That the mass protests on Monday did not end up snaking into State House was a relief. We do not know what would have happened had they stormed the house on the hill.
On the one hand, that the protesters would have been in their thousands out there demonstrating against the high cost of living and what others see as a stolen election, had it not been for the police barricades across the city, tells of a country that has nurtured a culture of sweeping problems under the carpet. This is a culture of dishonesty that encourages short-term solutions to serious national issues.
In addition to this regrettable culture of dishonesty on what elected leaders promise to do for the voters and what they actually do when they are elected, we have erroneously hung onto the belief that no matter how we conduct our elections, the winner is the first past the post.
Some degree of chaos will emerge, calls for dialogue will intensify, condemnations that often tend to be one-sided are spewed and sure enough, we normally get on with our daily businesses. After all, we must work to live.
This kind of managing presidential election outcome chaos is not just living in bad faith but also pretending we cannot deal with reconciliation in its true sense. Reconciliation is never about just letting people off the hook. It is about restorative justice. Those who claim victory and those who claim their victory has been stolen must be subjected to an authentic process in which perpetrators of the perennial election problem are made to pay for their actions.
Reconciliation and dialogue should not be used to substitute for people taking responsibility for electoral injustices. The presidential election outcomes in the last five general elections have been inconclusive. They have always left us with egg on our faces, yet we soldier on without wanting to address the root cause.
The Monday mass demonstrations reminded us for the fifth time that without free, fair and credible elections, we are working very hard to wish away a systemic problem. We are like a child who covering a wound so the parent doesn’t know. The child can give all other reasons why he or she is not feeling well but it won’t be long before the parent realises the child has been hiding the wound.
Only with deep introspection on why we always run into problems after every general election shall we find sustainable peace.
To turn on voters as the problem is completely missing the point. Kenyans always do their bit – which is voting – only for the demons to take over the rest of the process. To say that Raila Odinga is the problem is both myopic and scapegoating. A good electoral system would give us a conclusive outcome that has minimal room for manipulation.
To say that IEBC is the problem is also scapegoating. Kenyans know algebra and something more. They can tell, even with mere approximation, the likely winner of an election. Every human being has a good sense of judgment to reasonably approximate what is and what is not in public affairs such as on general elections.
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The way we have solved electoral injustice in the past is through short-term interventions, mainly mediation (2007/08), court ruling (2013), court ruling plus handshake (2017) and many peace programme initiatives when we near general elections. I am not sure how we intend to cross the bridge from the 2022 elections. What we have at hand is another case to solve on an inconclusive presidential election outcome.
At this point of the history, what we need is an independent audit of the recent presidential election results to prove beyond doubt where our systemic problems lie. To just stop at ceasefire and getting the protagonists to “talk” is being irresponsible as a country. We need to show the doctor our wound for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Dr Mokua is executive director, Loyola Centre for Media and Communication