In Summary
  • Kenya, the most advance economy in the East African region and one that has enjoyed relative political stability since independence in 1963 is at cross roads.
  • The best solution would be a fresh election under a completely independent electoral commission.
  • But how do you procure an independent electoral commission in this part of the world with an endemic culture of partisan commissions?

Some 100,000 or more Nasa supporters flocked into Uhuru Park on Jan 30, 2018 to witness the ‘swearing in’ of Raila Amolo Odinga, the opposition doyen of Kenyan politics, as the ‘people’s president’.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government had sworn that the mock swearing in would not take place under any circumstances.
Since it had been postponed twice before, the government hoped this was another bluff by the maverick Kenyan opposition leader. It wasn’t so lucky this time. Uhuru Park, which is right in the centre of Nairobi, swelled with crowds, all fervent Nasa supporters ready for battle if need be.

To its credit, the government withdrew the police and army (and teargas?)from the scene and everything went on uninterrupted and the crowds peacefully dispersed.
The lesson to learn here is that it is the presence of police, which most times catalyses rebellion among otherwise peaceful crowds, resulting in looting and general misconduct. It is the police’s trigger happy methods and high propensity to apply force which is to blame.

Uganda police in particular should learn from what happened in Nairobi,that you can quell a crowd by keeping your distance and that show of brute force is actually primitive and counterproductive.
The Kenya government, however, gravely erred by imposing a television blackout on the three largest TV networks - NTV, KTN and Citizen TV to ensure no footage of the very impressive turnout at Uhuru Park is aired! The stations remained off the air for more than a week. In this modern age, a total blackout can never happen. The whole world watched the events both on international news media and social media, even within Kenya. It was a useless exercise, which damaged the image of the country severely.

The mock swearing in of Raila Odinga had another disturbing element. Odinga’s three co-principals in Nasa, Musyoka Kalonzo, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetangula were conspicuously absent, signalling something sinister.
Odinga in his speech to the crowd said in spite of their absence, they are firmly behind the people’s government. Stories later emerged that the Nasa co-principals had all their police guards withdrawn the night before the swearing in and the roads leading to their homes blocked! Odinga escaped because he spent a night elsewhere!
President Uhuru Kenyatta, has a very narrow mandate given the abysmal turnout of 38 per cent of the voters in the second election, which followed the Supreme Court’s annulment of the August 2017 election.

The opposition had pulled the rag under him by convincing 62 per cent not to vote and hence de-legitimise the exercise. Outside his strongholds of Central Region and Rift valley region, the rest of the country by not voting, rejected the Uhuru/Ruto duo.
The two, however, are in a fairly strong position in that their Jubilee party in August won a majority in parliament and the Senate and Jubilee Party also has a majority of the governorships in the counties.

Its weakness thus lay in the presidential elections which if we go by the figures released by Nasa recently following its analysis of the August election which gave Odinga 52 per cent of the vote to Kenyatta’s 48 per cent. Nasa has challenged the IEBC to prove them wrong by opening the IEBC Computer Server for public scrutiny; something IEBC refused to do in August even when requested by the Supreme Court.
Kenya, the most advance economy in the East African region and one that has enjoyed relative political stability since independence in 1963 is at cross roads and may be losing its shine if the political quagmire remains unresolved.

The best solution would be a fresh election under a completely independent electoral commission. But how do you procure an independent electoral commission in this part of the world with an endemic culture of partisan commissions?
The second alternative is a coalition government, similar to the one negotiated by former Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Anan, after the bloody election of 2008 when Odinga was unfairly robbed of victory by Mwai Kibaki.

Ironically the coalition worked very well for some years before the divorce and many infrastructural projects in Kenya owe it to this coalition.
The worst alternative is intransigence on the part of the ruling party insisting on the status quo and hoping to contain the opposition. This is a dangerous gamble, which will return the country the “Moi era” of political instability and economic stagnation.

Mr Naggaga is an Economist, administrator and retired ambassador.
gnaggaga@yahoo.com.