With less than eight months to go before Kenyans go to the polls, the usual disconcerting gerrymandering, brazen jockeying, and malevolent schemes aimed at manipulating the results are already at play, setting the stage for what could the bitterest and rockiest general elections ever.
From the controversy over whether the electoral system should include back-up manual systems in case of an electronic system failure, to frivolous arguments over the selection of members of the electoral commission, to a display of pique and chest-thumping by some egoistic politicians, the script for trouble is being written in red that could make the 2007/2008 post election violence look like a children’s picnic jamboree.
What our pugnacious leaders do not get is that they are adding salt to the stumble. The embers of tribalism are already there and only need to be ignited by one careless move. The country is stridently divided almost in the middle, and our leaders’ unrelenting venomous spiel is only worsening the situation.
My experience in the last elections tell me poll rigging will take place before, during, and after voting, regardless of which system of vote tabulation is used. Election officials will be corrupted, police monitors will be manipulated, and individual politicians will use all manner of ways to fiddle with the systems in order to win.
There is far too much at stake here. Kenyan politicians are some of the highest paid human beings in the world. To be a governor, an MP, a Senator or a simple member of the county assembly is to be above the pale. It is the fastest way of amassing wealth. From that pedestal, one enjoys unlimited opportunities to engage in corruption and other misdeeds, and is instantly propelled into the upper echelons of society.
That is why there is so much acrimony over the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill which seeks to permit manual backup in the identification and transmission of election results in case of a breakdown in the electronic platform; why there is so much evisceration of character among political players; why there is so much controversy on the selection of the electoral commissioners; and why there is even talk of postponing the scheduled August polls.
The bottom line is, Uhuru Kenyatta does not want to be a one-term president – the first in the country’s history. That is why he is fighting tooth and nail to retain his cushy position. He will do everything to remain in power wapende au wasipende, whether anyone likes it or not.
Conversely, the opposition see this as the only chance to upend the status quo. Defeat in this election could lead to adverse repercussions in 2022 given the fast changing tribal demographics. Raila Odinga, or whoever will be the opposition flag-bearer, must look back to the 2002 elections when anti-Moi forces coalesced around Mwai Kibaki as a block and won convincingly against Uhuru Kenyatta, his chosen heir.
They must fish out the strategic notes that resulted in the Kibaki victory, dust them up, and embrace the old adage: umoja ni nguvu, unity is strength. This is pivotal. I am glad opposition leaders are currently engaged in discussions to find the best candidate to take up the incumbent.
So far, only two tribes in a country of 43 communities have occupied the presidency since independence. There is a need to untangle that dual domination. And that can only be achieved through a display of mature leadership within the ranks of the opposition and not extirpated dissent and repulsive posturing embodied in street protests.
And that is my say.
Joe Khamisi is a former journalist, diplomat and Member of Parliament. He is also the Author of ‘Politics of Betrayal:Diary of a Kenyan Legislator‘, a political memoir about the situation in Kenya between 2001, when the ruling party of President Daniel Arap Moi, the Kenya African National Union (KANU), merged with Raila Odinga’s National Development Party.
The book also narrates cases of corruption in Parliament and in the Media and records Senator Obama’s visit to Kenya in 2006. As a friend of Barack Obama Senior, the author also remembers the times and tragedies of the American-educated economist.
Joe Khamisi’s second book, a biography, ‘Dash Before Dusk’ is also now on sale.
Joe’s latest book is ‘The Wretched Africans: A Study of Rabai and Freretown Slave Settlements‘ which has recently been published and is now available to purchase.