EDITORIAL: In Kenya, confused armies clash by night

Tuesday October 24 2017

A voter casts his ballot on August 8, 2017.

A voter casts his ballot on August 8, 2017. The political situation in Kenya is too fluid for comfort and the anxiety as to whether there will really be credible repeat elections on October 26 is overwhelming. PHOTO | GRACE GITAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By The EastAfrican
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The world’s attention is focused on Kenya as it heads to a second presidential election on Thursday, October 26, following the annulment by the courts of the August 8 poll, in which President Uhuru Kenyatta had been declared the winner.

However, since the Supreme Court ruling on September 1, the most formidable challenger to the incumbent president, Raila Odinga, has withdrawn from the repeat elections and insisted that no polling will take place on that date.

He withdrew his candidature after the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) failed to effect the reforms demanded by his National Super Alliance (Nasa).

Soon after this, the country went into a tailspin when one of the commissioners of the (IEBC) resigned and fled the country citing fears for her life and making the bold declaration that the IEBC would be unable to conduct the repeat election credibly.

On the same day that the resignation was received, the chairperson of the IEBC reiterated this concern about the IEBC’s ability and in some cases willingness to conduct credible repeat elections.

It is clear that the political situation in Kenya is too fluid for comfort and the anxiety as to whether there will really be credible elections on October 26 is overwhelming.

Kenyans and their neighbours in the region do not fully understand what is happening and what will happen next.

Added to this is the insistence by the Nasa coalition on continuing street protests. Then there is the passing of contentious legislation that is certain to create more controversy among the populace and Nasa supporters.

The religious establishment on its part has cried itself hoarse calling for peace – which, in truth, is a euphemism for maintenance of the status quo.  To them, peace is merely the absence of strife.

The same could be said of the various business leaders whose only contribution to the discussion appears to be constant reminders that the extended period of political contest is an unwelcome interruption to economic activities and thus should be resolved quickly. This is but an unsubtle expression of their belief that economic interests supersede civil rights.

On its part, the national government is adamant that it is in control, and that the elections must still be held on the scheduled date. Its sledgehammer response to the protesters shows that it views the situation purely from a law and order perspective. Have policemen on the streets to beat up real and presumed protesters to prevent interference with business. 

What is clear from all of this is that no one seems to have foreseen or is capable of reasonably and dispassionately assessing the current situation and setting the country on the path to sustainable democracy. All they say is that would appear to be that the 2010 Constitution of Kenya is to blame for this state of uncertainty.

This Machiavellian belief that power resides in the use of violent force to achieve ends to political means is a disservice to the people and country of Kenya.

The events of the past few weeks tell us that this law-and-order and development on the one hand versus justice and political development on the other as a script has run its course. It cannot work anymore.