Out of the blue,I decided to take some time off and recharge.The charged political atmosphere in the past three or so months didn’t help.The good news is that your favourite political and governance blog is back…and of course,hard-hitting,straight-talking…and controversial as always!No airbags!!!
The past month has seen our TV screens inundated with hoards of political scientists and scholars,lawyers and former and current politicians all trying to make sense of the Kenyan political landscape.The media calls them political analysts.Throughout some of these incredibly boring sessions and exchanges,these learned guests openly froth at the sides of their mouths,with droplets of saliva sometimes landing on adjacent ‘partners-in-crime’ and moderators,who are themselves too politically inclined to play their roles properly.
Watching some of these debates,one soon realises that these supposedly informed panelists are detached from reality.Most of them make erratic comments with regards to electorate patterns on the ground,ostensibly to please their paymasters and fatten their bank accounts.Recent election results from various constituencies throughout the republic show a marked deviation from their much-hyped pre-election projections,further proof of their lack of information on the dynamics of grassroots voting patterns.
Understanding Kenyan politics is not nuclear physics.One doesn’t have to be a high-flying lawyer,current or former politician,or political scientist-whatever that is-to understand its dynamics.It’s never issue-based.It’s tribal-based,with many Kenyans opting to elect individuals likely to tow party lines as opposed to development-conscious independent candidates.Trying to paint Kenyan politics in different light-something political analysts want us to believe-is Utopian.
Equally to blame are television hosts who appear either ill-prepared or unwilling to subject the analysts to issue-based and tough questioning.Some media houses are said to lean towards particular coalitions and consequently some hosts,under instructions from their bosses and media owners,stay clear of controversial and tough issues which may put their ‘financiers’ in awkward situations when replying to these querries.
Which goes a long way to explaining why hosts and analysts,especially those aligned to Jubilee,have been preaching peace in the run-up to this year’s election.Evidently,history has shown that peace is a by-product of justice and fairness,a line of thinking exhibited by moderators and panelists with leanings towards the NASA coalition.In other words,most of the debates we’ve been treated to during this election period had everything to do with the two main antagonists in the electoral process,and very little to do with the actual understanding of the Kenyan voting dynamics.
The jury is still out on the Kenyan media’s coverage of the 2017 election,but with only the petition challenging the announcement of Uhuru Kenyatta as president the only immediate distraction,critics have yet again cast aspersions on the competence of leading Kenyan media outlets in relation to election and post-election coverage.
The election is over.The victors are still savouring the morsels of their unexpected first round victory in an election hugely seen as successful,free and fair by observers but contested by the opposition,who strongly feel they were rigged out.Riots as a result of IEBC’s announcement of Uhuru Kenyatta as the outright winner have largely been contained.Businesses are slowly opening their doors.Life is returning to normal levels in most places.Kenyans have accepted to move on.
The pertinent question on the minds of most Kenyans is:What does the political future hold for this country?What will be the next step taken by NASA and its six principals,especially Raila Odinga?Regardless of their next step,the fact is the just concluded elections have left Kenyans more divided and polarised than ever.A good number of my friends and colleagues have already implied they will never vote again in future elections,and with good reason.From what I gather,future voting patterns have been greatly affected by this year’s election.Unless there’s a paradigm shift in how presidential candidates are selected,future presidents could end up being elected by one or two regions,with the others opting to stay out of the process altogether or being passive participants.
The concept of ‘negotiated democracy’ may appear far-fetched and unrealistic at the moment.The amount of legal and constitutional hurdles it may have to overcome for it to become practical are enormous.But at the moment,however remote it may seem,the it appears the only sensible way of ensuring the long-term unity and cohesiveness of Kenya.
In societies where it’s practised,negotiated democracy has played a central role in reducing discontent among the subjects while ensuring continued unity.In Kenya,regions in the former North Eastern province have engaged in the practice for a long time,with desirable and fulfilling results.The various clans normally ‘share’ elective positions within a given constituency or county,the outcome being adequate representation of each region in county and national government and,consequently,guaranteed feeling of inclusiveness and minimal discontent among the electorate.
Since Kenya’s independence,there have been four presidents.Three of those have come from the Kikuyu tribe(in fact, half of them have come from the Kenyatta family).Only Moi’s 24 years in power interrupted Central Kenya’s domination of the top seat(Moi comes from the populous Rift Valley).These damning statistics show a clear and blatant sidelining of other regions in so far as producing Kenya’s president(s) is concerned.
It’s a poorly kept secret that forces both within and outside successive governments in Kenya have repeatedly conspired to prevent Raila Odinga(who comes from Western Kenya)from ascending to the presidency.Reasons for this remain clear,but speculations abound that some forces have always been uncomfortable with his radical approach to economic and political reforms.Until he lost his latest attempt at the top seat,Raila seemed the only candidate capable of taking the presidency to Western Kenya.His defeat and possible retirement from politics,coupled by Jubilee’s already concrete succession plan and resignation and apathy among NASA supporters,makes it highly possible that Rift Valley will produce Kenya’s fifth president.
Of more concern is the growing feeling among most Kenyan voters,especially from tribes other than the Kalenjin and Agikuyu,that the presidency is a preserve of two regions(and communities).The only plausible and long-term remedy appears the eventual adoption of negotiated democracy in the selection of presidential candidates,with each region having an opportunity to have one of their own as a frontrunner at some point ala the World Cup.This will certainly go a long way towards promoting national cohesion and integration.
Concentrating power on two communities,something the present political arrangement appears content with,is courting disaster.
I am a NASA supporter and a sworn admirer of its presidential candidate in the just concluded(or is it ongoing?)election in Kenya,Raila Odinga.Admitting that from the outset is important,especially now that a good part of my article is going to adversely portray him and his co-principals in very bad light.To the common eye,I may appear to be a Jubilee sympathiser.Nothing could be further from the truth.
It comes a time when reality,common sense and national good reigns supreme over political fanaticism and wanton populism.The figures being bandied about by NASA as the actual presidential results lack credibility and cannot meet the threshold of any legal case.Asking,nay,demanding that IEBC announce Raila as the duly elected fifth president of Kenya is ill-advised and touches on the fringes of treason.Watching their press conference yesterday,the NASA brigade stopped short of declaring Raila president-elect.
Various observer missions have given their preliminary reports on the conduct of this year’s election:by all indications,the electoral process was largely free and credible.The transmission of results,though inconsistent,has met the constitutional and judicial threshold.The opposition’s allegations that the IEBC transmission system was hacked are unsubstantiated thus far.To an independent and neutral observer,it appears NASA are clutching at straws while sinking fast,a seriously futile and feeble attempt.
The palpable tension in the country at the moment can be partly attributed to IEBC’s delay in announcing results,but hugely because of NASA’s expected rejection of the final presidential tally and call for ‘mass action’.The rhetoric throughout the campaign period and during their last two press briefings has inevitably prepared their legion of supporters to reject election results by pointing fingers at the IEBC and interference by Jubilee operatives in the whole electoral process.
At the moment,all eyes are on the IEBC.Let them do the tallying,announce the results.Any grievances-and they’re many-must then be channelled through the right corridors.Declaring themselves outright winners,like they’re purpoting to do,amounts to high treason.
I watched Raila’s press conference this morning with palpable trepidation.The old man looked shaken,tired and beaten.He seems to have taken what now appears his fourth defeat in as many presidential elections as an affront on his integrity and person.Not even the availability of James Orengo,one of his most trusted lieutenants and staunch supporters,seemed to cheer him up.His co-principals looked equally ashen.Their demeanour seemed to suggest they know their goose is cooked.This election is lost.Their political futures are at stake.For Raila,his political journey is almost certainly over unless another unlikely political miracle happens in the near future.For his co-principals,the political future looks even more bleak as they retreat to leak their wounds and reconsider their political alignments or risk political oblivion altogether.
Isaac Ruto’s decision to jump the Jubilee ship,form his own political outfit and wage a war against William Ruto in the greater Rift Valley now appears not only foolish but also ill-advised.Not only has he suffered the ignominy of losing the Bomet gubernatorial race to Joyce Laboso,he’s not going to be a powerful Cabinet Secretary in the much anticipated NASA government.Charting his next course of action is definitely going to give him sleepless nights and continuous migraines.He’s definitely not welcome in Jubilee.He’ll have to go into hibernation for a few weeks,maybe months,to clear his head.South Africa will be a welcome destination.
Moses Wetangulan seems to have had a softer landing.At least he’ll still be representing his people of Bungoma in the Senate,from where he’ll probably make inroads into the Jubilee networks.His Ford Kenya party probably has a handful of MPs and MCAs to give him leverage in the negotiations.He was shrewd enough to acknowledge the fact that NASA was probably going to lose-either fairly or unfairly-and therefore made contigency plans to safeguard his political future in the short-term.Simply put,he couldn’t afford to have all his eggs in one basket.
What next for Raila?
The man popularly and fondly known as Baba by his legion of supporters has dominated Kenyan politics for a good part of the last three decades.He has had a stab at the presidency on four occasions,coming agonisingly close in the last three.In his early seventies,he knows retirement is nigh.Kenyan politics will be poorer without this flamboyant and charismatic crowd-mover famed for his use of vitendawili to arouse the crowds and antagonize his political foes.He’ll possibly retire to his rural home of Bondo or leafy suburb of Karen from where he will take a passive role as ODM party leader and unofficial opposition leader,helping mentor the current and next crop of opposition politicians.Knowing him as I do,it’s definitely not his end in Kenyan politics.He’s bound to spring a surprise or two,even in retirement.It’s not without reason that his Luo kinsfolk liken him to a mysterious spirit.
Tough choices for Kalonzo,Mudavadi
The fallout from the 2017 polls is going to have adverse-and probably fatal-implications on the immediate and long-term political futures of Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi.They’ll probably feel the pain of the coming NASA defeat more than any other NASA principal.They are staring at political oblivion.Both shelved their own serious presidential ambitions and threw their weight behind Raila Odinga,a promise of plum Cabinet positions proving too appetising.Evidently,the possibility of a NASA loss didn’t appear remotely possible,hence their failure to have a contigency plan ala Wetangula in case of a loss.Both are relatively young and have still got long political careers.Which explains why their next course of action is vital to securing their political futures and relevance.
Forming a formidable opposition coalition against Jubilee while working together to challenge William Ruto in 2022 looks to be the most-if not only-sensible option.Taking a sabbatical from politics while taking stock of their options is viable in the present circumstances.Both will want to re-assert their influence on their tribes,an area that has evidently suffered a huge dent if ongoing voting statistics from their perceived stronghold ïareas are to be believed.Managing and controlling the tide of discontent and feeling of outright deja vu among their hitherto loyal supporters will be key to securing their relevance in the ever dynamic Kenyan political landscape.
The Canaan dream lives on.
DISCLAIMER:The writer is a staunch supporter of NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga.The sentiments herein are not meant to ridicule or antagonise the NASA principals and/or their supporters.Mine is just an honest,personal opinion.
The die has been cast.Every man and his dog knows Uhuruto are living through their last days in office.Even the most ardent Jubilee supporter will admit to being extremely jittery as Tuesday 8th approaches.Wherever you go,Kenyans are talking about the journey to Canaan-in reference to NASA’s popular campaign mantra to deliver Kenyans from ‘slavery’ largely brought about by Jubilee’s five years in power.
Forget the public show of might by owing to the massive resources at their disposal.Forget the wanton chest-thumping by the president and his deputy.Forget the supposedly huge and enthusiastic supporters attending their rallies.The unavoidable truth is Jubilee will be an opposition outfit by close of business on Wednesday.
In the run-up to this year’s election,Jubilee’s top guns,epitomised by the Deputy President,confidently predicted an easy run if the opposition picked on Raila as its flagbearer.Ruto is on record saying they would go on holiday.Their campaign statistics portray a totally different picture.They have been criss-crossing the country wooing voters and dishing out goodies in a clearly laid out scheme to reign in disenfranchised supporters.Where is the holiday Ruto talked about?
At some point,Jubilee prayed and believed there will be a fallout during the process to choose a flagbearer to face Uhuru.With Mudavadi and Kalonzo harbouring serious presidential ambitions,the odds were on at least one of them bolting from the opposition and run on his own,consequently splitting opposition votes.Against all odds,the NASA brigade has stuck together to form a formidable force against the incumbent leadership.
Voter dynamics and demographics have greatly changed since 2013.Regions that overwhelmingly voted for Uhuru in 2013 have either partly or wholly warmed to NASA.The ‘Tyranny of Numbers’,a key propaganda tool favouring Jubilee in 2013,no longer appears feasible.In fact,the latest research on expected voter turnout hugely favours NASA.Additionally,the ICC issue,such a thorny and divisive matter prior to the 2013 poll,is no longer part of the equation.
Key among the reasons why Kenyans wouldn’t want another five years of Jubilee is their failure to live to their pre-election manifesto.It’s a poorly kept secret that Jubilee failed to implement even half of their 2013 pre-election pledges.That they even went ahead to launch another manifesto in the run-up to this year’s election beggars on belief.Simply put,Kenyans cannot again trust Uhuruto with their future.
The quality of life under Jubilee has deteriorated under Uhuruto’s watch.The prices of basic commodities have steadily skyrocketted over the past five years,with unga and sugar particularly hit.The rate of inflation has hit a long-time high due to poor economic policies.Uncontrolled and unnecessary borrowing has more than tripled the public debt in the past five years.Corruption cartels have thrived under the current regime with little or no action taken against the major beneficiaries.Tribalism,so much ingrained in the Kibaki administration,has found more fertilizer to thrive in Uhuruto’s government.
All factors considered,Kenya will be better off without Uhuruto at the helm,my affiliation to NASA notwithstanding.And as it stands,Kenyans will have their way on August 8th,with Uhuruto jobless by the evening of Wednesday 9th.At the moment,with free and fair elections,they don’t stand a chance against NASA.
- All the noises from the opposition outfit NASA point to a supposedly active plot by Jubilee,working in cohorts with IEBC insiders,organs of national security and other senior state officials to tilt the forthcoming election in favour of Uhuruto.At this moment in time,all this can be considered nonsense.But previous occurrences surrounding Kenyan electoral processes have taught us that it’s foolhardy,almost suicidal,to just sweep some of these concerns under the carpet.Which brings us to the question:At what point do we start taking these whinings seriously?What are the unmissable pointers of a sham election?
- Theoretically,Kenya is considered a leading democracy in Africa,and rightly (or wrongly)so.By African standards,we probably deserve that accolade.Despite some questionable election results since the advent of multiparty democracy in ’92,polls have largely been successful and credible,with the notable exception being 2007.
- Contrary to popular culture in developing democracies,the electoral process begins long before the actual polling day.As a matter of fact,events preceding the actual voting process are as important as polling itself.Which explains why the body in charge of organising elections must meticulously engage all parties to the electoral process in a bid to get its act together.Failure to do this can have far-reaching and sometimes catastrophic consequences.
- Successive electoral commissions in Kenya have repeatedly appeared ill-prepared and disorganized in the run-up to potentially huge elections.Key commissioners have sometimes been accused of leaning towards particular parties or coalition outfits.The Chickengate Scandal is still fresh in Kenyans’ minds.The opposition’s clamour to have the immediate former IEBC officials vacate office was partly informed by the scandal.
- The electoral body has also closed its eyes to the incumbent government’s continued use and misuse of public resources to campaign for re-election.In carefully choreographed moves,the president and his deputy have been criss-crossing the country dishing out endless goodies,a move clearly aimed at influencing voters.This is especially so in perceived NASA strongholds and areas considered battlegrounds.Cabinet Secretaries and other senior civil servants have also been rumoured as being under instructions to blow the Jubilee trumpet.This is not only unfair,but also intolerable under the letter of the 2010 election.
- Politicians from both political divides have repeatedly been accused of blatant voter bribery through issuance of handouts.Social media is awash with photos and videos of aspirants dishing out wads of notes to constituents,yet the commission has done very little to address this vice.
- It is a poorly kept secret that Kenyans are emigrating en masse from around major urban centres to their ‘homes’,obviously with the events of 2007-2008 fresh in their minds.The IEBC has nothing to do with this,but obviously fear and lack of security hampers Kenyans’ ability to vote and consequently interferes with credible elections.A spot check in various bus stations across Kenya’s three cities shows a worrying trend of upcountry travellers.
- The threshold for a free,fair and credible election is so high.When all the aforementioned factors are considered,the inevitable outcome is that even before a ball is kicked,the electoral process,in its entirety,has already been tampered with.Consequently,putting up a case for a credible election post-election may prove a tall order even for the Muites,Orengos,Ngatias and Githus of this country.To put it plainly,the ground has been set for a bruising court battle between Jubilee and NASA regardless of who carries the day on August 8th.