Aftermath of Oct 26 poll: Where does Kenya go from here?
Should the Supreme Court legitimise Uhuru’s election, it will create a situation of hostility
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta was set to be declared the winner in an election in which he had virtually no competition after the opposition National Super Alliance (Nasa) withdrew the candidature of Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka. However, the repeat election of October 26, has been described as a divisive exercise that could be followed by protracted political and economic instability.
The election was marked with a low voter turnout of 35 per cent, boycotts and violence in some opposition strongholds that have claimed at least nine lives since October 26.
Civil society players say the president could face a credibility challenge, while Mr Odinga’s supporters will be disgruntled and feel disfranchised.
Aly Verjee, a Research Scholar at the US Institute of Peace, says that in the current scenario where a half of the country wants a different political leader to the one they have, President Kenyatta has a choice to meaningfully reach out to his opponent, his allies and supporters, and accept the hard path of reconciliation and dialogue, or pursue confrontation.
Mr Verjee said that President Kenyatta’s victory would be marred by the choice millions of Kenyans made to not participate in the most basic, fundamental exercise of democracy.
“It is marred by the reality that without Odinga, the election was not a contest. With a significant number of polling stations in various parts of the country unable to open, either due to a lack of electoral staff or because of precarious security conditions, the legal and political legitimacy of the election was further eroded,” he said.
Particularly, violence is looming in the four counties of Siaya, Kisumu, Homa Bay and Migori, where the Independent Electoral and Boundaries (IEBC) has ordered a repeat election but whose residents have vowed not to vote.
Already, there was violence in another Nasa stronghold of Bungoma in which two people were shot dead, while Kisumu was virtually under curfew a day before the election was postponed indefinitely.
Musalia Mudavadi, who was the National Super Alliance (Nasa) campaign manager, said that the government has militarised elections by sending thousands of security forces in these areas to force the residents to vote.
“Our supporters have rejected attempts by Jubilee to impose a farce elections on them. Now the government has militarised the elections which will be used as a platform for possible genocide,” said Mr Mudavadi.
With Mr Mudavadi saying that the October election failed to follow proper legal procedures, there are indications that Nasa would use some civil society organisation to file another petition at the Supreme Court after the final results is declared.
A day to the election, High Court judge, Justice George Odunga ruled that the appointment of all the returning officers and their deputies in 290 constituencies, had not complied with electoral regulations requiring consultation with political parties. However, Jubilee rushed to the Court of Appeal to set aside the ruling.
According to the recent Kenya briefing by the International Crisis Group, the election proceeded under poisoned political environment that would deepen Kenya’s ethnic cleavages and prolong a stalemate that has already claimed dozens of lives and come at a high economic cost.
Prof Karuti Kanyinga, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi’s Institute of Development Studies, says that the country is at cross-roads but provides three scenarios in which Kenya is likely to find itself in the near future.
Prof Kanyinga says that President Kenyatta can take a radical move by reaching out to opposition and ask them to forward names for the formation of a broad-based and all-inclusive government, even though the constitution does not allow a coalition government.
“This is very difficult for both Mr Kenyatta and the opposition but it is one of the only way that cool down the political temperatures that are building in the country, especially among those who feel disfranchised,” he said.
Prof Kanyingi says the second option is for the Supreme Court to overturn the election again, but this he says this is unlikely because the opposition was given a chance to participate in the election and they did not bring to the attention of the court that the situation had not improved since the nullification of President Kenyatta’s election on September 1.
Should the Supreme Court throw out another petition, Prof Kanyinga says it would legitimise President Kenyatta’s election but will it would create a situation of hostility and instability for the next five years.
The third scenario he says is when the Jubilee and Nasa supporters decide that they are tired and they want to move on. This would come after three to
Uhuru will lead the country amidst protests then front his cronies at the end of his term and the cycle will continue.”
four months of protests and after the opposition realise the futility and the danger of continued agitation.
Retired Anglican Bishop Rev. Timothy Njoya, a champion for multiparty demcracy in Kenya, said Nasa’s boycott should not be condemned as it is part of a political strategy.
He said he is still full of hope for the country because the conflict can bring out the goodness in people as politicians on both sides could finally embrace each other’s point of view once they realise continuos conflict is not taking them anywhere.
In Uganda, independent views suggest that all parties should restrain their supporters and security agencies as a first step leading to dialogue.
“The most viable option is for the two protagonists to sit and talk, holding view of Kenya being bigger than them. Then an interim government should be established and that should run the country for two years, arrange fresh elections in which the two should not participate,” said Winfred Nuwagaba, a Kampala lawyer and an independent legislator.
“Short of that, Uhuru will lead the country amidst protests then front his cronies at the end of his term and cycle will repeat itself. It looks like the battle lines have been overdrawn,” Mr. Nuwagaba added.
Kenyatta who lost his election following a petition in August by his rival Raila, was a lone strong candidate in the repeat election that was preceded with numerous court petitions, some of which remain unresolved, won by a landslide — over 98 per cent but experts argue declaring him elected president in the circumstance would escalate the country’s problems.
“I believe even this election will be challenged if the Kenyan Constitution and electoral laws permit because it was not a rerun but a fresh election. But going legalistically will not solve the situation because the law will be rigid on issues and complicate matter this situation requires amicable solution,” Nuwaga reasoned.
However the law can still be used to guide the process of negotiation.
The experts are also optimistic the ongoing chaos can easily be stopped when the two rivals prevail over security and supporters.
The problem with Kenya’s political dilemma is that when it bleeds the whole of East Africa does, yet all the EAC countries have similar political problems which combined threaten unity of the community — no country can firmly stand and put to order the other.
In Uganda President Museveni is having trouble with the constitutional provision on age limit which he wants removed. One person has been killes while several opposition politicians remain hospitalised and members of the public injured by security forces over the matter which critics say leaves Uganda as an accident waiting to happen.
The Supreme Court: The poll could end up in another petition.