The Kenyan Elections: A New Dawn

August 15, 2022, characterized a new and notable phase in the history of Kenya. On this day, the winner of the four-man presidential race election was announced following a tight contest between the former prime minister, Mr. Raila Amollo Odinga of the Azimio La Umoja coalition (Aspiration of unity coalition) and the current deputy president, Dr. William Samoei Ruto of the Kenya Kwanza coalition (Kenya First coalition). The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairperson, Mr. Wafula Chebukati declared Dr. William Samoei Ruto as the president-elect with 7,176,141 votes representing 50.49 per cent of the final vote, closely followed by his rival, Mr. Odinga who garnered 6,942,930 votes, representing 48.85 per cent of the total tally. The other two candidates, George Wajakoyah and David Mwaure attained 0.44% and 0.23%, respectively. However, the decision to announce the result was made without a unanimous decision from all the commissioners. Four of the seven commissioners led by Vice Chair Juliana Cherera disputed the results minutes before the anxiously awaited announcement, alluding to the lack of transparency in the last phase of the electoral process. The four commissioners left the national tally center amidst chaos and held a press conference at the Serena hotel terming the last phase of the process as “opaque in nature” and promised to issue a detailed statement soon. Today, the four commissioners released a press statement questioning the summation variance of the tally percentages and accusing the commission chairperson of lacking collegiality and making a dictatorial decision to announce unverified results, hence unconstitutional. They claim not to have been involved in verifying results from at least 20 constituencies and cannot take ownership of the final presidential tally announced. The split in the IEBC commission points to an election petition in court to challenge the outcome. Their statement has been followed by a press address from Mr. Raila Amolo Odinga who termed the results null and void, promising to challenge the decision at the supreme court. The Azimio La Umoja coalition, led by Mr. Odinga, has 7 days to file an electoral petition, which should be determined within 14 days. If successful, the country should hold another election within 60 days.

This is the fifth time Mr. Odinga, of the Azimio coalition and party leader of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), is running for a presidential election and the second time he has challenged an election outcome in court. On the other hand, this is the first time Dr. Ruto, aged 55 years, of the Kenya Kwanza coalition and leader of the United Democratic Movement (UDA) is running for a presidential election. Dr. Ruto had a fall out with his boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta, during the second term of their government, leading to the infamous March 2018 “handshake” between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr. Raila Odinga. The events of their fallout led to a divided government, leaving Dr. Ruto with limited opportunities to participate in key government decisions, hence a ceremonious deputy president. Yesterday, in his acceptance speech, the president-elect, Dr. William Ruto, assured the country that he will work to unite the country and insisted that there is no time for revenge. He called upon those who has wronged him to pull efforts together toward a united country. He also revealed that, prior to the announcement, he made a morning phone call to Mr. Odinga offering to have a cup of tea with him, and Mr. Odinga expressed his willingness to shake hands irrespective of the election outcome. This sends out a positive message to both their supporters, implying goodwill and openness to working together in the interest of the country. Mr. Odinga has not confirmed any of the revelations by Dr. Ruto in his press statement today.
Supporters of Mr. Odinga in one of his strongholds, Kisumu, yesterday organized a protest to disprove the results shortly after Dr. Ruto was announced as the president-elect. They believe that votes were stolen and that the election was not free and fair, terming the results null and void. The police dispersed the protesters shortly after they started, and up to now, there have been no cases of violence reported. In Nairobi, an electoral officer in charge of the Embakasi East electoral station was found dead in a ranch on Monday after he went missing under unclear circumstances last Thursday. No one has been brought to account for the incident yet.
Unlike the previous elections dominated by ethnicity and violence, this election introduced Kenya to a progressive presidential race conversation supported by issues of national interest, including inclusivity, peacebuilding, youth and women’s participation in politics, and economic models for development and growth, among others. Dr. Ruto, born of small-scale farmers in the rift valley, epitomizes the lives of many poor Kenyans, while Mr. Odinga, born of the first vice president of Kenya, personifies the sons of the wealthy Kenyan elite. While Mr. Odinga portrays himself as a fighter against corruption and institutional reform, Dr. Ruto presents himself as a champion of the poor through advocating economic policies that target the low social class and small business economies, popularly known as the bottom-up economy. While Mr. Odinga chose a female running mate, depicting himself as a champion for gender equality, Dr. Ruto emphasized his campaigns on job creation through skills development for the youth, positioning himself as a champion for the youth. He also promised to support talent development, especially in sports, by building more social amenities in the country, including stadiums. On the 27th of June 2022, Dr. Ruto signed a youth charter that contained key issues from the youth that he promised to address when elected president. However, Dr. Ruto and his running mate, Rigathi Gachagua have been implicated in corruption scandals, and Dr. Ruto has been pointed out for issuing empty promises in his previous campaigns with President Uhuru Kenyatta. He has also been criticized for plunging the country into a debt trap while serving as deputy president. The Kenya kwanza coalition manifesto has been criticized for lacking clarity on how they are going to deal with corruption and for lacking a commitment to prosecute those in their camp linked to graft cases.
An audit report presented by the IEBC chairman, Wafula Chebukati shows the number of registered youths aged 18-34 years old stands at 39.84 per cent, representing a 5.27 per cent decline compared to the 2017 election. Further analysis of youth enrollment statistics shows a decline in the number of registered female voters by 7.75 per cent between 2017 and 2022. According to the 2019 Population and Census results, 75% of the Kenyan population is under the age of 35 years, translating to a current projection of about 41.2 million youth. The youth aged 18–34 constitute about 25% of the population, translating to around 13.8 million youth eligible to vote, but only 8.7 million youth were registered in the recently concluded election with a turnout of 64.3%. The declining number of young people and women participating in voting during elections raises serious concerns about the future of their involvement in political decision-making and the trajectory of democracy in Kenya. Voter apathy has consistently been pointed out as one major cause of the declining voter participation in elections, while a section of the youth insist that casting a vote does not translate to the desired change they want to see in government. Even then, this election has witnessed an increase in the number of women and youth in elective positions, signalling hope when it comes to decision-making.
By Wycliff Guguni Nyabade, Kectil Board Member.