Elections 2017

It is time to dust up, let politically divided Kenya recover

Raila Odinga with Uhuru Kenyatta. (Photo: Courtesy)

There comes a time when people need to pause, evaluate their status and give themselves an opportunity to recover from a prolonged and arduous engagement. It is the case in the various types of battlefields irrespective of the nature of engagement. While some are of a military type with opposing fighters facing each other, others are political.

Children of two prominent anti-colonial families, Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, namely Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, commanded political forces. Uhuru’s side called itself “Jubilee” but Raila’s kept changing its stripes. Initially, Raila’s team called itself ODM, metamorphosed into CORD and later became NASA. Since the two sides subscribed to parallel rules of political behaviour, the battle seemed endless. This calls for time to reflect.

Assurances

With parallel perceptions of political rules, Kenyans were treated to the unusual, prolonged election environment of two presidential elections in three months. In preparing to vote on August 8, 2017, institutions repeatedly assured Kenyans that all was well. There was general assumption of trust in the relatively new State institutions that the 2010 Constitution created.

Among the assumptions was that professionals manning the institutions would be loyal men and women of integrity, those who valued their country and had internalised Kenya’s national interests.

Such people would not jeopardise those interests, particularly the security aspect. The assumption, it turns out, was wrong and the country’s sense of stability was, instead, threatened through manufactured political crises.

The assumption was wrong regarding two new critical electoral connected organs of State that the 2010 Constitution created. That Constitution substantially reduced the power of the President to appoint State officials, required Parliament to vet top State officials and changed the conduct of elections.

It created the IEBC and the Supreme Court to replace the existing electoral organ and judicial structure, which were blamed for the mayhem in 2007/2008. In hindsight, however, the two organs of State were victims of political chicanery that continued to dog the new institutions.

The trust was seriously injured when some officials of those critical institutions, the Supreme Court and the IBC, reportedly acted less honourably. There were claims that judicial officers fabricated documents which the judges relied on.

Thereafter the court surprised many when on account of procedural technicalities, it ignored the votes cast, nullified the presidential election and ordered the IEBC to conduct a “fresh election” within 60 days.

The court threw dirt on its image by failing to give detailed reasoning for its decision. To complicate matters, it emerged that the primary loyalty of some IEBC officials was not to the institution they served and Kenya. Whatever their excuse, the officials dented the reputation of those institutions and injured public trust.

The dented institutional reputation made the “fresh” election prolonged as two conflicting forces emerged. One side, although unhappy with the nullification, took the court seriously and campaigned hard for the October 26, 2017 poll.

The other side, in contrast, defied the Supreme Court order for a “fresh” election. In the process, it managed to erode its own standing. Two things then followed; the delayed swearing-in of Uhuru for his second term and the seeming dwindling of the Raila followers. Seemingly to divert attention from internal political hemorrhage, NASA officials announced the creation of a “Committee” of Experts to strategise on Peoples Assembly and secessionism.

Contradictions

Others insist they will organise their own swearing-in ceremony for Raila on Jamhuri Day, December 12, 2017. They have not indicated which Supreme Court judge would engage in an act that is clearly treasonous.The prolonged elections tested Kenya.

Uhuru should give time for people to “heal” and accept reality. Raila needs time to reflect on his past and future.The political combatants need to give time for the country to recover from the excessive political heat.

 Prof Munene teaches History and International Relations at the USIU- Africa