Finally, Ashraf Ghani has been sworn in as President of Afghanistan, after weeks of disputed presidential election results with his opponent Dr. Abdullah Abdullah (who is expected to appoint a candidate that will sit in a position akin to that of a Prime Minister in a Government of National Unity arrangement), which saw America’s secretary of state, John Kerry invoke his personal experience to get the contending parties to see reasons as to why it is pertinent to sheath their swords in favour of peace, the peace from which even the one who accepts to compromise can benefit from. John Kerry who accepted defeat to George W. Bush back in the day, is today the face of America’s foreign policy, while at the end of Bush’s presidency and till date, it remains a bad idea to feature Bush at any republican candidates’ campaign because of the lack of goodwill he currently enjoys from the American public.
Mr. Ghani’s first task should be to unite the country torn apart by presidential elections that was fraught with acrimony, and shouldn’t see his situation as that of a winner takes all, rather he should make this Government of National Unity an all inclusive government of the people, by the people and for the people under true tenets of democracy that goes beyond merely organizing and conducting elections and the releasing of election results therefrom.
The challenges plaguing Afghanistan are such as you would find with many a new nations of the world, even though she isn’t a new nation in any regard. Infact, Afghanistan has a rich history that will make “made” nations grin with envy, unfortunately most of that had been frittered away in decades long wars of attrition internally, and others of international dimension, once as playground for world powers during the COLD WAR, and much later when it became a safe haven for terrorists, incurring on itself the wrath of Western powers. President Ashraf alluded to this much in his speech after been sworn in, that Afghanistan is in no need of foreign Islamist fighters, stating that Afghanistan knows it’s Islam and is comfortable with it as such, in veiled reference to groups like the Taliban and by extension Al-Qaeda and affiliated groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).
Beyond his verbal resolve to tackle corruption, he must be seen to be effectively doing same, not necessarily by empowering the law enforcement agencies to act on corrupt officials, but rather to build institutions that will discourage such from happening in the first place.
I was particularly glad to hear that he will get more women to work with him in his cabinet. That coming from him, in an Afghanistan notorious for its poor record as regards the right of women (which did not considerably improve with the fall of the Taliban and their cohort Al-Qaeda central) is heartwarming. I hope he can then go ahead to implement programmes and policies that will be women friendly especially ones that will make the education of the girl child mandatory and free (anathema under the rule of the Taliban).
The Afghan government may not be able to provide much needed jobs for the teeming populace of the unemployed and underemployed, but it can create the enabling environment as well as key infrastructure that will allow foreign direct investments as well as internally by wealthy citizens of the country, who will also help build skilled manpower to bring the country away from the economic doldrums it currently sits atop.
This piece will be incomplete without a mention of the war against terror. Having the recent events in Iraq in mind, the president will do well to sign the treaty that will exempt American forces from prosecution under Afghan justice system (an issue former President Karzai tactically evaded leaving the present administration to deal with it) should they fall foul of the law, which is currently the obstacle to the retention of a sizeable number of American troops in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of combat troops, while hoping that the American troops will behave with decorum, and respect for the ways and culture of Afghans for the duration of their stay there.
All said and done, this government led by Ashraf Ghani must ensure to build the capacity of the electoral body to ensure that what happened in this last election isn’t repeated in the next and beyond. There’s no point wasting millions of dollars conducting elections if we have to end up with a Government of National Unity, which hardly worked in Kenya and Zimbabwe, though I feel this Afghan experiment stands a better chance of succeeding.
For now, we can only hope that the new President will achieve most of the lofty plans he eloquently marshalled out in his inaugural speech, to the bettering of the lives of ordinary Afghans and for peace in that strife-torn part of the world.