It’s been slightly more than five decades since Kenya acquired independence from its British colonial masters in 1963. Despite national elections being held every five years, only four presidents have been in power since then. And the most recent Kenya elections have been special kind of a powder keg.
Kenya elections have always been an emotional event marked by heightened political temperatures. At times, this has grown into full-blown conflicts resulting in death and destruction of property. For instance, in the year 2007/2008, post-election violence in Kenya was at its worst when 1500 people lost their lives, and more than 600,000 were internally displaced. The country is still recovering from that low point.
Fast forward to 2017. Kenyans went through another Kenya elections period where they would choose a president. The race was mainly between the incumbent, President Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee Party, and the Chief Opposition leader, Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance Coalition (NASA). The voting process went on well without much drama after which all eyes were turned to the elections body, Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for the results. The results came, and Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner having garnered 54% of the total votes cast ahead of Raila Odinga who managed only 45%.
Mr. Odinga rejected the results and filed a petition in the Supreme Court of Kenya contesting Kenyatta’s win. This marked a new battle line followed by intense legal battles. The Supreme Court ruled in Odinga’s favor and nullified the election stating that it was not conducted in accordance with the constitution. The court further ordered the IEBC to conduct a fresh presidential election within sixty days. Odinga’s camp was overjoyed by the Supreme Court ruling while neither Mr. Kenyatta nor his supporters were pleased. He, however, announced he would comply with the court order.
Nairobi Business Community
In the meantime, The NASA coalition presented demands to the IEBC and threatened to boycott the new Kenya elections if none were met. The coalition further began to organize street demonstrations calling for reforms in the IEBC and the removal of its CEO, Mr. Ezra Chiloba. The demos, though termed as peaceful, always turned out violent and destructive with the police having to lob teargas at the protestors.
The Jubilee camp on the other side in a bid to counter NASA’s demands championed a motion in the National Assembly seeking to amend the Elections Act. This was followed by a great uproar in the opposition strongholds with many reading malice. They, therefore, intensified their demonstrations. In Nairobi, this prompted fresh clashes with a group terming itself as the Nairobi Business Community (NBC). The group was against the destruction of property and violently clashed with the protestors. The Opposition claimed that the government had hired and sponsored the deadly, feared and outlawed Mungiki sect to counter their protests and branded it as NBC. The government, however, denied this.
Mr. Odinga lived up to his threat and announced his withdrawal from the race just a few days before the election. This threw the country into a constitutional crisis. In the meantime, rumor had it that the electoral commission was not working in harmony. At some point its chairman, Mr. Wafula Chebukati, reported that he could not ascertain free, fair and credible Kenya elections, citing internal wrangles and political interference. Matters were complicated further when one of the commissioners, Roselyn Akombe, resigned and fled to the USA.
Boycott of the Kenya Elections
Nonetheless, the Kenya elections were held as planned. Mr. Odinga urged his supporters to stay away from the election. Pockets of violence were reported in his strongholds as supporters chanted anti-election slogans. His name was, however, still on the ballot papers as he had not withdrawn from the race legally. Mr. Kenyatta’s supporters went on and voted despite a low voter turnout. The IEBC, later on, announced him as the winner after garnering 98% of the total votes cast. Odinga’s camp laughed it off and declared that they don’t recognize him as the president of Kenya. Petitions were once again filed in the Supreme Court contesting Kenyatta’s win. They were all dismissed, and the court upheld Mr. Kenyatta’s victory. He was later sworn in as President of the Republic of Kenya.
On the other hand, Odinga’s camp announced a new set of measures by which they would put pressure on the government until their demands were met. They formed the National Resistance Movement (NRM) which would champion civil disobedience and economic sabotage by legal means and began by boycotting products from a list of companies which they felt were sympathetic to the government. They also announced the formation of People’s Assemblies which would push for reforms on the county level and have Odinga sworn in as the peoples’ president.
Mr. Odinga has himself said he’ll be sworn in as the peoples’ president on December 12th 2017. Many think that that would be a treacherous act and would dent his political legacy while others think he should go ahead. Whether he will be sworn in or not is just a matter of time. Meanwhile, President Kenyatta has already begun organizing his government and is currently selecting the cabinet.
More than 70 people have died in the aftermath of the Kenya elections on August 8th. 33 of these were reportedly killed by police who are accused of using excessive force in quelling protests.
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