In Summary

The issue: Kenya election
Our view: It is important for the leading contenders to tell their supporters ahead of the polls, to act with restrain, whichever side eventually wins the polls. The winner should be president for all Kenyans and not for only his supporters.

The clock is fast ticking towards August 8 when Kenyans go to the polls to elect the country’s next president - the fifth since independence in 1963. As Kenyans and the rest of the world wait for the outcome of the elections, whichever way it goes, there are peculiarities in the campaign process that the East African Community countries, like Uganda, can learn and emulate as we await our own general election in 2021.

There are many presidential candidates in the Kenya election, but the top contenders are incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta, leading the Jubilee party, and former prime minister Raila Odinga, heading an opposition coalition, the National Super Alliance (NASA). And here is where the lesson begins.

Being the incumbent, Kenyatta is still entitled to State privileges and other attendant benefits, including official facilitation, security, and vehicles. However, the departure from other incumbents, is that in spite of the entitlements, you hardly see police, soldiers or other auxiliary security outfits frustrating with his closest challenger Raila’s rallies and campaign programmes. We also hardly see military hardware on the streets of the capital Nairobi to create an intimidating atmosphere.

Except for Raila’s claims that Uhuru plans to drag the army into electioneering activities, so far the men and women in uniform have not been seen at Jubilee or NASA campaign rallies. We also see both Uhuru and Raila, who often throw barbs at each other on the campaign trail, share light moments at social events.
The media in Kenya, public or private, are covering both Uhuru and Raila nearly equally. This is significant because allowing adequate coverage to both helps the electorate to make an informed decision on who they want to be their president.

However, it is not all rosy in Kenya as the campaigns roll on. There are tribal undertones, especially between the Kikuyu and Luo communities where Uhuru and Raila come from respectively, which if not nipped in the bud, threaten to detail the process.

Even due to rising political temperature, some of the contenders like Uhuru has threatened to sack all chief who support his rival Raila if he wins the elections. This does not auger well for democracy. Any one elected president should be president of all Kenyans, not only their supporters. Thus, it is important for the leading contenders to tell their supporters ahead of the polls, to act with restrain; whichever side eventually wins the polls.