EDITORIAL: With this peaceful, transparent poll Kenya hands the region rare legacy

Sunday August 14 2022
A woman casts her ballot in Kenya's election on August 9, 2022.

A woman casts her ballot at the Dandora secondary school polling station in Nairobi on August 9, 2022 during Kenya's general election. PHOTO | PATRICK MEINHARDT | AFP

By The EastAfrican

A drawn-out electoral process has largely vindicated pundits, with early indications suggesting that Kenyans have learnt their lessons from past election crises. Even as vote tallying dragged on, stretching anxiety, Kenyans largely kept the faith with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), waiting for the final verdict.

Save for a few mostly inconsequential skirmishes, and one unfortunate murder, this year’s election easily passes as one of the most peaceful in Kenya’s recent history. The election, followed keenly by audiences in the region and beyond, stands out for a number of firsts.

In a part of the world where elections are at best a translucent affair, the media were allowed access to results as they streamed in.

Any member of the public who cared could also log on to the IEBC website and check out the results. Most importantly, there was no overt abuse of incumbency, harassment of opponents or their agents. That was unprecedented, intriguing and probably inspired millions in Africa.

It also sets the bar high for those emerging democracies on the continent that have a lot to learn in terms of how a community can turn its back on an ugly past.

That was not only a show of confidence by the IEBC on the integrity of its processes but it also rubbed off on the public, who gave the commission the benefit of the doubt, even when tensions peaked. It also debunked the notion that the media are too irresponsible to be trusted with liberty. At the end of the day, Kenya crossed an important age in the evolution of its electoral democracy.


As attention shifted to the nail-biting tallying and verification process, questions were being asked about the wisdom of Kenya’s earlier move from a simple majority to a 50 percent +1 minimum and requiring a winner to take a quarter of the vote in half the counties as the threshold for winning. So far, the system worked as designed.

The rather stringent winning margin should produce national leaders and engender a culture of alliances. A degree of envy might be in order, but Kenya has again demonstrated what is possible by a people determined to change their collective destiny, and bequeathed the region an important legacy.

Yet, while the country might have salvaged itself from a dented past, it cannot rest on its laurels. There is still work to deliver a smooth transition.

The courts of law must also acquit themselves by playing an even hand in the election disputes that will inevitably be brought before them by litigants.

Most importantly, however, will be the burden on the eventual winner. The low voter turnout and the wafer-thin margins between the two leading horses paint the picture of a divided nation. There will be two roads, reconciliation and bridge-building, or a sense of self-entitlement, since one can assume they have the popular mandate anyway.

The bottom line is that this election only marks the beginning of the long process of sociopolitical reconstruction and national healing.