As Kenyans go to polls tomorrow
All eyes are on Kenya as the country goes to the polls tomorrow for another round of presidential and general elections, particularly the tension it has already generated and the fear of replicating the violence that happened during the country’s 2007 elections. The main contenders among the eight candidates cleared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for presidency in Kenya’s 2017 election are Uhuru Kenyatta, the incumbent president looking for second term and Raila Amolo Odinga.
Ethnicity has always played a role in Kenya’s politics with the two dominant ethnic groups of Kikuyu and Luo which have been in rivalry since the country’s independence in 1963 struggling for dominance. Uhuru Kenyatta, fifty six years old, the son of the first president of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta is Kikuyu and is contesting under Jubilee Party. Raila Odinga, who is seventy two, is an ethnic Luo and is the son of Kenya’s first vice president Jaramogi Odinga Odinga, who served under Jomo Kenyatta. He is running under Orange Democratic Movement, ODM.
Odinga was the man that contested the 2007 election against Mwai Kibaki and lost, which led to terrible interethnic violence that shocked Africa and the world and led to the death of more than one thousand people while another 600,000 people were displaced. Uhuru Kenyatta, who was the then Deputy Prime Minister was accused of being responsible for sponsoring the fearful mungiki militia during the postelection ethnic violence and went on trial at the International Criminal Court [ICC] at The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity.
However in spite of the case in court he went ahead and won the 2013 election against Raila Odinga. And in 2015 the ICC terminated the case, though it refused to acquit him after the prosecutor Fatao Ben-Souda withdrew the charges against him.
It is against this backdrop that Africa and the world hold their breath when Kenya goes to the polls, despite the fact that Kenya’s 2013 polls were generally peaceful and free of the bloodshed that characterised the 2007 polls. The fear this time around may not be unfounded as the man in charge of Kenya’s computerised voting system was found dead a few days ago. Also, Chris Msando, an electoral commission IT manager, went missing recently. The Kenyan Integrated Electoral Management System (KIEMS) will be used to identify voters and transmit results. This type of electronic system was used in 2013 election but failed, leading to manual counting of votes which some have argued allowed for voter manipulation.
We hope the electoral body must have done a lot of work since then to improve on the failed electoral system, so as to have an election that would have fewer hitches. It must avoid anything that would lead to accusations of rigging or manipulation of the kind that led to violence ten years ago.
Even though the main contenders are sons of two powerful Kenyans and from two prominent ethnic groups and the minority will determine the outcome, this will not eliminate the possibility of violence.
The candidates should put the interest of peace above any primordial one and put on leash any potential of breakdown of law and order. The aggrieved party can seek redress in court later. Kenya’s Elections Observation Group (ELOG) plans to deploy about 5,000 observers to monitor Tuesday’s vote. ELOG also will use Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) to monitor the presidential election. However, the Elections Observations Group (ELOG) which is made up of civil society and faithbased organisations said it would deploy about 5,700 election observers. The European Union Election Observation Mission is also on ground as well.
This is yet another litmus test for the resilience of democracy in Africa and we join all well meaning persons to wish Kenyans well tomorrow and in the days after.