Kenya Elections

Kenya 2017: September 23rd to October 27th

After September 22nd, 2017, Kenya sank into a deeper political quagmire. This quagmire affected the economic situation of the country. Within a span of 3 weeks, the International Monetary Fund revised Kenya’s projected economic growth downwards twice.

The thirty five (35) days from September 23rd to October 27th 2017 make an interesting period.  The opposition led by its forward-thinking leader Raila Odinga escalated street protests across the country. Their grievances centered on the need to overhaul the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. In Kenya’s history, Raila is one of the leading forces behind its democratization process.

Their argument carried merit in that the IEBC bungled the August 8th 2017 elections. How then, was the same IEBC in its same constitution to be trusted to manage fresh elections? Keep in mind that the fresh elections were being held within a rather tight frame of 60 days.

In the same time-span, incumbent reactionary president Uhuru Kenyatta hurriedly pushed an elections law amendment bill through parliament. This was largely a reactionary move from the president. It was seen as his answer to the opposition’s street demonstrations. At least his Jubilee party had the majority numbers in parliament to ride roughshod and mutilate the constitution as they wished. Despite the rush, the bill would end up sitting on the president’s desk for his perusal. Why the rush then to pass it through the two houses of Kenya’s parliament?

African governments are accursed to make the mistakes of their predecessors. It is as if leaders in Africa have no access to neither distant nor the recent history of their countries. The government of Kenya resorted to violence and brutality to try and stop the opposition-led street demonstrations. A number of protesters died, prompting the Kenya National Human Rights watchdog to come out barking. Acting Security Minister Fred Matiang’i went as far as banning protests!

Raila Odinga Uhuru Kenyatta
Raila Odinga: Once he withdrew from the elections, Kenyans boycotted the polls too!

The Kenyan High Court quashed the ban alongside issuing a block to the arrest of NASA CEO Norman Magaya. Government then resorted to harassment of opposition key players. Their target this time would not be Hassan Joho, but Jimmy Wanjigi. Wanjigi was the main financier of the Opposition NASA’s campaigns. The police raided a number of his residences. They found in some of the residences guns and ammunition for the said guns. Wanjigi however had licenses for the firearms and the accompanying ammunition.

Then two resignations happened within the IEBC. First, it was Praxedes Tororey. Praxedes was the IEBC legal affairs leader. She resigned soon after the IEBC was found by the Supreme Court to have bungled the August 8th elections. While her resignation went quite unnoticed, the one that followed her sent ripples through the fragile country.

In the morning hours of Wednesday October 18, 2017, Madam Roselyn Akombe (Phd) resigned. She was in Qatar to inspect printing of ballot papers. Akombe did not fly back to Kenya after finishing her job. She instead flew to the USA and sent a resignation letter from there. This was 9 days to the October 26th Elections!

Akombe was an IEBC commissioner. Her resignation is in the context that it is not easy to replace IEBC commissioners. She cited unpreparedness of the IEBC to carry out fresh elections. Of concern to her too was the prevailing relatively violent and highly charged political climate. She was not ready to be part of a commission that would either mess up the elections again, or conduct them in an environment not suitable for elections at all. If the IEBC leaks commissioners days to elections, how will it hold the said elections?

Kenyans had more questions than answers. The more they found out, the less they knew. It was gradually dawning on them that whatever happened on 26th would not be an elections as they anticipated. The constitution had not foreseen a situation where 60 days could elapse before fresh elections are held after an election is nullified. The economy was slowly grinding to a halt due to the prevailing political instability. People were holding onto money and were not very willing to spend it. They were only buying basic necessities. Interestingly though, remittances into Kenya from the diaspora grew by a significant volume. Kenyans outside Kenya were sending more to their countrymen, maybe to help them get through the hard times.

Update: 26th October came. The IEBC tried their best to run an election in Kenya but they failed terribly. Apart from failure to deliver election materials to some parts of the country, accusations of manipulating numbers resurfaced. Simply put, the numbers did not add up. Why was the IEBC in a hurry to conduct and elections they did not have faith in. The turn out for the elections was between 30 and 40 percent of all registered voters. It appeared that a majority of Kenyan adults knew the election would not help in getting them a step forward. A few flare-ups of violence were noted in the country during, and immediately after the elections. The police continued killing protesters.

Raila, the master magician and survivor in Kenyan politics pulled a move from his box of tricks. A resistance movement called NRM was quickly founded. This was arguably going to be the guerrilla wing of NASA. The diplomatic / academic wing was called the Peoples Assembly. How they are going to run and operate still remains a puzzle. However, one card that Raila always plays was on the table; protests, demonstrations and more protests. He revealed a second card; economic boycott, though it in not very effective so far – as at the time of writing.

A few days later, Uhuru Kenyatta was declared winner of the contest. He still looked uncertain of his next step. The country was still divided into three groups, with no solution at hand.

Related – KENYA: AUGUST TO SEPTEMBER, 2017

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