Africa, Kenya, Politics

Political Impasse: Democracy On Trial in Kenya

Kenya is considered to be one of the most mature democracies in Africa. However, like many other African countries, the political scene is never short of drama. Politically instigated violence has been witnessed all around. As a result, thousands of people have lost their lives and property worth millions of dollars was destroyed. Most of the violence is ethnically based.

At the beginning of August, Kenyans went to the ballots to elect a new leader. The presidential race was mainly dominated by the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta of Jubilee Party and the chief opposition leader, Hon. Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance (NASA) camp. After the poll, the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Kenya’s electoral body announced Mr. Kenyatta as the winner having garnered 54% of the votes ahead of Mr. Odinga’s 45%.

Mr. Odinga, however, was not satisfied, and so he filed a petition in The Supreme Court of Kenya contesting the election. The court, in what has been termed as a historical ruling, declared the election “was not conducted in accordance with the constitution” and not recognized. Mr. Kenyatta’s victory was therefore annulled. The court further ordered the electoral body to conduct another presidential election within 60 days.

Irreducible Minimums

Following his victory in the court, Mr. Odinga stated that he wouldn’t participate in the fresh election as long as the same officials leading the IEBC remained in office. He also made a list of demands, which he termed as his irreducible minimums, saying unless they were met, he wouldn’t participate in the elections. The Jubilee camp termed this as ridiculous.

Apart from the irreducible minimums presented to the IEBC, he also demanded the immediate resignation of the body’s CEO, Mr. Ezra Chiloba. To reinforce these demands, the opposition has been organizing street demonstrations. The demos have been mainly in Mr. Odinga’s strongholds. And as always, what often begins as peaceful demos end up being chaotic. In one rather surprising incident, some demonstrators were annoyed that the police failed to lob tear gas at them as the demos were mainly peaceful. The peace was however short-lived, and violence soon erupted.

Kenya Elections Act Amendment

Following the opposition-led protest, the ruling Jubilee Party, which enjoys a majority in both the Senate and National Assembly, decided to exercise their advantage and amend the election laws. Though the proposed amendments have been very controversial, the party was able to pass the bill. Some of the proposed amendments stated that should one candidate withdraw from the race, the remaining one shall be declared winner unopposed. This caused a great uproar in the opposition camp.

Mr. Odinga, however, lived up to his threat and, in a press conference, declared his withdrawal from the race. This was just before the proposed amendments were signed into law. A constitutional crisis ensued with many being caught by surprise. The Kenyan constitution as it is doesn’t give any direction on such a situation. Lawyers rushed to the courts to get an interpretation. Some felt the current president should just be sworn in while others felt fresh nominations should be done.

Currently, the opposition is still holding their demos calling for the resignation of Mr. Chiloba. They are also protesting the amendments and have vowed not to participate in any election. The Kenyan government has however insisted the election will go on as planned whether Mr. Odinga participates or not.

Since the outbreak of violence, at least two protesters have been killed by police forces.

About Alex Muiruri

Alex is a passionate writer based in Kenya. He's also a professionally trained health officer and a great enthusiast of science and technology. Besides writing, he enjoys doing motivational speaking and possesses strong opinions on life. He's a lover of people and enjoys good company. He's also a devoted Christian, but respects the beliefs of others.

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