The Battle for Kenya's Soul
Kenya's election commission has, once again, postponed voting in the country's presidential election due to rampant violence and bloodshed there. This is the second voting delay after the Supreme Court's unprecedented ruling in August overturning the results of the presidential results from the election held on August 8. Since then, it has been a roller coaster of twists and turns in the East African nation of 45-million people.
Last week a member of the electoral commission jumped ship and escaped to the United States - this while the head of state, Uhuru Kenyatta, went live on national TV calling for a National Day of Prayer. In the midst of it all, the media continues to remain under scrutiny as many journalists and bloggers are being accused of taking sides in the contest which has been described as "a battle for Kenya’s soul."
Opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) leader Raila Odinga, who ran against Kenyatta’s Jubilee party, went to the Supreme Court seeking orders to have the results nullified. In a 4-2 majority ruling, the Supreme Court, headed by Seventh Day Adventist elder, Chief Justice David Maraga, decreed that the Presidential Election held on August 8 was not conducted in accordance with the Constitution and that the applicable law rendering the declared result invalid, null and void. The declaration called for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to organize and conduct a fresh Presidential Election within 60 days.
Then the drama really began. A bitter Kenyatta hit the campaign trail with hard-hitting statements against Maraga and the judges who ruled against his win. Calling the judges crooks, the head of state swore that he would ‘deal’ with them once he gets reelected. After an uproar from opposition politicians and the civil society, the president toned down on the rhetoric saying that he had no problem with the judiciary.
In question were the servers the IEBC used in tallying the results. According to Odinga, the servers had been tampered with and the percentage was consistent with Uhuru getting 54-percent and Odinga getting 44-percent throughout the results transmission. Odinga wanted the servers opened for scrutiny and, although the court granted his request, both the IEBC and the Jubilee party vehemently opposed it. When it became obvious that the servers would not be opened for scrutiny, Odinga announced that he was boycotting the repeat elections slated for this week.
Odinga withdrew with his running mate, Kalonzo Musyoka, and blamed what he said was the electoral agency’s inability to correct massive mistakes identified by the Supreme Court before the October 26th re-election.
“After deliberating on our position in respect of the upcoming election, considering the interests of the people of Kenya, the region and the world at large, we believe that all will be best served by NASA vacating its presidential candidature in the election scheduled for October 26, 2017.” he said.
The demonstrations called by NASA have led to violence and even deaths as police shoot protestors with live bullets. As the standoff continues, a commissioner with the IEBC Roselyne Akombe fled the country on Tuesday, October 17, and issued a scathing statement from New York where she is holed up. In her resignation letter, Akombe said IEBC as currently constituted was not in a position to conduct free and fair elctions.
“I acknowledge that the Supreme Court gave us orders to organize the presidential election within 60 days. The current political conditions did not exist on September 1 when the order was issued. It would therefore have been logical for the Commission to be frank with the Kenyan people and clearly state the challenges we face in organizing a free, fair, and credible election." she said. "It is critical that all political actors and the Commission take a pause to review where we are leading this country. It is not too late to save our country from this crisis. We need just a few men and women of integrity to stand up and say that we cannot proceed with the election on October 26, 2017, as planned,” she continued.
Akombe, a staffer with the United Nations and dual American-Kenyan citizen, first ran afoul of the Kenyan authorities over a month ago when she got detained at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport as she was preparing to board a plane for the United States. It took the intervention of the US ambassador, Robert Godec, to have her released to continue with her journey.
In his passionate plea for prayers, President Kenyatta said the country was in a state where only God could help:
“As a God-fearing people, we beckon our God to give us divine guidance to fulfill our constitutional mandate and we will. Scripture says: If the people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin, and will heal their land." Kenyatta preached.
"The first step — and one which I hereby call for — is an extended period of prayer and reconciliation. After consultations with religious leaders, I have reached this decision to call on all Kenyans to pray for their country in their mosques, temples and churches, culminating in a National Day of Prayer.” he said.
Meanwhile, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission has disclosed that more than 50 youths have been arrested for spreading hate speech on social media over the last two months. The commission added that it was in hot pursuit of 176 other cases. Most of these posts were related to comments around the new elections.