After the 2007 general election, Kenya experienced its worst politically triggered ethnic violence since independence. The violence which led to the thousands of Kenyans, was caused by a dispute between the two presidential candidates: Raila Odinga and his opposition Orange Democratic Movement : and Mwai Kibaki. Since the reintroduction of multiparty politics in 1992, ethic violence has repeatedly reared its ugly head during election time.
This politically instigated ethic violence is beginning to reared its ugly head once again. The facts of “yesterday’s” must guide our political leaders going forward.
Utterances and activities of actors in the political business suggest clearly that if measures are not put in place to curb activities of miscreants in the parties, with leaders making sacrifices, the 8 August general election will again be characterised by palpable tensions, particularly in the race for the presidency. This is the time for our politicians to conduct themselves peacefully and to ensure that whatever they do should be in the interest of Kenyans and in particular, to promote unity of the country.One of the issues that fuelled tension and led to violence in 2007 was a lack of trust in the court system.
This time, the opposition (NASA) leaders have already started challenging the credibility of the elections organisers and institutions in charge of resolving election disputes: namely, the judiciary and the election agency known as the Independent Electoral and Boundaries (IEBC). Many factors are increasing the tension in this including Uhuru’s determination to become a two term President and Odinga, a perennial opposition presidential candidate, struggling to taste the Presidential office before retirement.
The 2022 presidential race is another factor. The fluidity of Kenyan politics and the penchant for political parties to form alliances based on ethnic lines, the projection is that both deputies William Ruto and Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka will face off in the 2022 race.We cannot rubbish the dynasty issue. The Uhuru and Odinga families have dominated Kenyan politics for more than half a century. Jomo Kenyatta, father of the incumbent president was Kenya’s first president. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, father of Raila Odinga, was Kenya’s first Vice president.We must avoid repetition of what happened in 1966 between the two leaders following Odinga’s ouster from the ruling KANU over ideological and personal differences
The 2010 constitution opened up county governments as the new frontier for political power struggles but the presidency still remains the most coveted elective seat. If our political lords do not manage their egos, the emerging tensions may escalate into serious ethno- political violence.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has a particularly large responsibility given that it is the main institution charged with conducting the election. That notwithstanding, the unsubstantiated allegations levelled against the commission by the opposition can also affect the elections. All parties must handle issues about the election and the commission with circumspection to ensure that the institution gains trust of actors across the political divide. The 7 April High Court ruling which decided that the constituencies would be the final voter tallying centre must be respected by all parties. The IEBC must be allowed to activate its manual backup system should the electronic voter identification and transmission system malfunction. The electronic system law was cited in the Kriegler Report following the 2007 election. But we must factor the prevailing situation in our rural areas and other natural factors into our calculations.
THE CASE OF GHANA AND NIGERIA
Our leaders and Kenyans are fortunate to have some respected past African leaders being part of the various observer groups. President Thabo Mbeki, President John Mahama the just exited Ghanaian leader and other renowned African personalities are in Kenya as heads of some observer groups. One person whose presence has lowered the tension, is the Ghanaian leader. Young and old African leaders have a lot to learn from the Ghanaian leader. When I accompanied the Presidential media team to Ghana on Ghana’s Independence anniversary, I saw the transformation in the country, the massive infrastructure including schools, hospitals, roads etc. He lost the 2016 Presidential election in Ghana and honourably exited for the current President to take over. Few months after leaving office, he and Paul Kigami of Rwanda, are being used as reference (figures) when assessing leaders on the continent.When we visited his team (Commonwealth Observer Group), the former Ghanian leader through his encounter with few journalists who were around, proved why he has become an icon on the continent. His understanding of electoral issues is commendable. All the key stakeholders and heads existing institutions have special respect for him and will recommend that he is used effectively to ensure total peace during and after the elections.
The sovereignty of Kenya must be protected jealously. We are occupying a unique position on the continent which makes us vulnerable to all kinds of negative activities. The 2007 elections report cited some foreign countries and their agents as part of entities whose activities aggravated the pre and post elections tensions. This is the reason why all well meaning Kenyans, support the National Security’s decision to return all suspected persons back to their countries and the monitoring activities going on in some institutions. The 2016 elections held across the world were all characterised by hacking and other electronic manipulations hence the need to close our gates to agents of these hacking organizations. This is the reason why most journalists who covered some of these elections on the continent with some international observer groups, still doubt the results declared in these countries. Kenyans must stand up against this adulterated electronic imposition.