Kenya’s empty streets are say­ing: We threw it all away

The East African - - OPINION -

What have we squan­dered? It is Thurs­day morn­ing. The polling sta­tions around my con­stituency are al­most empty and very quiet — voter turnout is noth­ing com­pared with that in Au­gust. Does that mean vot­ers here fol­lowed the op­po­si­tion’s call to stay home and pray? Or that vot­ers de­cided to play it safe and wait it out? Or that they sim­ply want the whole sorry de­ba­cle to be over?

I can’t say. But I can say that we have squan­dered the po­ten­tial for the ex­tra­or­di­nary leap for­ward that the Supreme Court’s Septem­ber rul­ing gave us. We had the op­por­tu­nity to ad­vance, to deepen, the mean­ing our democ­racy. We de­cided to throw that op­por­tu­nity away.

And what fol­lowed? Defam­a­tory, li­bel­lous and slan­der­ous at­tacks on our Supreme Court Jus­tices. To in­cum­ben­tor­gan­ised demon­stra­tions against them. To par­lia­men­tary moves to undo the care­ful pro­vi­sions put in place post-2007/ 8 to guard our vote. To the in­cum­bent’s mo­bil­i­sa­tion of other in­sti­tu­tions — like the anti-cor­rup­tion body — to un­der­mine the Supreme Court staff.

Then there were the ex­tra­or­di­nary go­ings-on within the elec­toral man­age­ment body. Ev­i­dence of dif­fer­ences of opinion be­tween the com­mis­sion­ersabout how to cir­cum­vent the rul­ing — ex­cept on mi­nor, tech­ni­cal con­ces­sions.

No move­ment on how, ex­actly, the EMB’S in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy sys­tem had been so bla­tantly breached. Or on who en­abled those breaches. No move­ment on how, ex­actly, so many fraud­u­lent tal­ly­ing forms made it into the fi­nal count. Or on who fa­cil­i­tated that. Def­i­nitely no move­ment on the op­po­si­tion’s de­mands.

The at­tempt to form the broad-based “We the Peo­ple” plat­form to urge di­a­logue be­tween the main po­lit­i­cal pro­tag­o­nists and the EMB fell apart be­fore it had even be­gun. With the pri­vate sec­tor and the re­li­gious bod­ies be­ing more con­cerned, in the end, about di­a­logue to­wards “heal­ing” and de­ter­ring pro­jec­tions of Ju­bileesup­porter vi­o­lence in the event of a de­lay.

Fi­nally, the last-ditch ef­fort to stop the fresh poll through the Supreme Court by civil so­ci­ety was re­ceived with bla­tant con­tempt by the Supreme Court Jus­tices, who sim­ply failed to at­tend. Bear in mind here that the Supreme Court Jus­tices only had to hear that one pe­ti­tion. Their coun­ter­parts in the High Court and Appeals Court have been work­ing them­selves to the bone hear­ing all the elec­tion-re­lated cases since Septem­ber.

Yet these are the in­sti­tu­tions we are be­ing asked to re­spect. In­sti­tu­tions that are torn apart by state (in­cum­bent) cap­ture, co-op­tion and co­er­cion.

This is what we have done to our­selves. Ev­ery­body in these in­sti­tu­tions will, at the end of the day, have to do their own in­di­vid­ual moral ac­count­ing.

What comes next? An in­cum­bency lack­ing in le­git­i­macy, which re­vealed its full hubris and ruth­less­ness over the past cou­ple of weeks. An op­po­si­tion with so few op­tions on its hands that it’s now call­ing on all of us, not just its sup­port­ers, to join it in its cam­paign for civil dis­obe­di­ence and re­sis­tance.

A coun­try torn apart. A peo­ple torn apart. A squan­der­ing of the prom­ise the Supreme Court held out to us.

We have squan­dered the po­ten­tial for the ex­tra­or­di­nary leap for­ward that the Supreme Court’s rul­ing gave us

L. Muthoni Wanyeki is the Africa di­rec­tor of the Open So­ci­ety Foun­da­tions. Muthoni. Wanyeki@openso­ci­ety­foun­da­

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