24 September 2017

East Africa: Kenya, Uganda Electoral 'Unrest' Bad for EAC Risk Profile

opinion

There is an electoral squabble in Kenya following an annulled presidential poll, and a constitutional dispute in Uganda over attempts to remove an age-limit clause on the presidency; these two cases will hike the region's risk profile if not amicably resolved.

A risk profile is an evaluation of threats to which a country or region is exposed and is an important aspect when international developers are determining investment destinations.

Following his unprecedented court victory that overturned President Uhuru Kenyatta's earlier triumph in the August 8 polls, Raila Odinga is expected by some, to win (assuming the things he claims to have blocked his earlier win, are stopped in the fresh run).

But in spite of the poll irregularities that informed Kenya Supreme Court's decision to nullify the election results, there is no doubt in my mind that Uhuru Kenyatta is still more popular among Kenyan voters than his rival; I also strongly believe that Mr. Odinga is well aware of this fact.

And knowing that victory is beyond him, albeit the public's high expectation in him to win the next election, Raila Odinga appears to have decided to be an 'itching opponent' to either delay his own defeat and Kenyatta's victory or create believable excuse for his impending 2nd loss.

It is in this context that I view the decision, last week, to postpone to October 26, the fresh election which had earlier been scheduled for a week earlier, in order to 'address electoral process anomalies' that Mr. Odinga cited as having thwarted his victory in the annulled polls.

Raila Odinga's resolve to pursue a near perfect environment of electoral democracy in Kenya will benefit the next opposition candidate, a good thing, for a man who says he's fighting for national not personal gains.

Therefore, at the risk of embarrassing myself (with a wrong prediction), I state it here that after everything is done; Mr. Odinga will surely be defeated by Mr. Kenyatta, in the next election. That victory will be disputed too, by the twice-in-a year losers but court may not be an avenue.

On the other side, Kenyatta's supporters will be in a chest thumping mood, and unless he reins them in, they could easily provoke an already angry Raila side into hitting back effectively recreating the 2007 post-election violence that claimed 1200 lives and halted regional trade.

Kenya being the heartbeat of EAC trade, no one wishes for a new wave of violence in 2017. However, unless Kenyan leaders on both sides of the divide recognize the role of their country in the region's welfare, then the region's risk profile will be hiked.

For this article, I talked to a couple of resort hotels on the coast of Mombasa and word I got is that the books are suffering from canceled bookings as prospective tourists choose to change destination. This obviously doesn't only affect Kenya; it also affects Rwanda and Uganda under the single Visa arrangement.

Talking about Uganda, attention there is already on planning for the next election not generation. This week, we watched dismaying news footage as members of parliament in that country turned chambers of elite conversation into a street boxing platform.

Rather than forge national consensus through sane debating guided by rules of parliament, the ruling party and opposition resorted to fist fights, surrendering reason to energy leaving the future of Ugandan politics in a messy quagmire.

Uganda's next Presidential election is scheduled for 2021 and the ruling NRM party would love to have its Chairman President Yoweri Kaguta on the ballot because of his talent at defeating the opposition's perennial candidate (s).

Unfortunately, under the current constitution, no one above the age of 75 can stand for presidency; Museveni is 73 years old now. By removing the age-limit from the constitution, Museveni would be eligible to stand on NRM ticket.

That would almost certainly mean defeat to the next opposition candidate. The opposition dreads this prospect and is determined to see Museveni removed from the electoral cycle to improve their chances of dethroning the current ruling party.

So on one side, there is the opposition 'Togyikwatako' which means 'don't touch the constitution; on the other is 'Tugyikwatako' meaning we shall touch it.

Ugandan voters including those known to be hitherto apolitical and largely lumpenprolitariates have jumped in to join either sides and a fight which should have been confined to parliament is now fast spreading to the countryside with street demonstrations and attacks on police reported.

These electoral related disputes in Kenya and Uganda are in addition to others ongoing in South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi; only Tanzania and Rwanda appear to be calm and stable. As it is Sunday, place the region's peace and stability on your prayer list.

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