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Raila Odinga’s withdrawal leaves country at a crossroads

By The Standard | Published Wed, October 11th 2017 at 11:11, Updated October 11th 2017 at 11:15 GMT +3
NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga

Raila Odinga’s formal withdrawal from the repeat presidential election set for October 26, 2017 exposes the country to a constitutional crisis. The Supreme Court of Kenya nullified the presidential election held on August 8 following a petition by the National Super Alliance (NASA).

The Supreme Court determined there were irregularities in the conduct of the elections by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) that robbed them of credibility.

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Fresh elections were ordered to be conducted by IEBC within 60 days of the nullification of the presidential elections on September 1. IEBC initially settled on October 17 as the day for the repeat election but had to push the date to October 26.

Despite having welcomed the Supreme court’s ruling, NASA has been insistent that the Chief Executive Officer of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Ezra Chiloba and a few other commissioners be shown the door for their personal involvement in what NASA views as an elaborate scheme to award President Uhuru Kenyatta a win they he did not deserve.

With Chiloba not showing signs of budging, NASA called for nationwide demonstrations to force him out, and drew a list of what it terms the ‘irreducible minimums’ to be met as a pre-condition for its participation in the October 26 elections.

Failure to have NASA’s irreducible minimums acceded to precipitated its withdrawal from the presidential election.

NASA affirms it cannot participate in an election whose outcome it considers predetermined. The withdrawal leaves the country at a crossroads. The Jubilee side expresses optimism that Uhuru Kenyatta will be sworn in unopposed.

The country awaits the decision of the High Court today, in a case where Dr Ekuru Aukot seeks direction on whether he can participate in the repeat elections. Actually, the situation the country is in now needs clear interpretation of the law on what happens next, at least to lay the ghost of partisan speculations that only succeed in raising political temperatures in the country.

 NASA has indicated it will stick to its demands to have the electoral commission overhauled as a prerequisite to gaining the Opposition's trust it can conduct free, fair and credible elections.

Jubilee's reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling was to amend the electoral laws to strip the IEBC Chairman of some powers bestowed upon his office by the Constitution and the election laws. The coalition has however maintained its decision to change the laws stems from the Supreme Court's ruling that nullified the declaration of Uhuru Kenyatta as President on September 1.

ALSO READ: Last person to leave NASA house, please 'switch off the lights’

While the intention to amend the laws may be good, mischief cannot be ruled out.

What stands out, however, is that the assault on IEBC leaves the country in a precarious position.

The time left to October 26 is short.

IEBC needs to give the country direction on whether, legally, the election can go ahead as planned.

An authoritative interpretation of the law is necessary for setting the record straight.

A recent call by European countries envoys on Jubilee to shelve its determination to amend electoral laws and for the Opposition to reconsider its bi-weekly demonstrations demanding the removal of IEBC’s Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba fell on deaf ears. Not surprisingly, the threat of withdrawing visas for Opposition leaders did not alarm them.

Some Jubilee Members of Parliament did not hesitate to call the envoys meddlers in what does not concern them. This contest for political hegemony has blinded our national leaders to reality; the reality that the country is sitting on edge.

ALSO READ: Declare Uhuru president, MPs tell IEBC after Raila's withdrawal

We must face it; the economy is at a standstill. Heightened political tension is keeping tourists and investors away. Uhuru and Raila have failed to demonstrate leadership, preferring to shout at each other across the fence. That must stop. Attempts by the church to broker peace have failed, but the latest developments must goad the church even further to ensure sobriety prevails. The interests of two people with nothing to lose need not drive a country of over 45 million people over the brink.

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