Monday’s dismissal of two petitions against President Uhuru Kenyatta’s October 26 election victory marked another turning point in Kenya’s turbulent politics. It brings to an end uncertainty about the country’s leadership and opens the door for the more urgent task of national healing.
The Supreme Court has spoken, and that gives the Jubilee Party leader the vital crutch he needs to start undoing the gridlock into which Kenya had tragically slipped.
Yesterday’s ruling offers the country’s problem a legal solution – and restores Mr Kenyatta to State House with an electoral mandate, however controversial. But it is unlikely to bring closure to the crisis facing Kenya, which is more political than legal.
The Opposition will say he is not our President while his supporters will insist he is the lawfully elected leader of this country. Whatever your standpoint, The Standard believes Mr Kenyatta is the person best placed to start the arduous process of remoulding Kenya back into one nation. He has to find a way of healing the rift between his supporters and the Opposition’s, restoring confidence in our national institutions and opening the way for dialogue to end the economically destructive boycotts by the Opposition and generally make Kenya work again.
It is an overflowing in-tray which requires a degree of humility, open-mindedness and statesmanship. He must be ready to grasp the nettle and demonstrate in word and deed his commitment to upholding the Constitution.
Because half the country stayed out of the election which brought him to power, his first task must be to bury the bogey of NASA discontent once and for all. That will not be easy, but the bitter truth is that if he doesn’t, then his work at State House will be doubly difficult at every step. And Kenya will be the loser for it.
Beyond building bridges with the Opposition and uniting the country, Mr Kenyatta has to attend to some of the ugly sores inflicted on Kenya by the three-month tug-of-war.
One is the selective application of the law by the security agencies. While the Constitution says all Kenyans are equal, the killing of Opposition protesters by police has gravely undermined confidence in this vital institution in parts of the country. And its credibility has equally suffered – why did it intervene to stop Opposition supporters celebrating the first Supreme Court Ruling and then step back to allow Jubilee street marches after yesterday’s verdict?
Video evidence of senior police officers hurling stones at private cars suggests a force gone rogue, an institution which must be reined in by nothing less than presidential intervention.
Then there is hate-speech on both sides of the political divide, which has deeply poisoned relations between ethnic groups. Kenya will look up to Mr Kenyatta to help it reject tribal bigotry.
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The second item on Mr Kenyatta’s agenda after he is sworn in next Tuesday will be kick-starting the economy. Hundreds of small businesses have collapsed or are limping along due to the failure of county governments to pay for supplies and services, which could be linked to fitful disbursement of their budgetary entitlements.
Even though he failed miserably to tame corruption in his previous term, Mr Kenyatta has no choice but to finally show Kenyans he can slay this dragon. Half-hearted attempts to clean up the Government only exposed public officials getting away with the theft of public money.
In Parliament, Jubilee has to demonstrate a desire to use its numerical superiority for the public good rather than for scoring points against the Opposition. Legislation should be about offering sound, long-time cures for the challenges facing the nation.
Finally, a new chapter in our national politics will best be defined by respect for divergent views and the constitutional rights of private organisations to exist. Jubilee’s first time was marked by a retrogressive hostility to civil society and the media, which reached its apogee during the just-ended elections with attempts to ban some NGOs.
In all these, it is our view that the Kenyatta government deserves to succeed for the wider benefit of Kenya. But it can only do so if it tackles with honesty and determination the political division which has virtually turned Kenya into two contending nations.
Mr President, make us one again.