Kenya is an important country in East Africa. It has astounding beauty, the “Big 5” animals, wonderful artistry, borders Lake Victoria, and has Mt. Kenya. Kenya has opened its arms as a safe area for refugees from Sudan and Somalia. In fact, it hosts the biggest refugee camp in the world (“Dadaab”, established by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, with almost 250,000 people), for which the world owes Kenya a debt of gratitude. It also has challenging poverty, including the largest urban slum in Africa, Kibera, outside Nairobi with almost one million people. And, as with many developing countries, it has political challenges steeped in poverty, tribalism and corruption. And the median age in Kenya is only 19 years old, with 42% of the population younger than 14.
Kenya was a colony of Great Britain from 1888 until 1962. After World War II, Britain announced the policy to disengage from its colonies as they were too expensive to maintain. Kenya was gifted its independence in 1963. Tribalism in Kenya dates back to the colonial era. The British used the divide and conquer method of governing. For years they played one tribal community against the other, in particular, the Kikuyus against the Luos, who in total they considered a threat owing to their big numbers. Fifty-four years after independence, tribalism and ethnicity are the norm.
Kenya has a total of 43 tribes and a population of 46 million people. According to Kenya’s National Bureau of Statistics, the largest native ethnic groups are the Kikuyu (6,622,576), the Luhya (5,338,666), the Kalenjin (4,967,328), the Luo (4,044,440) and the Kamba (3,893,157).
Since independence in 1963, only two tribes have ruled Kenya, the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin. Jomo Kenyatta, a Kikuyu, was the first President of independent Kenya and in power for 16 years until his death. President Daniel Torotich Arap Moi, a Kalenjin, succeeded President Jomo Kenyatta and ruled Kenya for 24 years until 2003. The NARC coalition ousted Moi from power, and supported President Mwai Kibaki, another Kikuyu, who ruled for 10 years until 2013. Jomo Kenyatta’s son, Uhuru Kenyatta, a Kikuyu, succeeded President Kibaki and is currently the incumbent President.
Elections in Kenya have been mired in controversy. After the 2007 election, President Kenyatta was accused of post-election violence by the International Criminal Court at The Hague, after about 1,200 people were killed and 600,000 displaced. The ICC dropped the charge because the Kenyan government, that President Kenyatta led, refused to cooperate and produce documents, and certain witnesses were killed.
2017 Suspected Election Fraud
Debate and controversy again centered around the Kenyan election on August 8, 2017. And once again, ethnicity, tribalism, and rumors of corruption and vote rigging played a major role.
The country witnessed the brutal murder of Christopher Msando, the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Manager of the election commission who was tasked with overseeing the country’s crucial electronic voting system. Msando had just assured Kenyans that the elections would not be tampered with and was due to lead a test run of the electronic voter machines a week before elections, when he was tortured to death.
George Kegora, the Executive Director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) announced that many Kenyans believe “elements within or close to the state” were responsible for Msando’s murder. Only days later, the Kenya Human Rights Commission was deregistered by the Kenyan Government.
According to accounting company KPMG Kenya, it is estimated that there are about one million dead voters on the electoral register – in 2013, Kenyatta won by a margin of 800,000 votes. It was also reported widely in Kenya and discussed on social media that in the August 2017 election, some people’s names were simply taken off the register so were turned away or just didn’t vote.
These events are occurring despite the fact that Kenya approved a new Constitution a few years ago which provides for the general principles of the electoral system:
“The electoral system shall comply with the following principles – (a) freedom of citizens to exercise their political rights, under Article 38; (b) not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender; (c) fair representation of persons with disabilities; (d) universal suffrage based on the aspiration for fair representation and equality of vote; and (e) free and fair elections, which are (i) by secret ballot; (ii) free from violence, intimidation, improper influence or corruption; (iii) conducted by an independent body; (iv) transparent; and (v) administered in an impartial, neutral, efficient, accurate and accountable manner.”
Election Observers (the US, EU and the African Union)
With the official election results, Kenya’s election commission (without its murdered head) put the incumbent president, Uhuru Kenyatta, ahead by 54.2% of votes, to 44% for Odinga, and declared President Kenyatta.
Given the previous election violence and controversy, a range of election observers were in Kenya for the August 2017 Presidential election. Despite the murders and allegations of vote rigging, most international election observers concluded that the elections were fair and called on politicians defeated in Kenya’s contested polls to concede gracefully.
John Kerry, who currently plays no role in the U.S. government and thus is a private citizen (although the former US Secretary of State in the Obama Administration), said “We affirm the conviction that the judicial process, the judicial system of Kenya and the election laws themselves make full and adequate provision for accountability in this election, the streets do not.” He indicated his conclusion was that the election was fair and should be accepted.
“Candidates and their supporters must accept that not winning is a natural part of a democratic competition,” EU observer mission head Marietje Schaake said. “Any irregularities or challenges to the process and outcomes should be addressed through petitions and the courts,” she added.
Thabo Mbeki, the Chairperson of the African Union, and former President of South Africa, was an Observer for the African Union. Mr. Mbeki expressed “satisfaction and confidence” with the election. He noted that he visited polling stations in 30 counties and found them tranquil.
In response, the opponents alleged claims that Forms 34 A and 34 B (which are required to be signed by all party agents to the election to verify and affirm the tallying results in every polling stations) were missing in some polling stations in the country. They say unverified results coming in from constituencies were transmitted to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in Nairobi.
The Luo Opponent, Mr.Odinga, through his party, NASA, filed a Petition with the Kenyan Supreme Court, which is part of the Kenyatta administration, to challenge the election based on irregularities. Mr. Odinga’s party indicates that if they lose the Supreme Court Petition, they will advocate to their followers that opposing tribes should secede from Kenya and create their own country.
Decision of the Kenyan Supreme Court
On September 2, 2017, the Kenyan Supreme Court issued a decision to overturn the Kenyan Presidential election results on the basis that the election commission “failed, neglected or refused” to conduct the Presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the constitution. Many think this is a great day for democracy and the proper working of government.
It is of note that the Kenyan Supreme Court voted 4 to 2 to overturn the election, with one Justice abstaining. This means that the history of Kenya changed due to the vote of ONE PERSON. In the future, can you be that one person?
Regardless of who wins the second election, we pray for a fair and honest process in which all Kenyans are heard and counted.