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kenyaGeneral assumption is that the deliberate support of international powerhouses has prompted the pro-Kenyatta lobbies to insolently change the electoral goalposts midway. One wonders whether the votes of millions of Kenyans really matter when it needs to matter the most, says Qureish Raghib

Qureish Raghib
Qureish Raghib


Indian political thinker Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s book ‘The Burden of Democracy’ is aptly titled in the context of the present electoral impasse that prevails in Kenya.  It is a nation pregnant with political ambiguity.

The magnitude of the perilous situation that prevail in Kenya can be gauged by a joint statement released three days prior to the presidential re-elections by Ambassador and High Commissioners in Nairobi stating, “Unfortunately, the deteriorating political environment is undermining preparations for the new presidential election.” Earlier, in its September 1 historic judgment, the Supreme Court of Kenya declared, “We find that the 2017 presidential election was neither transparent nor verifiable.” This statement sent chills down the spines of mwanachi (local Kenyans).  A repeat scenario of the gory 2007 elections now looms ahead on the aftermath of the recently annulled presidential elections. The Court strongly reprimanded the officials of the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission (IEBC) which is responsible to organise and hold elections in Kenya and held it responsible for the most expensive botched up elections.

To add insult to injury, lawmakers soon got engaged in a parliamentary coup to hurriedly pass the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2017 in the absence of the opposition members. The controversial Bill is designed to lawfully undertake illegalities that serve partisan interests of the ruling coalition Democratic Party led by President Uhuru Kenyatta. Foreign representatives and policy advisers have strongly cautioned the President on passing the Bill.

The repeat poll directed by the apex court of Kenya seems irrelevant as the constitutionally recognised IEBC is rendered compromised and is in a state of utter disarray.  While some of its top officials have been forced to go on leave, one commissioner has fled the country and tendered resignation from abroad citing frustration and personal security concern. The Chairman of the deeply divided Commission has declared the scheduled 26 October re-poll to be in jeopardy as it finds itself stuck in a political crossfire between the opposition and the ruling coalition.

The political standoff instigated by NASA, the opposition led by its presidential candidate Raila Odinga has attracted the attention of international institutes and governments. He has openly questioned the deliberate silence of Kenya’s long standing allies, the US and UK on the present political impasse.  The ironical fact however is, Kenya is an intercontinental hub that has a diverse set of stakeholders. The paralysis has far-reaching ramifications.

Ignoring the grave discrepancies in the elections, world leaders were quick to congratulate President Kenyatta on his ‘victory’ that was nullified by the Supreme Court of Kenya. Their messages manifested the substantial goodwill invested in him. President Xi Jinping of China stated, “During your participation in the Road and Belt Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing last May, we had an in depth exchange of views on the development of bilateral relations and reached extensive consensus. The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu called Kenyatta to felicitate and pledged to facilitate the continuation of cooperation in agriculture and security solutions. The Jewish state has since a year, been trying to push Kenyatta to back Israel’s bid to be granted an observer status at the African Union. According to political strategists, the devastating truck-bomb blast in neighbouring Somalia was tactfully timed to demonstrate to the new Kenyan leadership to cooperate and acknowledge the need and legitimacy of the presence of foreign forces in East Africa. The US African Command revealed that the charge d’affaires with the US Mission to Somalia “declared that this disaster meets the criteria to warrant immediate US government assistance” because of the widespread damage caused in the blast.

General assumption is that the deliberate support of international powerhouses has prompted the pro-Kenyatta lobbies to insolently change the electoral goalposts midway. One wonders whether the votes of millions of Kenyans really matter when it needs to matter the most.

Nevertheless, both politicians and the masses make strange bedfellows. The fact of the matter is that majority of the Kenyans who voted for or against President Kenyatta, currently prefer him as a leader. This is largely because of his opponent’s uncertain game plan and doggedness. Voters read Raila Odinga’s sudden withdrawal from the fresh elections as a guerrilla tactic to threaten chaos to push Kenyatta to negotiate. Political pundits point that his withdrawal from the election race is a bid to allow him to maintain his legacy as a veteran political fighter; and for having initiated the historic Supreme Court ruling of nullifying a rigged presidential election- a scenario exceedingly new in the African continent.

On a larger canvas, Odinga’s failure to institute comprehensive democratic and constitutional reforms has cost him the patronage of moderates, hawks, doves and leftists. It has substantially deteriorated his political goodwill and the confidence of his supporters and sponsors, making his desire to be a resident at the State House even more implausible.

QUREISH RAGHIB is a communications consultant and commentator on international affairs.

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