine competitive political system where there is an alternative party that could be elected if there is disenchantment with the current party in power," Mazrui said.

On the arrest warrants issued against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court, Mazrui said the concept of the ICC in dealing with the incumbent heads of states has turned out to have been a mistake and should be revisited.

"Trying to indict and then seek to prosecute has two major failings. First, to implement it carries the risk of loss of life to a lot of people who have nothing to do with the problem. Secondly if you sentenced people who are in power it tends to select people from weaker countries. So I think the concept of the International Criminal Court in dealing with incumbent heads of states has turned out to have been a mistake and we should re-examine it," Mazrui said.