Kenya’s empty streets are saying: We threw it all away
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@opensocietyfoundations.org