Image: independent.co.uk

Following the contested outcome of August 8 presidential vote in Kenya, which saw President Uhuru Kenyatta returned for a second term, the Kenya Supreme Court, September 1, nullified the results, and ordered fresh election within 60 days.

The annulment is the first such act in any African country.

The court cited irregularities and illegalities as the basis for the annulment. Kenya’s electoral commission had declared Kenyatta winner with 54 per cent of the vote, outwitting Raila Odinga by 1.4 million votes.

Main challenger, Odinga, with the Kenya Opposition Coalition immediately headed to the Supreme Court to challenge the outcome of the polls for alleged irregularities.

It whould be recalled that tension had heightened 10 days before the Kenyan election when an official in charge of information and communication technology at the electoral commission, Chris Msando, was found dead just outside Nairobi. He went missing July 30.

With President Kenyatta accepting the court’s decision, Kenya again waits with bated breath for a rerun fixed for October 17 this year. Thousands that fled Nairobi either for fear of violence or to vote in their rural areas may yet plan another exodus in the coming weeks.

Indeed, the Kenyan people will be left to bear the brunt. In 2007, post-election violence cost more than 1,500 lives, with over 600,000 displaced in that time after Odinga disputed the election results against Mwai Kibaki, the eventual winner.

The country is still reeling from effects of that uprising. In the midst of it, Kenya has been battling rising terrorism since 2008, during which time the country experienced more than 340 terrorist attacks, with over 1,000 deaths.

Already, the post-election violence of 2017 has seen the death toll pass 20 according to official statistics, with some opposition figures raising the tally to as many as 200.  Cerebral Lemon believes that Kenya’s authorities must spare their people another bouquet of violence. They should not let it seem as if they are blood-thirsty.

And for opposition supporters, they should show maturity. Grievances must not turn violent. No one has heard of any casualties in the immediate families of the main combatants in the election dispute. Yet the political leaders have kept Kenya burning for 11 years of hotly contested elections.

We commend President Kenyatta for having accepted the Supreme Court ruling, much as he voiced his disagreement with the terms of the verdict. By pointing out the need to respect the rule of law and signalling another tortuous, but short campaign route to new election, Kenyatta has displayed democratic sportsmanship uncommon in many political climes.

Kenya may have joined the league of African countries such as Nigeria where democracy is taking root. However, the country needs to keep up the spirit of good contests because the future may just be dire in case the results of the upcoming election becomes yet again disputed.

The dire future is already signalled in the decision of Raila Odinga that his party would not participate in the October rerun. Odinga is asking for legal and constitutional guarantees to participate. He wants everything that went wrong in the former election to be corrected, fearing that the mistakes of the past will be repeated if there were no legal guarantees. His position is made worse by a Supreme Court election annulment, which neither fully disclosed all that went wrong nor blamed Kenyatta for any wrongs.

Since 1992, it has been proven that the problem is not conducting elections in Kenya, but dealing with the results, just as in many other African countries. The opposition, particularly, must learn that challenging every election result through the judiciary, though allowed, may compromise a lot in social stability and national cohesion.

Kenya should watch it as the countdown begins for the October 17 rerun, which, remarkably, means another election expenses after the U.S. $500 million spent for the August 8 elections.

Kenya must deal with an electoral process fraught with distrust, and recurrent pre-and post-election violence. It is on record that it was only the 2002 election that did not witness violence in the five elections Kenya has conducted since 1992, which, along with 1997, 2001, and 2013 were all bloody years in Kenya’s election history.

An electoral process that generates the highest dust once vote count begins means that vote count methods must be reworked. The opposition had alleged that the electronic system for the 2017 vote was compromised.

As one of Africa’s economic giants, Kenya should not acquire the toga for electoral violence. The case of Nigeria has proven that electoral violence begets ethnic tensions, insurgency, militancy and political upheavals.

For Kenya’s political leaders, time to consider country above self is now. The country, in addition, should revisit the age of contestants. Five presidential contestants since 1992 have been above 70 years. As such, such contestants become desperate when they lose because they think that age may not allow them to contest in the future. At present, Raila Odinga, 72, having contested three times in the past may not be strong enough to go two times or once if he allows Kenyatta to do a second five-year term.

Again, Kenya’s election is touted to be overly costly. Apart from the U.S. $500 million spent by the Kenyan government to conduct the last elections, political campaigns also cost nearly U.S. $480 million, making Kenya’s campaigns cost more per person than the U.S. election campaigns, according to a report by The Economist.

East Africa cannot afford another unrest in Kenya. The coastal port city of Mombasa remains a succour to South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which are landlocked.

“South Sudan is at the mercy of the elections in Kenya. It will pay the heaviest price in terms of imports and its banking sector if the elections are not trouble-free,” according to an economist at the Nairobi University.

Kenya’s economy is worth U.S. $60 billion. The country is the second largest economy in East Africa, beaten to that position only in 2014 by Ethiopia. Africa cannot afford to risk one of its virile economic players in an age when the continent faces dire future, with hunger, terrorism, humanitarian crisis, wars and ethnic tensions already troubling many African countries.

Author: Cerebral Lemon