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To fix divisive politics, let us openly and genuinely dialogue

By The Standard | Published Thu, January 25th 2018 at 00:00, Updated January 24th 2018 at 23:23 GMT +3
Retired Constitutional Court judge, Johann Kriegler who has been very vocal on the Kenyan political system. [Photo: Courtesy]

Retired South African Judge Johann Kreigler is no stranger to Kenya. When Kenya nearly toppled over the precipice following the contested 2007 general elections, the aftermath of which was more than 1,300 lives lost and over half a million others internally displaced, the judge was called in to probe the causes of the conflagration.

It is not lost on many that after the probe, Judge Kreigler remarked: “The events of January 2008 could look like a Christmas party come 2012.” That year’s elections, however, were not as acrimonious as 2007, although the Opposition went to the Supreme Court seeking annulment of the presidential election, but lost the case. The 2017 elections nearly fulfilled Kreigler’s prediction, judging by the violence and divisions they generated.

Although the repeat October 26, 2017 presidential election results were upheld after the Supreme Court threw out petitions by Harun Mwau and the civil society, and even after the inauguration of President Kenyatta on November 28, 2017 for his final term, the Opposition has refused to acknowledge Kenyatta’s legitimacy. The Opposition has, instead, created 'people's assemblies' in some counties, clearly to show they do not recognise the President’s power.

The Opposition has further expressed its determination to swear in Raila Odinga as the 'people’s president' on January 30, 2018, which sets the two main political camps in the country on a collision course. That should be avoided at all costs. While attending the Law Society of Kenya colloquium on the 2017 general elections a few days ago, Judge Kreigler reiterated the need for dialogue to solve political problems. This is a path the Kenyan political elite has eschewed in favour of court processes that fall short of addressing the real problems.

Kenya’s problems are tied to an electoral process that has been heavily criticised as unable to meet the threshold of a democratic exercise. This calls for all the leaders to put their heads together for, as Paul Collier, a professor of economics and public policy at Oxford University warns: “On their own, unless they are held in the context of a functioning democracy, elections can retard rather than advance a country’s progress.”

Despite a new Constitution and regular elections, our form of democracy has many shortcomings; its first-past-the-post model propagates exclusionism, which is at the heart of the matter. It has not cured exclusivism, nor helped address rampant corruption because it seemingly denies the voters the chance to vote out bad parties and bad leaders. We all must put the country first.

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