Will Kenya survive political turmoil and remain the same?

President Uhuru Kenyatta with Raila Odinga at State House in Nairobi. (Photo: Courtesy)

Kenya’s existence as a united, cohesive and stable country has never come under such serious threat as now. The country has been stuck in the quagmire of a protracted presidential contest twice disputed and once boycotted by the Opposition.

While there is evidence of relative calm and uneasy peace all round, it could be a lull that comes before a storm. Since the August 8, 2017 elections were annulled by the Supreme Court, Kenya has become a troubled country.

In the interim, Kenyans should be wary of some of  the events that have unfolded since NASA's presidential candidate Raila Amollo Odinga boycotted the repeat poll, describing the outcome as a "sham’" and embarked on a push for fresh elections within 90 days. But it is perhaps the new strategies that NASA has adopted in its fresh campaign that pose the greatest challenge to Kenya’s survival as a nation.

Resistance movement

Key among these developments is the three-pronged approach adopted by NASA in its political dissent constituting formation of a National Resistance Movement (NRM), the boycott of products from selected companies associated with its rival Jubilee and the renewed secession debate.

The NRM wing, which has since been responsible for the mobilisation of NASA supporters to boycott products of companies and firms it accuses of aiding, abetting or simply supporting its rival Jubilee and its government in manipulating the electoral processes in favour of President Uhuru Kenyatta, has already seen some of the targeted companies, among them Safaricom, report serious disruption in services.

An equally worrying development to any established authority is NASA’S mobilisation of supporters in its strongholds to form what it has designated as people's assemblies (PAs). Already, a number of county assemblies in Nyanza and Western region have tabled and approved proposals for formation of PeopleAs with express authority to form and operate within the jurisdiction of those counties. Regardless of whether the PAs so constituted are legal, constitutional or not, the reality of their emergence cannot be dismissed offhand.

The formation of these so-called people's assemblies is a new phenomenon in Kenya’s political parlance and one that begs for serious interrogation and scrutiny as its existence brings a totally new dimension to the whole political and administrative structure.

Regardless of whether one supports NASA or Jubilee, the emergence of PAs is something the Government must address clearly and unequivocally as their existence militates against the social political order as exercised by the Government. Not since independence has a move of this magnitude been contemplated, leave alone undertaken by an opposition political faction in this country.

Secession calls

Closely related and equally troubling is the renewed and more forceful secession pressure that has been pronounced by disaffected counties at the Coast and in Western Kenya. That the intensified secession debate has focused on the feeling of marginalisation and the unequal distribution and sharing of the national cake in all its forms cannot be ignored.

It forms the most potent form of dissent against the Jubilee government, which has largely been accused of concentrating key and crucial appointments in Government and direction of development energies and resources to areas and communities that support Jubilee. Then there have been the sporadic demonstrations and protests called by NASA that have had their toll on businesses in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu; forcing businesses' closure for days on end.

These constitute serious threats to Kenya’s nationhood that no government can sweep under the carpet or channel delegated responses through junior functionaries like the Government spokesman.  These are matters that demand direct, firm and unequivocal responses from none other than the President.

Regardless of whether politicians acknowledge it or not, their actions, whether intended or by default, have driven a wedge in the country’s fabric and the President must assuage this situation as a matter of urgency.


Mr Musebe is a veteran journalist. [email protected]