Kenya on the Brink of Collapse After August 8, 2017 General Elections
On September 1, 2017 the Supreme Court nullified the re-election of Uhuru Kenyatta for a second term. The court stated the election was marred with irregularities and illegalities, thus paving way for another rerun of the presidential election. The Chief Justice, David Maraga, in his ruling termed the presidential results as invalid or null and void. The opposition leader, Raila Odinga, presented his case to the Supreme Court claiming he had evidence to show Kenyatta was not legally the winner.
Uhuru Kenyatta had garnered 54 percent of the national votes while his opponent, Raila Odinga had earned 44 percent. Raila refused to admit he was defeated stating he was the legally winner as Kenyatta’s side was involved in manipulation of votes. The opposition still maintains the votes were electronically manipulated thereby ensuring Uhuru’s victory.
The Supreme Court in its ruling noted that the IEBC (Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission) had “committed irregularities and illegalities in the transmission of results” and had “failed, neglected, and refused to conduct the presidential selection in a manner consistent with the dictates of the constitution.” As stipulated in the constitution, Kenyans will have to vote again at the presidential level on October 26.
Mr. Kenyatta accepted the ruling of the court but noted he was not happy with how the court functions. “It is a ruling with which I don’t agree with. But I accept the court’s verdict. Let us all uphold peace and tranquility for the sake of our great nation,” he said.
The Standoff between Mr. Uhuru and Mr. Odinga
Jubilee flag bearer, Uhuru Kenyatta and NASA’s (National Super Alliance) Raila Odinga are not in agreeable terms. This rings true for Jubilee and NASA members and their supporters. It is either the other side abides by their demands or it’s a NO-NO talk. IEBC, the blamed ‘culprit’ is also divided with some sitting on the fence. This has led to some politicians filing a request at the High Court for their case to be heard whereby they want the country to be divided into two – Uhuru’s strongholds and Odinga’s strongholds each operating as its own country independent from another one.
Among the demands Raila wants to be addressed is the call for removal and prosecution of IEBC commissioners who were involved in election malpractices. He has stated he has no faith in the electoral commission since they have committed criminal acts. “Most of them actually belong to jail and therefore we are going to ask for their prosecution.”
He called on his supporters to join him in demonstrating for the removal of IEBC commissioners involved in manipulation of votes, and their other grievances to be taken into consideration. If it is not the case, they will continue demonstrating with the mother of all demonstrations occurring during the Election Day, 26th October. True to his words, his supporters have been demonstrating although some of the demonstrations have turned out chaotic than peaceful. The supporters have been involved in vandalizing shops including a supermarket and a famous restaurant. This has led to some of the NASA’s protestors meeting their death at the hands of the police as they try to disperse and return a sense of tranquility during what seems to be peaceful but not the case. The protestors have been as bold as to attack a police station.
Among the grievances which will result in Odinga calling off demonstrations is ridding of controversial Bill which was amended by a committee selected by Jubilee party. The amended Acts were the Election Act, the IEBC Act and the Election Offence Act which were passed in the parliament waiting for the president to sign them into law.Quartz Africa states, “…parliament passed a controversial bill to amend election laws, which were proposed in response to the Supreme Court annulment of the presidential results. The laws scrap the minimum requirements needed of the electoral commission chairperson and limit the ability of the Supreme Court to overturn election results.” The Star notes on one of the amended Acts: “where there is a discrepancy between the electronically transmitted and manually transmitted results, the manually transmitted shall prevail.”
Odinga withdrew himself from the presidential race as a result of his grievances not addressed which among others includes the controversial Bill and reforms at the IEBS. It is further declared by Quartz Africa, “The amendments…also stipulate that if a candidate withdraws from a repeat presidential election, the other one would automatically win.” Therefore, it signifies Odinga is not allowed as per the amendment to contest for presidential race. However, IEBC included all the presidential aspirants who contested for that seat for another repeat. Only one aspirant was not included as he was declared bankrupt.
The State of the Nation
President Uhuru has reiterated he is not going to be involved in any talks with his rival. The only discussion he will be happy to talk with Odinga is about peace and security of the country.
After meeting with IEBC chairman, Wafula Chebukat, Odinga said he will contend for the presidential seat if his concerns are put into consideration. After the meeting with the chairman, in the view of the journalists, Odinga requested IEBC to postpone the presidential election until the reforms take place at the electoral commission.
On October 18, one of the senior commissioners of IEBC, Roselyn Akombe, resigned stating her life was threatened and the frustrations she faced in her pursuit of a free and fair election. In her statement, she acknowledged many Kenyans were disappointed but affirmed it was not because of lack of trying.
She said in her statement, “The commission has become party to the current crisis, it is under siege. It has become difficult to attend meetings where commissioners come ready to vote along partisan lines and do not discuss the merit of issues before them. It became difficult to defend positions I do not agree with in the name of collective responsibility.”
What’s more, “Not when in parts of country, the training of presiding officers is being rushed for fear of attacks from protestors. Not when commissioners and staff are intimidated by political actors and protestors and fear for their lives. Not when senior Secretarial staff and commissioners are serving partisan political interests. Not when the commission is saddled with endless legal cases in the courts, and losing most of them. Not when legal advice is skewed to fit partisan political interests.”
Due to this, she said, “The commission in its current state can surely not guarantee a credible election on October 26. I do not want to be party to such a mockery to electoral integrity.”
Despite her resignation, the chairman of IEBC said the election will go on as scheduled. Chebukati praised Akombe’s dedication in her short service in the institution stating she worked tirelessly for the better of the nation. Furthermore, he acknowledged he has been facing a lot of challenges in ensuring the election is carried out in legally manner. One of the difficulties he acknowledged he faces is the lack of agreement among the commissioners. He lamented his decisions were always shot down. Another headache he admitted is the hardliner stances of both Odinga and Kenyatta.
Nonetheless, in his announcement before the public he reiterated he is not going to resign and will see to it that the election runs smoothly. “Resigning would be an easy thing to do but I’m not doing that, I’m putting Kenya first.” He warned the two coalition parties, Jubilee and NASA, against interfering with IEBC mandate and asked those commissioners including IBEC’s CEO Ezra Chiloba to resign since Odinga doesn’t have faith in them. Later, the CEO announced he would go for a three-week leave while another commissioner decided to retire prematurely. In his announcement, Chebukati said, “I shall not go down in history as a returning officer who drove this country into a deeper crisis.” He declared, “I will not allow anyone to destroy this country.”
The international community has appealed the two rivals to sit down and come to an agreement. This, in order to avert possible violence erupting as was witnessed in 2007. However, Odinga has said until his demands are fulfilled he won’t vie for the presidential seat and will boycott the election. On the other side, Uhuru has said he will not hold a meeting with his rival to discuss about politics but he will gladly discuss with his rival about how to bring about peace in the country and ensure the safety of the nation. During Mashujaa (Heroes) Day, October 20, 2017 President Uhuru said his government will not allow people who have ill desires to interfere with the election and anyone who will threaten the voters who will turn out to vote or cause hymen will be dealt with the law.
Raila has made it clear on October 26, NASA together with their supporters will demonstrate. He urged his supporters not to vote during that day. As Akombe and Chebukati noted, their staff, the returning officers fear for their lives in Odinga’s stronghold counties.
Uhuru asked Raila why he doesn’t want people to vote while he withdrew himself from running the presidential seat. He said Odinga should let people exercise their democratic right. It is believed by Jubilee that Odinga wants a coalition government to which in Kiswahili has been termed as ‘mkate nusu,’ that is, ‘half bread.’ Odinga has refused this claim terming it untrue as he is not looking forward to working with Uhuru.
An estimated 67 people have lost their lives during demonstrations, since Uhuru was declared the winner by IEBC, as they were felled down by police according to Amnesty International. The KNHCR (Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights) estimates 37 people have been shot down by police during the peaceful demonstrations from August 9-15 after Uhuru was declared the winner by IEBC. The police have been blamed for using excessive force. The police acknowledged they indeed shot dead four people but investigations have been carried out to determine why the demonstrators were shot dead. Despite this fact, some demonstrators have been involved in vandalizing shops which has been blamed as not being peaceful demonstrations.
On October 26, will voting taking place in a peaceful manner among the voters who will come out to vote in Odinga’s stronghold areas? The police have promised they will offer security for them. Again, after the election what next? The sections of constitution that deals with election have been interpreted differently by individuals, political parties and the courts. After the election, will Uhuru win since Odinga has withdrawn from the race? If yes, what will be the outcome of his victory? If no, it signifies another election will be held next year. During the period before another election is held next year will there still be demonstrations from the NASA’s side? How will the state of the nation be during that period of time?