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Losing election petition could be good for President Kenyatta

By Alexander Chagema | Nov 16th 2017 | 3 min read

For a long time, it looked like Kenya was going to implode.

Palpable tension that built after the September 1 nullification of President Uhuru Kenyatta's August 8 election appears to have dissipated as the opposition seeks legal solutions to its grievances and Jubilee restrains itself.

I am not under any illusion that this is because we are politically mature, or because we have strong functional institutions, or because our leadership is focused and determined to steer the country to greater heights.

The close brush with the International Criminal Court following the ignominy of the 2007 post-election violence is largely responsible for the reluctant restraint.


The circumstances mirror what caused President Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia to flee early this year after losing an election to opposition leader Adama Barrow, which he first conceded then had a change of mind.

Or the circumstances that forced President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso to resign in 2014 following a popular uprising.

There was also the 2011 arrest of Cote d'ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo by fighters loyal to the then internationally acclaimed opposition leader Alassane Quattara to learn from.

Both sides of the political divide have taken hard-line positions in the ongoing political impasse that threatens our existence as a country, and while President Kenyatta automatically takes responsibility for any eventuality as the head of state, his predicament is not helped by impulsive acolytes who keep making outrageous public statements.

Uhuru Kenyatta is a man under siege from an opposition determined to make his rule as difficult as possible over legitimacy issues.

The October 26 repeat presidential election that was boycotted by the National Super Alliance, consequently leading to more than 12 million of the 19 million registered voters abstaining, debunked Jubilee's mythical claim to tyranny of numbers.

Even with the resources at its disposal and the spirited campaigns across the country, the numbers the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission gave as the final turnout have been disputed.

That, and a few other issues led to another petition by Harun Mwau challenging Uhuru's re-election in the October 26 polls.

The Opposition's approach to weakening Jubilee appears disjointed, even clumsy, but could be calculated to throw Jubilee off track.

Only those in denial and blinded by sycophancy will aver that NASA's boycott of certain companies has little impact. Safaricom is the only monolith that pays handsome taxes to the Government.

A reduction in those taxes will severely constrict Government operations. Safaricom has given indication it is feeling the squeeze.

Scaling down operations is a reality, and job losses are imminent.

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich admits the economy is going through a rough patch.

The strident, cantankerous voices in Government are dying out one after the other as reality dawns.

The threat

The proposed Peoples Assemblies could pose serious challenges to Kenyatta's presidency and legitimacy.

There is talk of secession, which Jubilee die-hards believe is a sick joke, but one which could have repercussions.

With all these weighing down on Kenyatta, the Opposition only needs to maintain pressure on him, distract him long enough to render him functionally crippled in discharging his duties.

Already, Kenyatta goes down in history as the the President under whose rule the country experienced the worst industrial actions by nurses, doctors, lecturers and other cadres of workers.

It is early days yet to say how NASA's boycott will impact Kenyatta's presidency should he beat Harun Mwau's petition.

Winning the petition will push him into an open confrontation with the Opposition.

The only viable option that Kenyatta will have for taming a resurgent Opposition will be to unleash the states' instruments of coercion.

That, however, is a no-go zone for a president claiming to be popular.

With enough pressure on him, only a transitional government could ease it, but agreeing to it after his earlier stand is tantamount to conceding defeat.

By dismissing calls for national dialogue, underestimating the Opposition and laying too much stock in their own infallibility, Jubilee hawks now realise that they boxed themselves into a tight corner.

Uhuru's prospects look bleak.

The only saving grace for him would be to lose the petition.

That way, any pressure on him will cease as everything begins afresh.

Mr Chagema is a correspondent at The [email protected]

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