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

The East African - - NEWS - By FRED OLUOCH Spe­cial Correspondent

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.

Pic­ture: File

The Supreme Court: The poll could end up in an­other pe­ti­tion.

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