The previous post “Surprising Handshake that Brought Tranquility” reported on the welcome change of mood in Kenya, and the relative calm that came after some truly terrible experiences of electoral violence in 2017 and the sad realisation of lives needlessly lost, of time wasted and property destroyed due to the reckless violence. Such outbreaks of electoral violence rob Kenya of opportunities for her peoples to come together to contain her nightmares, such as, her corruption, unemployment, health care challenges, ethnic tensions, exclusivity and nepotism. It also robs this country of opportunities of sustained socio-political and economic development and the possibility of further investments in public education that will nurture the common good.
Reporting on experiences of electoral violence on this link led me to further investigate electoral violence across Africa. For instance, the last post anticipated my research on the seeming habitual cycles of electoral violence in Africa with a special focus on Kenya. And results of my initial investigation were documented in a paper that I presented in November 6-8 2018 at the IAPCHE All Africa Conference North-West University Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa. The essay is being further developed for publication in the African Journal for Transformational Scholarship (AJTS). Readers of this post who would like to contribute to this research are warmly invited to send me any suggestions that could help me develop this project further. Thankyou.
At the time of posting this article, the next Kenyan election is slightly over three years away. As we prepare ourselves for that election, we should be exploring Kenya’s current political development to discover how Kenyans are readying themselves for that election and the voting required of them. The coming together of Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta, the President of the Republic of Kenya and Mr. Raila Odinga, the leader of NASA coalition in the “famous handshake”, as it is now referred to, was against a backdrop of the Jubilee Government’s “Big Four Agenda”. The four items of this Agenda are important policy issues: the need for the provision of decent and affordable housing for all; the availability of universal health-care across the country; support for manufacturing; increased food security.
The Handshake Agenda also included addressing; ethnic antagonism, the lack of a national ethos, the need for inclusivity, devolution, overcoming divisive elections, security, corruption, shared prosperity and responsibility. The taskforce established to follow-up on the Handshake Agenda is yet to provide a roadmap for their implementation. It is still collecting views of Kenyans in different Kenya counties. The Jubilee and Handshake Agenda touch on the real issues that need to be front and centre as Kenyans face the coming election. My research — concerned with the cycles of electoral violence in Kenya — suggests that Kenyan citizens need to first engage on other more pressing matters like ethnic antagonism, exclusivity, divisive elections, security, corruption, free and fair election, emotive land issue and to do so as a matter of national emergency so that when political campaigns are mounted at the right time, these issues can be properly and respectfully discussed in sober ways. The time before the next election is the best time to address these issues. And that time is now!
But the unfortunate characteristic of Kenyan politics is that next election’s campaigns usually begin just as the previous election has concluded with the announcement of the results. This habit makes it difficult for Kenyans to engage in core issues touching on the country in a sober way. So many of the urgent matters mentioned above are simply shelved as political maneuvering ahead of 2022 intensifies. The 2022 political campaign from the Jubilee Party began immediately after the swearing-in of Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta as President of Kenya. Members of the Jubilee Party allied to Mr. William Ruto, the Deputy President interprets the Uhuru-Raila Handshake in the light of their hoped-for prospects for the 2022 election. They see Mr. Raila Odinga as a spoiler, or game changer in this 2022 election plan. Mr. Ruto’s supporters view him as the one who complicates the rather straightforward Jubilee presidential candidature and the support base of Jubilee Party.
Mr. Odinga’s past clings to him. He is identified closely and irrevocably with the disintegration of formidable parties and alliances. It seems that whenever he has dealt with them, in one way or the other, they have fallen apart and this serves to betray him. Jubilee politicians allied to Mr. William Ruto are skeptical of Mr. Raila’s genuineness in dealing with Uhuru Kenyatta. They think that he wishes to take some of the support-base of the Jubilee Party for his advantage in the 2022 election.
There are three political realities that seem to define Kenya’s politics at the moment. First is the legacy Mr. Uhuru Kenya wishes to leave behind after his term of office expires in 2022— hence he has remained committed to the Big Four Agenda. The second is Mr. Ruto’s presidential ambition in the 2022 election—hence the premature beginning of what can only be viewed as the earliest stages of the Presidential campaign. The third is the unclear political strategy of Mr. Raila with regard to the 2022 election. The political maneuvering ahead of the 2022 election in many ways runs counter to both the Jubilee Big Four and the Handshake Agenda. The Kenyan media is already full of the 2022 election antagonism and the Jubilee Party already seems to be in a kind of limbo. Other stakeholders of the NASA coalition (Odinga’s party) seem to be closely watching events in order to decide whether the Handshake will solidify or break NASA. From the way things now look, if the Jubilee Party were to disintegrate as a result of these 2022 election political maneuverings, then NASA may well be the beneficiary.
These altogether premature campaign maneuverings should not fool Kenyans. They should not allow themselves to be distracted in these ways from the genuine political issues that are confronting the country. There are many urgent matters that Kenyan citizens must attend to and form of a national unity of purpose is paramount at this time. If the divisive nature of Kenya’s electoral politics is allowed to develop now, the Jubilee Big Four Agenda together with the worthy Handshake Agenda will be put at risk and, possibly, compromised in a fundamental way. Worst of all Kenyans may enter 2022 election more divided and again find themselves immersed in electoral violence.
We have said above that the Jubilee Big Four together with the Handshake Agenda touches on core concerns of Kenyans that need to be engaged head-on. Thankfully the President and Mr. Raila Odinga are showing leadership and the Kenyan general public is in full support of them. In fact, if truth be known, Kenyans are tired of political campaigns; they want their Government to deliver on what its office-bearers had promised when they were election candidates. The problem with political tiredness is that citizens can give up … and thus create a political vacuum. It is a shame that even before the delivery of what was promised, politicians on the Government side are busy campaigning for yet another mandate from the upcoming election campaign in order to lead the country. When will they settle down and get on with the job of delivering on their previous election promises?
By viewing things in this way, we may read the recent executive order in a new light. The President seems to have realized that he needs a powerful engine for the operationalization of the Big Four now that his Deputy is immersed in the 2022 election politics. He is obviously prodding the Department of Internal Security and Coordination Affairs headed by the Cabinet Secretary Dr. Fred Matiangi, to take up the task. Dr. Matiangi has famously earned the title “Mr. Fix It”. President Uhuru Kenyatta is seeming to signal that 2022 election politics should not distract the Government from implementing the Jubilee Party’s Big Four.
Alongside the Big Four and Handshake Agenda, Kenyans are concerned that the 2022 election, and other elections along the way, will be conducted in free, fair and safe environment, in a less divisive social setting and without ethnic communities being provoked into political violence. Kenyans want the past and current gains of socio-political and economic development to be maintained. Why should these positive gains be destroyed by political chaos and violence? For this reason, Kenyans should take advantage of the relative calm as a result of the Handshake to urgently address the following issues:
- The competence and independence of the Independent Boundary and Electoral Commission (IEBC), charged with overseeing Kenyan elections, needs to be strengthened in order to enable elections to be free and fair. Kenyans need to have confidence in this body ahead of 2022 election. Right now, the commission is dysfunctional due to internal wrangling and the resignation of some commissioners. Who can deny that IEBC, as it is now, is tainted and stands in need of serious reconstitution at a time Kenyans are not as politically divided and charged as they will be in the heat of political campaigns?
- Necessary constitutional amendments and public referenda need to be held now, when people are united by the Handshake, and not left to be strategically used as political support mechanisms during election campaigns.
- Civil society groups, churches, and different religious groups must be most active in encouraging dialogue that aims at lessening ethnic antagonism. Can they find ways to grow a national ethos that allows all Kenyans to feel included in their citizen-roles in public governance irrespective of gender, religion or ethnic background?
- The war on corruption needs to be intensified as all government efforts to ensure transparent public governance are encouraged. This vice only goes away with persistent judicial resistance. Corrupt government officials and politicians have for too long turned the war on corruption into an inter-ethnic struggle. The judiciary is being blamed for compromising the war on graft. Instead the judiciary needs to be strengthened with both government support and public respect. Then this war has some chance of being won.
- The “war on terrorism” (police and military operation), needs to be wisely intensified since Kenya is still prone to terrorist operations, as is all too evident from the recent terrorist attacks in Nairobi.
- The process of devolution should be further encouraged by the appropriate deployment and sharing of national resources so that any marginalization of development in some regions is a thing of the past. The case needs to be simply and clearly put that a successful war on graft will enable the implementation of a systematic devolution to be fully functional across Kenya.
- Kenya must not just end up with nice words and with good ideas, Kenyans need to revisit the good recommendations in the past and push for their implementation in order to evade half baked solutions when problems occur. For instance, the implementation of recommendations on vital issues such as land distribution, overcoming the inequalities in distribution of entitlements, countering negative ethnicity, have now been “in the works” of public deliberation for far too long. The establishment of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission as had been proposed in the 2008 peace accord is long overdue. We should remember that in 2008 bodies such the UNCHR had warned that failure to carry out reforms could undermine the fragile improvement in security that had taken hold since the signing of the power-sharing agreement and could explode in future. Let’s be honest enough to admit that what happened in 2017 was a sad fulfillment of this 2008 prediction. We were told. Clearly we didn’t listen!
We will continue to raise concerns of what Africans and particularly Kenyans should address to ensure that the obsessive and habitual cycles of electoral violence are a thing of the past. I will periodically make these posts on this CPCHEA site to keep this issue alive, as a Kenyan Christian political responsibility is my concern, until the problem is overcome!
Firstly, let us assist the coming generations to have a grasp of the unfortunate realities of Kenya (as well as Africa) in electioneering periods so they can learn from and overcome these habits and so join together in building this beautiful country and continent.
Secondly, let us encourage all the ladies and gentlemen, all the young women and young men, of this country and continent to be proactive in containing cycles of electoral violence in Africa, in general, and Kenya in particular.
Thirdly, let my international audience lift up this our country and continent before the Lord and continue to pay attention to this request to them to provide us in Africa with the necessary assistance. We – just like anyone else anywhere else – need in the form of positive criticism, professional advice, scholarly muscle, technical skills and all the forms of technology that may work to assist us in our stewardship to work at this long-term peacemaking endeavour.
I am so grateful for the support that I have received so far from those reading these posts, their encouragements, the assurance of their prayers, the proof reading and editing that is needed for these and other posts.
Isaac N. Mutua.