When President Uhuru Kenyatta criticised the Judiciary for interfering with arrangements for the August 8 General Election by revoking the ballot printing tender, many were quick to criticise him even though the law allows anyone to criticise a judgement.
However, the President’s issue with the Opposition over its sustained onslaught on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) that now threatens the poll is understandable.
Sober Kenyans could understand where he was coming from. When Opposition leader Raila Odinga staged street demos demanding the resignation of IEBC commissioners led by Ahmed Issack Hassan, the President was among those who warned of the danger removing the team portended for preparations for this year’s election. Indeed, Uhuru has previously supported not just the IEBC but also the Judiciary against what he said was intimidation by the Opposition. And he must have known where this would lead.
“People should concentrate on looking for votes peacefully instead of threatening the IEBC and the Judiciary. If you believe people will buy your agenda, you do not have to use threats and intimidation,” President Kenyatta told the Opposition on May 19.
While the Opposition led by Raila insists its desire is to seek a level playing ground, it has not been lost to many that the fight against IEBC fits well into Raila’s history of intimidating and destroying institutions.
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There is no doubt that the current IEBC under the chairmanship of Wafula Chebukati has bent over backwards to accommodate NASA’s demands. This has, however, not stopped the Opposition from filing suit after suit. The latest being the one seeking to stop the commission from resorting to manual voter verification and transmission of results in case electronic gadgets fail. It total, NASA has filed 12 cases against the IEBC.
While Mr Odinga has previously claimed he helped Mr Hassan clinch the IEBC chairmanship, this did not stop him from crusading for his removal. The IEBC is at the core of the Kenyan state and President Kenyatta has warned against the danger the attacks by the Opposition portend.
“Absence of strong institutions can only result into a failed state, an eventuality I shudder to contemplate yet it is a reality we have witnessed in our region,” he said last month.
In his political career, Raila has sought to portray himself as a champion of democracy and justice, but his actions and utterances say otherwise. And the demolition of the IEBC is one such case. It was not until 2006 that the official account of his role in the coup attempt of 1982 came out through his authorised biography Raila Odinga: An Enigma in Kenya Politics by Nigerian author Babafemi Badejo.
In 2012, when his former aide Miguna Miguna wrote a book, Peeling Back The Mask, which is critical of Raila, senior counsel Paul Muite challenged him to come clean on his role in the coup to bring closure to the matter.
“There is some unfinished business about the attempted coup in 1982. I think Kenyans would wish to hear the views of the Prime Minister so that people can properly put into context the democratic credentials, respect for the law and constitutionalism,” he said.
He acknowledged his role, though he claims to have played a peripheral one. “...we had been quietly engaged in operations designed to educate and mobilise the people in order to bring about the necessary and desired changes in our society — not through violence but through popular mass action.
Popular change or anarchy?
“The full explanation of our efforts to bring about popular change will have to wait for another, freer, time in our country’s history,” he revealed in his autobiography, The Flame of Freedom. His penchant for destroying institutions can also be seen by the number of political parties he has formed then abandoned.
After failing to wrestle Ford-Kenya from Wamalwa Kijana following the death of Jaramogi, his father, Raila formed the National Development Party (NDP) on whose ticket he unsuccessfully vied for the presidency in 2007.
Shortly after, he entered into a cooperation arrangement with Moi’s Kanu, which later led to a merger. However, after being sidelined in the Moi succession matrix, he sought to destroy the independence party by leading a walkout of several top leaders, including Kalonzo Musyoka, George Saitoti and Joseph Kamotho. Kanu lost power in the ensuing elections. It has never recovered since.
IEBC faces the same fate, unless it disentangles itself from the numerous cases in court.
Mr Duale is the Leader of the Majority in Parliament