Countless times and in all manner of places right up to bedrooms, Kenyans are asking each other two questions: Who will win and will there be post-election violence? My standard answer to the first question is that it will either be President Uhuru Kenyatta or Mr Raila Odinga, but there is a caveat to that.
The defining factor will be turnout and if you just ask and do not go out to vote for your candidate, then you will have reduced their chances of winning. I also tell them that if Mr Kenyatta was confident he is winning by a big margin, he would not be hitting the road and riding in the bumpy air for weeks on end.
The uknown, uknown
Clearly, there is something he knows about the margin, and that is why he is on land and air. Raila and his team too aren't taking anything for granted. That is the nature of elections. He knows it is his last bid, and he is not getting any younger, yet the queue of younger men eager to see him give them way to enter the ring, is long.
But my interest is more on the second question because this is a fearsome prospect that we should never entertain: deaths and ruined homes; chopped limbs and gorged eyes; a life of squalor in tented camps; retreat to tribal cocoons for there is safety in numbers; fragmented friendships because of tribal suspicions; the reign of fear ; the jolt on the economy and the rise in cost of living because of the drop in production. Then interest rates shoot up and businesses crumble because of being starved of credit and clients. Finally, poverty and job losses. It is a cruel world indeed.
The first indicator we need to rivet the eye on is what preparations the security agencies are making and you can tell that from the tonnes of teargas, rubber and live bullets, as well as sophisticated trucks and water-canon bowsers government has bought. There are two ways to look at this. First, it could be triggered by intelligence and reports of multi-agency State organs that have ears on the ground. So, as they say, deterrence through demonstration of sheer force and preparedness are vital to discouraging losers from opening the floodgates to violent protests and killer gangs.
Instruments of coercion
But the Opposition which, unlike the incumbent government, does not control the State's instruments of coercion will look at this as part of a rigging strategy; a form of intimidation. They see it as a formula by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto to manipulate the election, crackdown on protests and declare a state of emergency or a curfew in other areas.
There is however, a worrying trend that many see as a ghastly harbinger of things to come. IEBC is being perceived as timid, pliant and cozy with Jubilee. This is a big problem because it is led by a new team that entered the kitchen when it was already too hot and the fumes of teargas yet to clear out.
The Raila team has raised a lot of issues about the way IEBC is organizing elections, but even if they lost the cases in court, the claims were not lost to their supporters. The 10-million strong slogan is honey to their ears and if they don't win, all the leaders may tell them is that someone skimmed off part of their share. Then leaflets and finally confrontations. If he wins, the celebration would follow the same pattern, only now it will be some looting, mocking the loser and dance.
If Uhuru loses and becomes Kenya's first one-term President, you can't rule out claims that Ruto, as some Kenyans joke around, may advise him not to cede power. Well, Uhuru himself has claimed that NASA leaders are poisoning the air so that if they lose, they will trigger a series of events that could force a peace-deal nusu-mkate style.
You know already in areas like Uasin Gishu and informal settlements in Nairobi, communities are discreetly preparing to defend themselves or to launch aggressive action against their neighbours after the election.
The point we are making is that well, this is our country and we should not be surprised if we again see violence. But three people hold the key to our peace; Uhuru and Ruto on one hand and Raila and his NASA cohorts on the other. It is them we must demand peace from beginning today.
Mr Tanui is the Standard Group Deputy Editorial Director and ME- Daily Editions [email protected]
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