Kenya’s Pres­i­dent Keny­atta is pulling out all the stops to beat op­po­si­tion leader Raila Odinga in the 8 Au­gust elec­tion. Fears are mount­ing that vi­o­lence could erupt, es­pe­cially around lo­cal con­tests

The Africa Report - - CONTENTS - By Mark An­der­son and Mor­ris Kiruga in Nairobi, Ny­eri, Nakuru, El­doret, Kakamega and Mom­basa

The fight of a life­time Raila’s last chance, and the threat of elec­tion vi­o­lence ahead of the Au­gust polls

On a bright morn­ing in June, Nakuru’s matatu stand is teem­ing with dozens of wait­ing minibuses and hawk­ers sell­ing phone credit, socks and news­pa­pers. Over­head, bill­boards are plas­tered with the faces of lo­cal politi­cians so­lic­it­ing votes in the gen­eral elec­tion on 8 Au­gust. This is the hub of the Rift Val­ley, a vast re­gion that stretches from the coun­try’s south­ern bor­der with Tan­za­nia up to Ethiopia in the north, and is home to 10 mil­lion peo­ple. The Rift Val­ley’s mish­mash of eth­nic groups will play a de­ci­sive role in the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal fu­ture. The stakes in the elec­tion are high, and in nearly ev­ery vote since a mul­ti­party democ­racy was es­tab­lished in 1992 the Rift Val­ley has seen vote-rig­ging and vi­o­lence. The race for State House is tight­en­ing be­tween the gov­ern­ing Ju­bilee Al­liance and the op­po­si­tion’s Na­tional Su­per Al­liance (Nasa) coali­tion. An elec­tion that had been seen as an easy win for Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta and his deputy Wil­liam Ruto is now too close to call. This time around, there is no trial at the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court (ICC), which Keny­atta and Ruto, known

pop­u­larly to­gether as Uhu­ruto, used to great ef­fect in shoring up sup­port in the 2013 poll. The duo, who had been on op­pos­ing sides in the af­ter­math of the De­cem­ber 2007 elec­tion, came to­gether to cast the ICC as im­pe­ri­al­ists try­ing to in­ter­vene in Kenya’s pol­i­tics. But in this elec­tion, ris­ing food prices, youth un­em­ploy­ment and soar­ing na­tional debt have turned many against the pair.


Billy Si­payo, 32, a matatu con­duc­tor, takes a break from hus­tling for fares to talk about the elec­tion. “Look at this road, the gover­nor has done noth­ing for Nakuru,” he says, mo­tion­ing to the pot­holed sur­face be­neath his feet. “We want Nasa to win the na­tional race be­cause of the econ­omy. We are back­ing Nasa be­cause of the ris­ing cost of food – nowa­days we take only one meal a day. Ju­bilee swal­lows pub­lic money.” In a vet­eri­nary sup­ply store down the street, three women sit be­hind a counter. “There’s a lot of ten­sion here, so we don’t know what will hap­pen,” says one wo­man, who wears a white doc­tor’s coat and de­clines to give her name. “The way they are campaigning is mak­ing us worried. The words they are us­ing are scar­ing us be­cause they are say­ing the re­sults will not be fair and [lo­cal politi­cians] are go­ing to dis­pute the re­sults.” As the race gets closer, wor­ries about vi­o­lence are mount­ing in many ar­eas. In­ter-eth­nic ten­sions are sim­mer­ing all along the Rift Val­ley, pas­toral­ists are clash­ing in Laikipia and deep-rooted mis­trust of the cen­tral govern­ment is heat­ing up the Coast. In the last elec­tion, both sides preached peace in the hope of avoid­ing the hor­rors of the 2007 elec­tions, which saw about 1,300 peo­ple killed and 600,000 dis­placed. One of the worst-hit ar­eas in the coun­try was Nairobi’s Kib­era slum. Long-time res­i­dent Moses Am­basa, 64, lived through that cri­sis. He says a re­peat of elec­toral vi­o­lence is likely this

year. “Peo­ple in Kib­era are not ready to trust the re­sult,” Am­basa says. Politi­cians also point to high ten­sions. “We as po­lit­i­cal par­ties are very sen­si­tive to the fact that vi­o­lence can break out any time,” Suleiman Shah­bal, Ju­bilee’s can­di­date for Mom­basa gover­nor, tells The Africa Re­port. “I go into ev­ery meet­ing with a min­i­mum of 10 body­guards. It’s un­for­tu­nate, but it’s nec­es­sary,” he says.


The lessons from 2007 are in dan­ger of be­ing for­got­ten. In a coun­try where vo­terig­ging has been com­mon, the cred­i­bil­ity of the elec­toral process is deeply linked to the like­li­hood of vi­o­lence. “Vi­o­lence never just hap­pens,” Nasa pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Raila Odinga says. “Vi­o­lence hap­pens when there’s an in­jus­tice. In 2008, the cam­paigns were very peace­ful, it was only af­ter the elec­toral com­mis­sion an­nounced what ev­ery­body knew were [fake] re­sults,” Odinga says. “That’s when the coun­try ex­ploded.” Af­ter the 2013 poll, which Ju­bilee won in the first round of vot­ing, Odinga launched an ap­peal in the Supreme Court. When this was re­jected, he fixed his sights on re­form­ing the In­de­pen­dent Elec­tions and Bound­aries Com­mis­sion (IEBC), which had long been crit­i­cised as be­ing in the pocket of the gov­ern­ing party. Reg­u­lar protests shut down Nairobi’s cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict last year un­til the govern­ment agreed to re­or­gan­ise the elec­toral com­mis­sion. These changes seem to have as­suaged some of the op­po­si­tion’s wor­ries. Wa­fula Che­bukati, a veteran lawyer and a for­mer mem­ber of Odinga’s Orange Demo­cratic Move­ment, was ap­pointed the IEBC’S new chair­man in Jan­uary. But as the elec­tion nears, doubts about its cred­i­bil­ity re­main. In early June, the IEBC was still mak­ing crit­i­cal changes in its per­son­nel, par­tic­u­larly in the pro­cure­ment de­part­ment. And by late June, both main po­lit­i­cal groups were fight­ing about Al Ghu­rair, a United Arab Emi­rates-based firm that won the ten­der to print bal­lots. De­spite these set­backs, Odinga says he has no “strong views” about the IEBC. “We have [fewer] is­sues with them [than pre­vi­ous com­mis­sions],” he adds. “The good thing is that they lis­ten and they are ready to con­sult both sides.” The 2010 con­sti­tu­tion brought de­volved govern­ment, chang­ing the dy­nam­ics at play in this elec­tion. A fo­cus on county-level pol­i­tics is shift­ing elec­toral pres­sure away from the na­tional race and into lo­cal bat­tles. Ju­bilee is in­vest­ing mas­sive re­sources to chal­lenge Nasa’s dom­i­nance in the coun­try’s three largest cities: Nairobi, Mom­basa and Kisumu. One of the many ways that de­vo­lu­tion has mod­i­fied pol­i­tics can be seen in Keny­atta’s spat with Josephat Nanok, the gover­nor of Turkana. Kenya’s sec­ond­largest county, Turkana is also home to a dis­cov­ered de­posit of 750m bar­rels of oil and is a key node in the planned Lamu Port-south Su­dan-ethiopia Trans­port Cor­ri­dor. The spat is about the share of oil rev­enue re­served for lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, which the cen­tral govern­ment wants to cap at 5%. Such de­bates are preva­lent in county pol­i­tics, set­ting the stage for the most com­pli­cated elec­tions in Kenya’s his­tory. While eth­nic arith­metic still means a lot, es­pe­cially at the na­tional stage, other is­sues are im­por­tant. En­hanc­ing de­volved units is one of the key pil­lars of Odinga’s man­i­festo. Odinga’s side also prom­ises to in­crease al­lo­ca­tions to coun­ties to al­most half of na­tional rev­enue. While the cam­paign gains speed, wor­ship­pers file into Kakamega’s main mosque as chick­ens and goats scurry be­tween stacks of bricks and piles of gravel in the lot out­side. Next door, El­iz­a­beth Nga­tia, 31, sits by the en­trance to a pri­mary school that serves as a polling sta­tion. Nga­tia is a ver­i­fi­ca­tion agent in charge of dou­ble-check­ing that vot­ers have been cor­rectly reg­is­tered. She is us­ing a Safran Mor­pho tablet that has a fin­ger­print scan­ner. In or­der to ver­ify that a voter’s in­for­ma­tion is cor­rect, she scans a QR code to bring up polling sta­tion in­for­ma­tion, en­ters the per­son’s ID num­ber and scans their thumbprint. In spite of these ad­vances in elec­tion management, the govern­ment says the elec­tronic trans­mis­sion of votes alone is not ad­e­quate. Of the more than 170 new laws that par­lia­ment has passed since 2013, few have been more di­vi­sive than the Elec­tion Laws Amend­ment Act, which re­quires a man­ual voter reg­is­ter to be used as backup to the bio­met­ric reg­is­ter. Nasa sees it as a Trojan horse that would al­low Ju­bilee to fid­dle with the reg­is­ter on polling day.

The case for a man­ual backup was built on fail­ures of bio­met­ric sys­tems, most in­fa­mously dur­ing Nige­ria’s 2015 elec­tions, when a sys­tem could not recog­nise then pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan’s fin­ger­prints. But in Kenya, it was a key griev­ance in the op­po­si­tion’s elec­tion pe­ti­tion in the 2013 elec­tions be­cause it was seen as a way to ma­nip­u­late the vote count.


There are other prob­lems with the voter reg­is­tra­tion list. A re­port re­leased by KPMG in early June found 92,277 dead peo­ple on the elec­toral reg­is­ter. It also es­ti­mated that that num­ber might rise to 1 mil­lion be­tween the au­dit and the last round of reg­is­tra­tion. These fig­ures have al­ready shaken the sys­tem, given that the last elec­tion was de­cided by a vote mar­gin of more than 800,000. At an op­po­si­tion rally held at Kakamega’s Bukhungu Sta­dium on 3 June, thou­sands of scream­ing sup­port­ers waved plac­ards read­ing “10 mil­lion strong” and “Uhuru must go”. The rally was the of­fi­cial launch of Odinga’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, which he in­sists will be his last. He was joined on­stage by Nasa’s prin­ci­pal lead­ers: Kalonzo Musyoka, who is run­ning as Odinga’s deputy and is the leader of the Wiper Demo­cratic Move­ment; Musalia Mu­davadi, leader of the Amani Na­tional Con­gress; and Moses We­tan­gula, leader of Fo­rum for the Restora­tion of Democ­racy – Kenya. The coali­tion chose Kakamega as a launch­ing pad to so­lid­ify its sup­port base in Western Kenya. Kakamega County is the sec­ond-largest county in terms of pop­u­la­tion af­ter Nairobi. For Odinga, this elec­tion is do or die. It is his fourth stab at the pres­i­dency in 20 years. If some con­ti­nen­tal trends are any­thing to go by, it may be his best chance yet. In Ghana, Nana Aku­foAddo de­feated Pres­i­dent John Ma­hama in his third bid for the pres­i­dency. But the peace­ful han­dovers of West African coun­tries have not been as com­mon in East Africa. A de­feated Odinga would not nec­es­sar­ily be con­sid­ered a spent force, but it would dim his chances of ever win­ning what has eluded him for two decades. A vic­tory would also mean a one-term Odinga pres­i­dency, as de­ter­mined by his deal with Musyoka. Odinga’s greater concern is the in­ter­nal mis­man­age­ment that has ham­pered his pre­vi­ous runs for the pres­i­dency, as well as keep­ing the coali­tion to­gether. Odinga, who served as prime min­is­ter be­tween 2008 and 2013, is seen by many as a ca­reer op­po­si­tion­ist. Dur­ing his ten­ure, he won praise among his sup­port­ers for firing Ruto as min­is­ter of agri­cul­ture amid a maize-steal­ing scan­dal. Other groups crit­i­cised him for push­ing set­tlers out of Mau For­est. Nasa is a loose coali­tion of 11 po­lit­i­cal par­ties, which has at its helm a five-man team, with each man bring­ing his own party. To avoid the mis­takes of past coali­tions, the team has di­vided up sev­eral key jobs in case it wins in Au­gust. The other po­lit­i­cal camp is get­ting re a dy f or t ough c om­petit i on. On Madaraka Day, the first and last na­tional hol­i­day af­ter the cam­paign be­gan, Keny­atta and Ruto stared out across a crowded sta­dium in Ny­eri. Odinga, in a beige hat, was seated a few seats be­hind them. The day be­fore, Keny­atta had in­au­gu­rated the stan­dard gauge rail­way, dubbed the Madaraka Ex­press, built with $3.1bn of Chi­nese loans. “Madaraka Ex­press, Ladies and gen­tle­men, is a

For Odinga, this elec­tion is do or die. It is his fourth stab at the pres­i­dency in 20 years

true liv­ing sym­bol of the jour­ney we are un­der­tak­ing to­gether,” Keny­atta tells an un­en­thused crowd. “It is the foun­da­tion for bet­ter in­comes for our farm­ers, man­u­fac­tur­ers and other busi­nesses.” Keny­atta’s govern­ment has swat­ted away mul­ti­ple con­tro­ver­sies, in­clud­ing a eu­robond scan­dal and a pub­lic health­care scan­dal that in­volved some of his rel­a­tives. An un­re­solved cri­sis in the health­care sec­tor, a shaky econ­omy and a united op­po­si­tion coali­tion are pil­ing pres­sure on Keny­atta and Ruto. Pub­lic debt has also dou­bled dur­ing his term, push­ing it to more than half of the coun­try’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct. Ju­bilee is strug­gling to ap­pease myr­iad com­pet­ing in­ter­ests within its own

coali­tion. Some politi­cians are jock­ey­ing for po­si­tion in the 2022 pres­i­den­tial race. Oth­ers have be­come in­de­pen­dent can­di­dates, caus­ing headaches for the gov­ern­ing coali­tion. At the bare min­i­mum, Keny­atta is re­ly­ing on sub­stan­tial turnout in both the Rift Val­ley and in the Cen­tral re­gion, where Kalen­jin vot­ers are not as loyal to Ju­bilee as they were in 2013, to counter Nasa’s strong sup­port in Western and Coastal re­gions. In Uhuru’s strongholds, his main prob­lem is the flight of Ju­bilee politi­cians to in­de­pen­dent can­di­dacy. His deputy’s per­ceived hand in that ex­o­dus is per­haps the most ex­is­ten­tial threat to a Ju­bilee win. Ruto is also strug­gling to gal­vanise Kalen­jin vot­ers in the face of chal­lenges from the fam­ily of for­mer pres­i­dent Daniel arap Moi and the Kenya African Na­tional Union party, as well as his for­mer ally Isaac Ruto, now an op­po­si­tion king­pin. Odinga, on the other hand, is de­pend­ing on the Luhya vote, which is his­tor­i­cally hard to unify. This ex­plains why he chose Kakamega as his elec­toral launch pad and has two key Luhya politi­cians – Mu­davadi and We­tan­gula – in his coali­tion. Odinga also seems as­sured of the Kamba vote, as Keny­atta’s treat­ment of Kalonzo’s erst­while rival, Char­ity Ngilu, drove her back into the op­po­si­tion. Both sides of the di­vide are jostling for the Kisii and Coastal votes, while spread­ing their chances across the other parts of the coun­try.


A few hun­dred me­tres from the sta­dium that hosted the Madaraka Day cel­e­bra­tions, about 10 he­li­copters sit on a grassy patch. The bulk of them are pri­vately owned. By early June, there were only 88 reg­is­tered he­li­copters in Kenya. But that has been grow­ing since the be­gin­ning of the year at the rate of about five per month, as politi­cians and busi­ness­peo­ple buy them in the run-up to the polls. Now, nearly all of Kenya’s lead­ing politi­cians per­son­ally own chop­pers, strain­ing the na­tion’s civil avi­a­tion author­ity. One can­di­date, run­ning in the cap­i­tal city, owns two. By all ac­counts, this year’s elec­tion is a show of might and opulence. At a fundraiser in early June, Keny­atta asked the coun­try’s busi­ness com­mu­nity not to hedge their bets. But it’s un­likely to hap­pen, if pre­vi­ous elec­tions are any­thing to go by. Wealthy Asian busi­ness­men have, for ex­am­ple, tra­di­tion­ally funded both sides. The Friends of Ju­bilee Foun­da­tion is Keny­atta’s main fundrais­ing ve­hi­cle and in­cludes key Nairobi busi­ness­men such as Paul Ndung’u, the head of tele­coms com­pany Mo­bi­com, Peter Munga, the chair­man of Eq­uity Bank, and Stan­ley Kinyan­jui, di­rec­tor of out­door ad­ver­tis­ing gi­ant Mag­nate Ven­tures. It also, cu­ri­ously and con­tro­ver­sially, in­cludes a few high-rank­ing civil ser­vants in­clud­ing the com­mis­sioner gen­eral of the Kenya Rev­enue Author­ity, John Nji­raini. Chris Kirubi, chair­man of Cen­tum Investment, Kenya’s largest investment firm, is an­other high-pro­file sup­porter of Keny­atta’s govern­ment. “This is one

Kenya’s elec­toral body tried to im­pose spend­ing lim­its, but its ef­forts were shot down

pres­i­dent who has done so much for this coun­try in four years that it would be a big pity if we didn’t al­low him to just keep push­ing his agenda for­ward,” Kirubi tells The Africa Re­port, not­ing progress in en­ergy and trans­port. “This is the first time the whole world has hon­oured Kenya, where our pres­i­dent is in­vited by G7 to sit in their meet­ings – they don’t in­vite just any­body.” On the Nasa side, the cam­paign fi­nanc­ing team is re­port­edly headed by a wheeler-dealer, Jimi Wan­jigi, and for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral Charles Njonjo. Wan­jigi, a for­mer school­mate of Keny­atta’s, also claims he man­aged the deals for the new rail­way. Work­ing un­der Mu­davadi, the team’s main fi­nanciers in­clude Nasa gov­er­nors, es­pe­cially Nairobi gover­nor Evans Kidero and Mom­basa gover­nor Has­san Joho. They will also be re­ly­ing on peo­ple such as for­mer ports boss Brown On­dego and John­son Muthama, a gem­stone dealer who chose not to stand for re-elec­tion as a se­na­tor. Kenya’s elec­toral body was close to im­pos­ing cam­paign spend­ing lim­its on this elec­tion through a par­lia­men­tary act, but its ef­forts were shot down by the coun­try’s high court. “[The act] was sus­pended, so it’s a free for all. They can spend a lot of money,” An­drew Limo, an IEBC spokesman, tells The Africa Re­port. With­out the caps, the lead­ing pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates are most likely go­ing to spend a lot. “In terms of re­sources, as of the govern­ment, it’s like a bat­tle be­tween David and Go­liath,” Odinga says. “We know that they out­num­ber us, out­gun us, by far.” Back in Ny­eri, as peo­ple streamed out of the sta­dium af­ter the Madaraka Day cel­e­bra­tions, dozens of sol­diers milled around and Ju­bilee flags were be­ing sold. Above the sea of wav­ing flags, a swarm of he­li­copters flew over­head. Aboard were the politi­cians who will de­cide Kenya’s fu­ture. They flew along­side each other for a few min­utes, be­fore part­ing ways to scour the coun­try for votes.

Voter reg­is­tra­tion in Kib­era, one of the worst-hit places for post-elec­tion vi­o­lence in 2008

Left: Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta (C) and his deputy, Wil­liam Ruto (R) ex­tol the virtues of the newly launched Madaraka Ex­press Above: A Raila fan shows his sup­port at the Nasa coali­tion rally where Odinga was an­nounced as the op­po­si­tion can­di­date

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