The East African nation of Kenya is in turmoil. The two gladiators in the impasse, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his old foe, Raila Odinga, are running neck and neck for the soul of the country. WALE ELEGBEDE reports on the leadership face-off
Just like any other country, Kenya, has had its fair share of leadership disputes. But this time, the magnitude of the crisis facing the East African nation is huge and the country appears to be in the most difficult political situation since its independence. The only air blowing across the country is uncertainty, there are animosities between the different nationalities and the country is highly divided.
Regarded as one of Africa’s most important economies, Kenya in the past few years has experienced steady growth, drawing rising foreign investment. But, despite efforts to implement programmes that can foster cohesion and reconciliation, Kenya’s politics remain fractured along ethnic lines.
The journey to the current test of democracy in Kenya started on August 8, 2017, when the old foes, 56-year-old incumbent President, Uhuru Kenyatta, and 73-year-old former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, went to the poll. Both men have been engaged in a political battle that dates back to the early days of Kenya’s independence.
After the highly contested election, the Kenya Election Commission declared Kenyatta the winner of the poll by a margin of 1.4million votes. But a-not-too satisfied Odinga approached the judiciary and Kenya’s Supreme Court, after about one month, annulled the result and ordered a new one within 60 days.
Chief Justice David Maraga said the election had not been “conducted in accordance with the constitution” and declared it “invalid, null and void”. He said the verdict was backed by four of the six Supreme Court judges.
Reacting to the ruling, Odinga said the ruling marked “a historic day for the people of Kenya and by extension for the people of the continent of Africa”.
He said: “It is now clear that the entire [electoral commission] is rotten. It is clear that the real election results were never shared with Kenyans. Someone must take responsibility.”
But in a televised address, President Kenyatta said, that it was “important to respect the rule of law even if you disagree with the Supreme Court ruling”.
However, the Chairman of the electoral body, Wafula Chebukati, noted that there would be “changes to personnel” ahead of the new election.
Interestingly, after the election, international election monitors had said that the election was fair and that there was no major fraud on polling day, urging Odinga to concede and congratulate Kenyatta.
With the coast cleared for the poll, the election commission fixed the re-run election for October 26, 2017.
With preparation fixing up for the re-run, Odinga and his National Super Alliance (NASA), announced its withdrawal from presidential rerun, saying the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) have failed to make necessary reforms.
Odinga said: “After deliberating on our position in respect of the upcoming election … we believe that all will be best served by [the party] vacating its presidential candidature in the election scheduled for 26 October 2017.
“We have come to the conclusion that there is no intention on the part of the IEBC to undertake any changes to its operations and personnel … All indications are that the election scheduled for 26 October will be worse than the previous one.”
With Odinga out of the picture, it was a smooth but controversial ride for the incumbent who was declared the winner of the re-run poll, thereby sealing his second term.
The election commission said Kenyatta won 98 per cent of the vote with turnout at just under 39 per cent – less than half that recorded in August’s vote,
With about 50 people reported to have died in violence since Kenyatta was declared winner of August’s election, the President sues for peace, saying that, “your neighbour will remain your neighbour despite the political outcomes”.
Upon his declaration, Kenyatta on November 28, 2017, was constitutionally sworn in for a second and final five-year term, a month after winning a bitterly disputed election rerun marked by delays, apathy, boycott and violence.
But on January 30, Odinga brought a fresh twist to the power game in Kenya when he took an unofficial oath to be “sworn in” as the nation’s people’s president in the capital Nairobi amid a government ban.
Expectedly, the opposition leader changed his titles on his verified social media pages barely an hour after taking his oath.
His Twitter bio reads: “This is the official account of His Excellency Raila Amolo Odinga, President of the Republic of Kenya.” On facebook: “Welcome to the official page of His Excellency Raila Amolo Odinga, President of the Republic of Kenya.”
Cheered on by thousands of supporters who had gathered in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park, Odinga said in a speech after taking his oath that, “Today is a historic day for the people of Kenya. The people have gathered here in the hundreds of thousands to say enough is enough with the electoral rigging.
“Today’s step is one step towards the doing away with electoral autocracy and to establishing proper democracy in our country.”
The symbolic “swearing in” ceremony took place three months after he boycotted a presidential election re-run.
Odinga’s deputy, Kalonzo Musyoka, was missing at the function but the former prime minister told his supporters that he would be sworn in later, for reasons that would be explained on a later date.
Several news outlets including Televisions and Radios have been taken off air from broadcasting the live coverage and those who did are already closed down by the government.
With Kenya divided down the middle between two men who have loyal support among their ranks but don’t recognized each other’s legitimacy, the political clash between the duo would only plunge Africa’s seventh biggest population into the abyss, if not urgently resolved.
Perhaps, the symbolic swearing could be a way of persuading President Kenyatta to come to the negotiation table with the opposition party, it is however expected that the two great leaders must put the country before their personal ambition and agree on an amicable way forward for the East African country.
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