Why next year's election is unlikely to trigger violence

OPINION |
People carry a mock coffin through a crowd, symbolising the current Kenyan government's Jubilee Party during an opposition campaign rally attended by Raila Odinga in Mombasa, Kenya, August 4, 2017. [Reuters, Siegfried Modola]

In Africa, the most volatile public sphere events, like in developed countries, are presidential campaign politics and elections. Kenya is not an exemption. Politics in Kenya a day keeps sanity away! Remember this country almost went to the dogs in 2007 following a heated contest between Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki.

In 2022, we are likely to see a face-off between William Ruto, the Deputy President, and ODM leader Raila Odinga. These are not new characters in Kenya's political script. In 2007, Raila and Ruto were heavyweights in ODM, with Raila being the presidential candidate and Ruto his strongest political hatchet man.

They fell out later and Ruto went on to become the second in command after President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Raila is counting on his experience as a political activist who has fought for democracy in Kenya and the second Prime Minister. Most Kenyans see Raila as the president that Kenya should have had long time ago. He has a huge influence in politics and his political doctrines are highly coveted. He has always posed as a man of the people; clean and without political blemish. He banks on these strengths to face William Ruto whom he accuses of dabbling in corruption.

However, Ruto is an adept politician who has the ability to turn propaganda into a political morsel that every political consumer would like a bite of.

Being a master strategist, he is using the strategies that helped Raila to make a formidable run in 2007, and the ones he used to 'king' Uhuru Kenyatta in 2013 and 2017. Whether the kingmaker can make himself a king is another hypothesis that political pundits are waiting to see either rejected or accepted through Ruto's presidential experiment in the 2022 elections.

On the other hand, there is Uhuru who is keen to make sure his hand counts in the succession politics before 2022. Uhuru and Raila's 2018 handshake inspired the Building Bridges Initiative that sought to revise the constitution.

Their aim was to make the elections more inclusive, accommodative and to strengthen devolution. However, it seems they failed to give the bill a better thought as the Constitution stipulates.

However, they face a strong movement dubbed 'Hustler nation' that Ruto has consolidated since 2018 with a pop political bottom-up economic model.

Whether his opponents will come up with a better economic model to convince ordinary Kenyans out of hustler nation is something to watch.

But as the political protagonists battle it our for supremacy, the biggest question is, will 2022 elections end in violence as happened in 2007? My answer is that, that is unlikely to happen. The 2010 Constitution brought with it a lot of electoral reforms. The reforms shield the electoral processes from easy predatory practices which were common before 2007.

Since one of the reasons that made Kenyans to fight were claims of mass voter manipulation, which the government did not have any agencies to deal with, it was necessary for the people to fight for their rights on the streets and villages. This, sadly, resulted in ethnic fighting.

This is my conclusion. There is less likelihood of 2022 elections resulting to violence given the electoral reforms, the robust institutions established by the 2010 Constitution and the many ways of resolving electoral disputes in Kenya.

Dr Ndonye is a Political Economist of Communication

 

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