Raila, Uhuru, don’t plunge Kenya into crisis

An opposition supporter reacts under the heavy rain in front of a burning barricade in Mathare district, in Nairobi on October 26, 2017, as a group of demonstrators blocked the road and tried to prevent voters from accessing a polling station during presidential elections.<br />Kenyans trickled into polling stations on October 26 for a repeat election that has polarised the nation, amid sporadic clashes as supporters of opposition leader ignored his call to stay away and tried to block voting. / AFP PHOTO / LUIS TATO

With the declaration of incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta as winner of Kenya’s deeply divided re-run election, the uncertainty hanging over the poll may have been removed. Kenyatta, reportedly pulled 98 per cent of the votes boycotted by his arch rival, Raila Odinga. It has become imperative to appeal to the two main contenders to put the interest of Kenya over and above their personal ambition. The interest of Kenya should supersede their narrow personal and ethnic interests.

Kenya belongs to Kenyans and not to any single family. If the two men don’t retrace their steps, history will reckon that their fathers Odinga Odinga and Jomo Kenyatta founded Kenya but their children Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta destroyed it. That would be a damning verdict.

The ambition to rule Kenya should not be turned into a do or die affair. That mindset has destroyed many African countries. Kenya, I must stress, is not the personal property of the Odingas and Kenyattas. Every Kenyan has the same constitutional right that the two men have.

It is senseless for crowds of able-bodied Kenyan youths to allow themselves to be used as fodder in the pointless battle of wits between Raila and Uhuru. What do they gain? Those who die in the process die for nothing. Their families and loved ones lose. The two men won’t remember them. Rather than join in the fray, the people should match for peace having suffered during the 2007/8 election crisis.

It is, therefore, incumbent on the two contenders to see the election as an offer to serve the people and not a mandate. The two men should have open mind to accept the verdict of the people. One thing is common to both Raila and Uhuru – the two, apparently, have good intentions for Kenya. But they can only serve in an atmosphere of peace.

The problem is that each wants to be the one to provide that service at this time. But truth is that only one person can be president. There should be give and take. If no one is ready to yield to the other, then, there is going to be serious trouble of which history will hold the two men culpable. This crisis is dragging to a dangerous precipice. It is avoidable at this stage.

Kenya should not be plunged into avoidable crisis that could blow out of proportion. If it gets to that stage, there would be no election, at least, not until peace returns to the country. But experience shows that in Africa, such peace is elusive. There are so many bad examples across Africa.

Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta should remember Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, DR Congo, Rwanda and Somalia, among others. Kenya is particularly vulnerable because it is surrounded by turbulent and crisis-ridden nations. There will be nowhere for Kenyans to run to if crisis blows out that generates refugees.

If Kenya, which has been the only oasis of peace in a troubled region, goes on fire, the extent of humanitarian burden would be catastrophic. The international humanitarian bodies are over burdened with the refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East caused by the ISIS ferocious campaign in Iraq and Syria. If Kenya explodes, little or no attention would be paid to the victims of the crisis.

Europe is already in trouble with over-flowing refugee crisis. Who then will care for Kenya? No African country is in a position to provide succour. The two men should be told that there has to be Kenya before they can rule. Let them allow Kenya to be. Let them not destroy Kenya.

If the two men love Kenya; if they care for the wananchi (ordinary people); if they are truly patriotic like their fathers, then, they should retrace their steps and dialogue to let peace reign. It is a shame that Africa is ever engulfed in ethno-political crisis whenever there is election. No country wants to set a good example.

Now, Kenya, which has been a haven of peace, has joined the bandwagon since the 2007/2008 election violent eruptions in which some 1,500 people were killed and more than 600,000 displaced. The economy that thrives on tourism was badly tainted. The country has not fully recovered from that mayhem.

Do Raila and Uhuru want a repeat of that ugly experience? Do they want to increase poverty in a country that largely depends on foreign aid? Why can’t these men be patriotic and altruistic? Why are they bent on destroying Kenya?

Reports indicate that fewer than 34 per cent of eligible voters participated in the Thursday, October 26 repeat presidential election in Kenya. The figure sharply contrasts with the nearly 80 per cent that voted in the initial poll last August. Many polling stations reportedly did not open.

Election observers say the election was marred by isolated clashes between the police and protesting youths.

Mainly opposition protesters threw stones on the police in Kisumu, western Kenya (the opposition stronghold), and Nairobi. The election was marred by boycott by Raila Odinga, the main opposition candidate, who also called his supporters to join him. Gunshots were fired by the police. Some 50 casualties have so far been reported.

Kenya got into this mess after the country’s Supreme Court, in a historic ruling, nullified the August 8 presidential election in which the incumbent president, Uhuru Kenyatta, was declared winner. Mr. Raila Odinga had challenged the result on the ground that it was rigged through hacking into the country’s electoral system computers.

The Supreme Court in its verdict ordered that a new vote should be held within 60 days after it said the outcome of the initial vote was tainted with irregularities. The verdict was the first of its kind in Africa. Ever since then, Kenya has known no peace.

I don’t know why the Supreme Court decided to nullify the election given that Kenya doesn’t have the capacity to go round such election twice. Though the Court has been hailed for taking such a bold decision, the consequences might be enormous for Kenya to bear.

Raila’s initial intention was not to overturn the outcome but to “expose evidence of widespread vote-rigging.” “Whether the court rules in our favor or rules against us, we don’t really care,” Raila had declared.
Now, the chips are down and Kenya is in trouble. How and when it would be over is a matter of conjecture. Mr. Kenyatta had said after casting his vote that the country was “tired of electioneering” and it was “time we moved forward.” That was good of him.

The way forward is dialogue. President Kenyatta should champion the dialogue while Raila Odinga, should cooperate in the overall interest of their beloved country. Correcting the electoral system is something that would be done in an atmosphere of peace.



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