Nairobi, Kenya | By Michael Wandati | Historically, the anatomy of Kenya’s political dynamics has been marred by institutional setbacks in electoral bodies formulated to administer the process. Since the promulgation of the new constitution in 2010, there have been high expectations of flawless reforms and democracy. Is Kenya on the right path?
The son of Kenya’s founding father, Jomo Kenyatta, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta, heir to one of the largest fortunes in Kenya, was inaugurated as president despite facing indictment at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
The 51-year-old president won on the first round, avoiding a run-off by just 8,100 votes between the top two candidates. He was above the 50 percent plus 1 vote threshold required by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
According to the IEBC, Mr. Kenyatta the flag-bearer of the Jubilee Coalition garnered 6,173,433 votes, 50.07 percent, beating his main rival Raila Odinga of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) who garnered 5,340,546 votes, or 43.28 percent out of the 12,388,667 votes cast and thus emerged second in the field of eight candidates on election March 4th polls.
Civil society groups complained of myriad anomalies in the voting process and called for fresh elections. Under the leadership of Mr. Odinga, CORD lodged a petition to challenge the presidential results with the Supreme Court of Kenya on March 16th 2013.
This was a test to the Judiciary’s independence since it had never handled a case of such magnitude since it was adopted in a 2010 referendum. Mr. Odinga urged his supporters to stay calm as he challenged the outcome in the top court and said he would accept its decision.
In the petition, they focused on what they called flaws in the registration of voters, the failure of a new electronic system for transmitting results, and the camp said, subsequent doctoring of results that were delivered by hand.
As Kenyans waited with bated breath for the Supreme Court ruling on a challenge to Kenyatta’s election as President, Dr Willy Mutunga, the Chief Justice of Kenya and the five-judge panel made a unanimous verdict on March 30th 2013 upholding Kenyatta and his running-mate William Ruto’s win.
Outside the courthouse, police used tear gas to chase away people protesting against the ruling. There were also reports of tear gas firing at stone-throwing youths in the western city of Kisumu, a stronghold of Mr. Odinga. And there was a somber mood in the Nairobi slum of Kibera with people chanting ‘no Raila no peace.’
Supporters of Mr. Kenyatta and William Ruto strongholds took to the streets of Central Kenya and the Rift Valley respectively, tooting their horns, blowing vuvuzelas and chanting.
Mr. Odinga expressed ‘dismay’ at the conduct of the election and said he did not regret making the challenge. “Although we may not agree with some of the court’s findings, our belief in constitutionalism remains supreme,” he said at a news conference after the verdict.
Kenyatta and his deputy Mr. Ruto, face trial on charges of crimes against humanity at the ICC for allegedly orchestrating the vicious tribe-on-tribe violence that marred Kenya’s 2007-2008 presidential election, leaving more than 1,200 people dead. They were on opposite sides at the time and both deny the accusations.
Retired President Mwai Kibaki’s tenure ended on April 9th 2013. He handed over the instruments of power: the Chief of the Golden Heart medal (the highest medal in the country), Commander-in-Chief ceremonial sword and the Constitution of Kenya to his successor, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta. The handover was followed by a booming 21-gun salute.
Among dignitaries in attendance for the momentous inauguration ceremony were Ethiopia’s Heilemarium Desalegn, Somalia’s Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete, Kenya’s retired President Daniel Moi, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, South Sudan President Salva Kiir and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni.
President Museveni made an address on behalf of heads of state of the East African Community to the tens of thousands of supporters present to witness the inauguration at the Moi International Sports Center Kasarani.
“I want to salute the Kenyan voters on one issue- the rejection of the ‘blackmail’ by International Criminal Court (ICC) and those who seek to abuse this institution for their own agenda,” Museveni said in his statement.
The entire CORD top brass, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, his running-mate and former vice-president Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetangula, did not attend the inauguration ceremony after the attempt to overturn Mr. Kenyatta’s victory at the Supreme Court of Kenya failed. They opted to travel to South Africa for a three-day visit, prior to the April 9th inauguration ceremony to agree on future plans.
“We took a break to relax our minds in South Africa, we are now back and ready to engage with everybody in the quest to build our Nation,” said Odinga on arriving at the airport in the late evening. “We are full of energy and ready to take up our roles as the Official Opposition…we shall engage the government constructively for the benefit of all Kenyans all the time,” he added.
Mr. Kenyatta took over power at a time when most are diplomatically lukewarm towards Kenya. But this is his agenda both at the national and international level, as it was the central theme of his speech, choosing to spice his bid day with sub-themes on sovereignty, nationalism, and economic growth.
Western nations, many of which have a policy of only “essential contact” with ICC inductees, sent ambassadors to the ceremony. However, both Kenyatta and Ruto, who are due to appear at the ICC later this year for their trial in The Hague, said they will cooperate fully with the court.
Kenyatta and Odinga; the sons of nation’s first President and vice-president respectively, their rivalry stirs memories of a political dynasty that dates back to the 1960s.
Their fathers started out as allies in the quest for Kenyan autonomy from Britain. The elder politicians’ relationship ended in bad blood when founding President Jomo Kenyatta forced out his vice-President, Jaramogi Odinga, following a series of disputes.
Political analysts had warned that Kenyatta’s government faces a tough task in uniting the country. Fortunately the country remained peaceful during the elections, but unfortunately many still feel disenfranchised.
Kenyatta wearing a dark suit and red tie, pledged to protect and uphold the sovereignty, integrity and dignity of the people of Kenya.
“I do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Republic of Kenya,” said Kenyatta, clutching a bible as he took the oath of office.
Like Kenyatta, Ruto took the oath of office as vice-president. “I will always truly and diligently serve the people and the Republic of Kenya in the office of deputy President,” Ruto said. “I will do justice to all without fear, favor, affection and ill will,” he added.
With the devolved system, Kenyans are adamant that the government will share equal opportunities especially on matters of job creation to the huge number of the unemployed youths. Uhuru pledged that his government will provide free maternal health care within his first 100 days in office.
He also pledged to re-locate the Sh6 billion set aside for a possible run-off after the March 4th, general elections to a youth and women’s fund as well provide laptops to all standard one pupils next year.
Kenyatta said a new youth and women’s fund will also be established and pledged to support the private sector in creating an enabling environment to create jobs.
He promised to diversify the country’s economic base and ensure that finished goods are produced using local labour and local material.
On security, Kenyatta said his government will not tolerate any threats to the country’s space and security stating that “criminals, cattle rustlers, drug barons and agents of terror, who disrupt the peace of our society will be met with full force of the law and Kenya’s security forces.” He said he will revive confidence in the government’s ability to protect its citizens.