Kenya’s future in limbo after disputed elections

 29 Oct 2017 - 14:07

Kenya’s future in limbo after disputed elections
Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition greets his supporters in Nairobi, Kenya October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

By Andrew Wasike and Magdalene Mukami | AA

NAIROBI: As this East African nation tries to find a resolution to a political crisis that threatens to explode into widespread violence, observers are calling into question democracy here and the region’s ability to handle turmoil. 
A group of opposition supporters headed to the polls earlier this week as their leader, Raila Odinga, boycotted a re-run of disputed presidential polls.
The elections were redone after the country’s top court annulled the Aug. 8 polls because of illegalities and irregularities.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is leading in the disputed election with more than 7 million votes, or 98 percent of votes cast, followed by Odinga, the former prime minister. 
Odinga has garnered more than 70,000 votes despite asking supporters to boycott the new vote. It is important to note that Kenya has slightly more than 19 million registered voters.
Following the vote Thursday, four protesters were shot dead by police and at least 50 others were admitted to hospitals with gunshot wounds, according to a police statement Friday.
Violent protests have rocked major cities across the country, including Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa and some areas have become virtual ghost towns. 
In opposition strongholds, gunshots can be heard every few minutes and roads are blocked with boulders and burning tires.
A number of houses were burned Friday in the Kawangware area of Nairobi by rival protesters. Police said 80 people have been arrested in addition to the four demonstrators who were killed.

- Political turmoil
The political turmoil has threatened one of the more stable governments in East Africa and the current state of affairs has far reaching consequences for the region and the continent.
Kenya is again in a precarious situation, especially regarding democracy, South African sociopolitical analyst Junior Adusei Kakari told Anadolu Agency.
He recalled the widespread violence following the 2007-2008 elections that left more than 1,200 victims dead and many more internally displaced.
“Kenya, once being hailed and praised by the international community for being one of the leading countries in Africa, to have a Supreme Court annul the election win of an incumbent president, has swiftly switched to being a political ridicule in terms of democracy on the African continent,” Adusei said.
“The current post-election dilemma ongoing in the country has left a lot to be desired of the once very progressive democracy on the continent,” he added.
Adusei said the world is witnessing how the crisis will unfold as regional and continental structures once again sit idle and non-instrumental in the resolution and advisory of the situation.
“This once again brings into question the dedication of the Kenyan government to the ideology of democracy and the Kenyan Constitution, the effectiveness of regional structures in enforcing democracy and political harmony on the continent, and lastly, the respect for the will of the people and the rule of law on the continent.”
The situation presents an opportunity for the regional and continental communities to develop and implement measures to address similar election disputes that frequent the continent, he said, instead of waiting for situations to explode into massive casualties forcing governments to plead to the international community for aid.
Reading from the same book as Adusei was political analyst and lawyer Ruth Ambogo, although the two may be on different pages.

- Constitutional requirement
“By some Kenyans not participating in the elections they have proven to the world that they are a very strong democracy,” she said of her fellow countrymen. “The massive boycott which the Kenyan media seems to paint it as by a particular tribe and people from a particular region of the country is wrong. The boycott was all across the country even in Kenyatta’s areas showing that Kenyans enjoy such freedoms and rights such as the decision to take part in an election or not,” Ambogo said.
The lawyer believes the vote has clearly failed to meet the constitutional requirement for presidential elections.
“The law says that such an election needs to happen in each and every of the constituencies of the country,” she said. “Elections have been called off in four counties, being opposition strongholds meaning that as we stand right now the elections have been held illegally.” 
Ambogo notes that Kenya needs to have a serious dialogue and she strongly believes the latest vote will be again be nullified by the Supreme Court.
Political leaders need to engage in dialogue to chart a way forward as current events are a clear indicator the country is divided mostly along tribal lines, she said.
The decision by the ruling party to hold the elections unopposed is a major big embarrassment not only to Kenyans but also the international community, according to Ambogo. 
“It’s an embarrassment that we cannot excuse because it is the will of the people. It’s an embarrassment to our electoral body and we need to have all this addressed, the division in the country needs to be addressed, the division in the nation needs to be addressed, the systemic and systematic flaws within our electoral systems and even other institutions such as the police force that have clearly gone out on a rampage of killing people in election protest is saddening,” she said. 
Like Adusei, Ambogo believes a domino effect of election disputes and political instability is currently on the upsurge on the continent and requires serious attention from national, regional and international bodies to find a resolution and framework for addressing such situations.
George Musamali, a security and political analyst who is the director of the Executive Protection Services Limited in Nairobi, believes low voter turnout of 34 percent this week, compared to 80 percent in August, showed “there was voter apathy in this case so people didn't get out to vote as expected.”

- Economic component
Musamali characterized the elections as a fraud because it failed to meet the terms outlined in the Constitution.
“Clearly these elections were a sham. The voter turnout itself tells you that Kenyans were not actually ready for this re-run as had been claimed by members of the opposition and this sends out a message to the rest of the world that the will of the people did not prevail in Kenya,” he said.
“Kenyans expected free, fair and credible elections and this was not one of them. The credibility of the election is in doubt, that is why we expect this kind of reaction [mass protests] from the public and this is what Kenyans have told the international community and Africa that when we talk about elections. Let us have free, fair and credible elections. Anything below that is not an election but a sham, a complete joke on democratic rights of Kenyans.”
Beyond the political concerns is an economic component that cannot be ignored. 
In a nation with soaring unemployment and one in which the average wage earner takes home less that $2 a day, Ambogo noted the elections are costing taxpayers a lot of money.
“We just used 12 billion shillings ($115 million) of taxpayers money in the current elections,” she said. “Last week a report was released by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance KEPSA that showed that Kenyans have lost 700 billion shillings in revenue due to elections, so we wonder how much more we are going to lose if we have another election if this is nullified mark you, we already have had two elections in a span of four months, the implications are so high,” she added.
However, Kenyatta’s deputy William Ruto defended Thursday’s repeat polls, saying there is a history of low turnouts in reelections “especially where there is a boycott”.
In an interview with the CNN, Ruto said many Kenyans were denied the opportunity to vote due to violence.
“There is a percentage of voters that was denied a chance to vote. I challenge our opponent to remove the organized militia blocking the delivery of voting material and we will know for sure if those affected want to vote or not…,” he said.