Ominous clouds are gathering above the Kenyan skyline. Yesterday it became clearer we were a set of wagons on the firm track to another acrimonious, confrontational and violent election.
The Jubilee administration had its way in Parliament by amending the new negotiated election rules to allow for manual intervention if the technologically-backed voting fails. In short, this would mean discarding the Biometric Voting Register used to identify voters at polling stations.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is firm that the Opposition can go jump into Lake Victoria for since when, he asked, as other previous Presidents starting with his father, did the croaking of frogs stop livestock from drinking water in the river. The President and his deputy maintain that supremacy of numbers in Parliament must be allowed to have its sway and way. Call it the ‘Tyranny of Numbers’ or whatever you like but their argument is that MPs vote and the winning side takes it.
The response of the Opposition showed a form of frustration because once they called off street protests to allow for a joint negotiation team hammer out consensus on IEBC management and gaps in law, the country breathed a sigh of relief and normalcy returned.
This process was backed by the diplomatic and religious communities. But that it has fallen through with the same clauses that had been agreed on being opened up for review by the ruling Jubilee team, the Opposition claims this is part of a sinister plot to make election rigging simpler and undetectable.
This they argue would see the dead, the ghosts and registered under-age children ‘vote’, a fact they claim will explain why in the 2007 election for example, over a million suspect votes were cast only for the President and not for MPs.
The Opposition has predictably declared another round of mass action beginning on January 4. From the look of things, the Jubilee administration won’t relent, not with the words we are told the President unleashed on National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi over what those in Jubilee ranks felt was a softer treatment of Opposition MPs during the first round of the special sitting on Tuesday.
By taking the fight back to the streets, CORD, which is both outnumbered and outfoxed in Parliament, is beckoning Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto to come dance with them in the mud and see who will get dirtier. As usual, with the short-fused Joseph Nkaissery at Harambee House, teargas and water-canon trucks will be deployed in plenty.
Also, not all CORD strongholds will respond with much enthusiasm, but then Nairobi will be the main theatre upon which this war will be fought. Then the international and local media will have a field day and at the end there will be very distinguishable features on television between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto on one hand, and Yoweri Museveni, Robert Mugabe, Yahya Jammeh, and Joseph Kabila on the other. Then, the conclusion will be that these young African leaders have indeed come of age.
In situations like where we are now, both sides have to come to the sad conclusion that these confrontations months to elections are a recipe for chaos. It does not matter who is wrong or right. A political settlement has to be reached. That is what happened to Kenya in 1997, till the politicians agreed to subdue their egos and surrender the agenda of reforms and negotiations to a bipartisan body called the Inter-Parties Parliamentary Group. Soon, the country was back on track.
I am sure this is the path the Opposition wants to cajole Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto to take, but then will they yield? My answer is they are unlikely, especially given the chest-thumping and the deployment of and exhibition of brute police force in and out of Parliament this week. That was yet another sign of things to come.
Should the Opposition have called for mass action when we know it always ends up with chaotic scenes; with shops and businesses getting looted and property destroyed while police brutality is deployed? My answer is no, but that does not take them off the streets because that is where they managed to get Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto to the negotiating table in the first place.
But on the other hand, given that this was a negotiated document, what is it that suddenly reopened Jubilee’s eyes and motivated it to introduce a spare-wheel called a “manual process"? The obvious answer is what bothers CORD. It is also what should concern all of us. This magnanimity to plan for malfunction is ominous and that is why then the dark cloud is gaining momentum.
The thing is, the egos in Jubilee and the Opposition touch the sky and so it is unlikely either side will climb down. So we may slowly slide into chaos because the credibility of the outcome of the next election has already been badly dented.
Unless of course good sense prevails, especially between the top echelons of Jubilee and CORD, we are on the road to another gory post-election period.
Mark you, when Raila Odinga and his lieutenants declare ‘No Transparency, No Elections’, they don’t mean they will sit at home and watch the Jubilee team score symbolic goals in their nets. No, what they mean is that they will make the country too hot for an election and you know very well how.
Sadly, we also know how the intolerant and impatient Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto will react. Now let us say a prayer for the grass as the clock ticks.