17 July 2017

Kenya: Things Seem to Be Getting Out of Hand With Unpredictable Poll

Photo: Jared Nyataya/Nation
Members of the public during a peace walk in Eldoret town, flagged off by Ainabkoi Deputy County Commissioner Nobert Komora, who called on youths not to be used to cause chaos during the electioneering period.

This July is beginning to feel a lot like August for most Kenyans, who tend to associate the latter with disasters.

The first coup attempt in Kenya took place on August 1, 1982.

August is also the month that Al-Qaeda chose to attack the United States Embassy in Nairobi in 1998, which killed more than 200 people.

Many top politicians, including former Vice-President Kijana Wamalwa have taken their last breath in August, either because of illness or an accident.

The first two weeks of July have been particularly nerve-wracking.


Just a month before the elections (which will also take place in August and which are already showing signs of disarray), the Cabinet Secretary for Internal Security, Major-General (rtd) Joseph Nkaissery, whose no-nonsense leadership style was both admired and criticised, passed away.

CS Nkaissery died within a few days of the deaths of three other prominent personalities - G.G. Kariuki, Nicholas Biwott and Bethwel Kiplagat.

Nkaissery's sudden death has created uncertainty about the country's security as it approaches an election.

As if this is not bad enough, Al-Shabaab militants have resurfaced in Lamu County and have murdered several villagers.


So terrorism is another thing that Kenyans will be worrying about, along with the prospect of a violent election.

To make matters even more unpredictable, just three weeks before the elections, the High Court ruled that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission would need to re-issue a tender for the printing of presidential ballot papers as the awarding of the tender to a Dubai-based firm had not followed due process.

President Uhuru Kenyatta waded into the controversy by claiming that the Judiciary was biased in favour of the opposition, which prompted the Chief Justice to issue a statement on the impartiality of Kenya's Judiciary.

The IEBC has appealed the High Court decision, which could mean that the August elections might be postponed.


Meanwhile, on social media, propagandists are beating the drums of war and having a field day demonising their opponents.

One sensationalistic video is even predicting an apocalyptic future of mass starvation under a Raila Odinga presidency.

(A woman I met recently told me that her relatives in central Kenya are convinced that if Odinga wins the elections, all Kikuyus will be forced to wear shorts! She has been unable to convince them otherwise, which makes me wonder just how gullible Kenyans are.)

All these developments do not augur well for the country.


There is a sense that things are getting out of hand; that laws and court judgments can be broken or ignored at will and that the institutions that we should be relying on for stability, continuity, predictability -- and sanity -- have been compromised or are hopelessly inefficient and ineffective.

The international media are keenly watching the pre-election climate in the country.

An article in Bloomberg stated: "Less than a month before Kenyans are due to go to the polls, electoral authorities are behind on everything from printing ballot papers to finalising the voter list.

That risks a disputed outcome and unrest, a decade after post-election violence engulfed the East African nation."


I personally believe, and hope, that widespread violence will not occur.

I think violence has become unpalatable to the majority of Kenyans who learned in 2007/2008 that it is only the poor who are killed, maimed or displaced when there is political violence, while the leaders who marshal their troops to battle sit comfortably in their mansions, watching the mayhem on television.

I am not advocating peace for peace's sake; peace without justice is just forced silence. But violence for violence's sake is just madness.


In 2008, when the post-election violence had destroyed several communities, and before the signing of the peace accord that brought Mwai Kibaki and Odinga together in a coalition government, I wrote about people in Nairobi's slums "sleeping with their clothes and shoes on" in case they were attacked.

I also wrote about a woman who had been raped "in revenge for the Kiambaa church killings" by two men, who not only impregnated her, but also infected her with HIV, and about an unarmed protester in Kisumu who was killed in cold blood by a policeman.

These horrific events took place some 10 years ago. I pray that nobody will experience or will be writing about similar incidents after the August 8 elections.


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