Today, I want to reflect on this year’s Kenyan elections. It was six-part election because Kenyans were elected six types of public officials, such as president of the country, senator, MP and governors. For sure, lessons are inevitable, especially for us here in Malawi, noting that we are having general elections next year.
The first important lesson that we can draw from Kenyan experience is that after the violence protests and killing in 2007 and 2008 following the bitter elections in 2007, the Kenyan people went to the drawing board. The country aimed that there should never be a repeat where the results would be disputable, unbelievable and easily challengeable. As is obvious now just after a few hours of the release of the results that Kenyatta Uhuru had won, his main challenger Raila Odinga indicated that he was going to the Supreme Court to contest the results. This means that while the country thought they have addressed most, if not all, the challenges associated with elections, they did not address all concerns a priori.
Firstly, it shows that no matter what humans can do, we cannot always do it perfectly. Secondly, and alternatively, we can also say that no matter how best we can do a thing, not all people will accept that a good job. Thirdly, and perhaps sadly, is the all known wisdom that in Africa, very few people accept a loss gracefully.
Kenya has come a long way in electoral practices since 2008. Among many changes, the president-elect will not be sworn in immediately. There is a period in which the Constitutional Court (of the Supreme Court) will be allowed to receive challenges and dispose of all cases. Secondly, the Kenyans were not in a hurry to release the results but rather painstakingly ensure that only credible tallies were to be released. Further, Kenya allowed free access of the media and allowed civil society and the media to have their own tally centres (not the official electoral centres) that allowed for accountability and transparency. In short, Kenya did not leave critical areas of the election to chance. They thought of possible problems and attempted to deal with these problems.
While we may not know all the reasons why Uhuru Kenyatta won the elections and why Odinga lost, the ugly face of Kenya’s ethnic divide showed itself forcefully. Uhuru and his running mate come from Central Kenya, the home of the Kikuyu and the Kalenjins. Jomo Kenyatta was Kikuyu while Moi is Kalenjin. Odinga on the other hand is a Luo and he joined forces with the rest of the tribes in the country.
This is a part of Kenyan politics we should never emulate or rather keep. It is reminiscent of the 1994 situation where UDF got the South, AFORD the North and MCP the Centre.