Ten Years After Violent 2007 Elections, Kenya's Tight Presidential Race Brings New Concerns

Corruption, poverty, unemployment, and a soaring cost of living has left many Kenyans disillusioned in the last four years of the ruling party Jubilee administration.

The last three months have been the worst for the people due to the rising cost of living.

After a decade of elections marred by violence and allegations of fraud, Kenya will have a chance on August 8th, 2017, to peacefully turn to the opposition or give the current administration another chance.  

In an attempt to oust the ruling party, the opposition formed a National Super Alliance (NASA), naming the former prime minister Raila Amollo Odinga as their presidential candidate. Odinga, who is 72 years old, has lost in the last three elections. 

NASA is comprised of five principals who hope to attract votes from majority-ethnic communities. Kenya's largest ethnic groups are the Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo, Kalenjins, and Kamba, which together account for some 72% of the population, according to WorldAtlas. 

NASA goes into these elections facing incumbent president Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, who is seeking a second and final term in office under Jubilee party. Uhuru and his deputy William Ruto enjoy support from Kikuyu and Kalenjins, the first and fourth-largest ethnic communities in Kenya, respectively, in WorldAtlas numbers.

This year there are around 19 million registered voters according to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

The commission faced a major blow after Kenya's high court nullified the tendering for print of presidential-ballot papers, which had been given to Dubai based firm Al Ghurair, saying IEBC did not follow established procedures. The case was filed by NASA. This has led the president to complain about the high court favoring NASA.

Ethnicity and tribalism play a major role in Kenya elections. This results in political alliances fighting for control of the five most influential ethnic groups.

In response to the decision, Catholic Bishop Cornelius Korir has urged the president to respect "independent institutions."

“Messing up institutions of the country is not good especially at this time of elections," Korir said. 

The same sentiments have been echoed by the law society of Kenya and lobby groups. Currently there is no solution after IEBC called for a meeting of the parties to solve the stalemate.

The controversy comes ten years after a major election dispute in 2007 that left over 1,000 people dead and thousands homeless.

The IEBC used electronic tallying during the 2013 elections, which were marred by the opposition's allegations of vote rigging. To address these concerns, the president signed a law in January, 2017, to allow manual vote backup in the event of doubts about electronic tampering.

Ethnicity and tribalism play a major role in Kenya elections. This results in political alliances fighting for control of the five most influential ethnic groups. The last few weeks have been marked with hostile relationships between different parties, each suspicious of the other.  

United States ambassador to Kenya, Mr. Robert Godec, has assured Kenya of America's support during this crucial period.

In a statement he said, “As a friend, the United States is doing all it can to help Kenya hold successful elections on August 8th. For example, we are assisting IEBC with voter education and contributing to peace building. But while our support is important, only Kenyans can ensure polls are free, fair, credible, and peaceful.

"All Kenyans should exercise their right to participate, while refraining from hate speech and incitement to violence. I’ve said this and I say again: No Kenyan should die because of an election. From my experience in this great country, I know Kenyans can hold successful elections if they work together and commit themselves to the principals of their constitution. If they do, then they will build a remarkable future and inspire Africa and the world.”