| Jan-Mar 09 | Apr-Jun 09 | Jul-Sept 09 | Oct-Dec 09 | Jan-May 10 | Jun-Dec 10 | Jan-May 11 | Jun-Dec 11 |

[Dehai-WN] Pambazuka.org: Kenya: The Drama of Politics Ahead of Elections

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Fri, 17 Feb 2012 14:37:00 +0100

Kenya: The Drama of Politics Ahead of Elections

By Uche Igwe, 17 February 2012


The emergence of presidential candidates like 27-year-old Ms Kingwa Kamenchu
and Ms Martha Karua suggests a departure from the past and mirrors the
yearnings and aspirations of the youth and women for an end to

As Kenyans prepare to go to the polls once again, her political terrain is
getting charged as ethnic formations rehearse for potentially combustible
struggles against each other, which may make or mar the fragile peace in the

The preponderance of political ethnicity can be said to be the most
retrogressive heritage of Africa's colonial experience. It is common
knowledge that the colonial administration in Africa relied mainly on ethnic
clusters to rule in their respective posts in Africa. These clusters
gradually magnified and transformed into political cleavages at the twilight
of independence. As the nationalist movements began to break up at the verge
of independence, many leaders retreated to their ethnic cocoons as they
manoeuvred to inherit power. From Nigeria to Sierra Leone, and from Uganda
to Kenya, numerically large ethnic groups therefore took advantage of the
situation to entrench political ethnicity, to which can be traced all the
bigger issues of corruption, inept leadership and underdevelopment in

A classical manifestation is in the Republic of Kenya, East Africa's second
most populous country and economic hub. As Kenyans prepare to go to the
polls once again, her political terrain is getting charged as ethnic
formations rehearse for potentially combustible struggles against each
other, which may make or mar the fragile peace in the country. Every passing
day potentially opens up a scene of uncertainty in the suspense-filled
political drama.

The latest controversy relates to the date of the forthcoming elections.
Opinion is divided on which date will be most appropriate. The High Court
ruled last month that the much-awaited elections could hold in March 2013,
60 days after the expiration of the current parliament's five-year term. The
court ruling also left a possibility of the elections being held 60 days
after dissolution of the Grand Coalition Government. A 2012 election date is
likely especially if the two protagonists in the coalition government in the
persons of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga decide to
part ways soon. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has
called for a 17 Decembe 2012 election date which is line with what the
cabinet had called for earlier. However, the fate of the elections still
largely hangs on what the two leaders agree to do. Many observers speculate
that Prime Minister Odinga may soon quit the coalition in order to devote
more time for his presidential campaigns. President Kibaki is not eligible
for re-election. A cross section of the urban population favours a December
2012 date for the elections in anticipation that the Coalition Government
will be dissolved in October.

There is more to the date controversy than meets the eye. One possibility
will be that two frontline presidential aspirants who have been indicted by
the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague may not be on the ballot
for the polls. Judging from the antecedents of the ICC, it is doubtful if
the case will be concluded in the next one year. Some members of the Kenyan
civil society have already approached the court in an effort to ensure that
the embattled Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret MP William
Ruto are excluded from the elections on the basis of Chapter Six of the new
Constitution on Leadership and Integrity. Their position is supported by the
Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Mutula Kilonzo, who has
proposed an amendment to the Act establishing the Ethics and Integrity
Commission. Mr Kilonzo has asked parliament to give the Commission
additional powers not only to investigate but also to prosecute and punish
those guilty of non-compliance.

A reading of the public mood especially among the middle class would reveal
that many Kenyans would prefer an interpretation of integrity requirements
of the Constitution in the broadest possible way to enable the exclusion of
every aspirant who has been tainted by or reasonably suspected of corruption
in the past. This will mean a political tsunami which may even consume all
top contenders for the presidency including Prime Minister Raila Odinga who
once served as Energy Minister under President Daniel arap Moi - allegedly
the most corrupt regime in Kenyan history.

Though some people may say that this is very unlikely, such a development as
suggested above would dethrone the political dynasty and hegemony that has
held Kenya hostage since independence. The sterilisation of the Kenyan
political space for hastened reform and implementation of the prescriptions
of the new Constitution will be easier to realise when the 'old breed' of
politicians is lawfully excluded. That will also foster new political
realignments and trigger fresh bonds of nationalism - that will lead to
mutual forgiveness among the ethnic groups.

Although less optimistic observers are very sceptical of the chances of the
above scenario playing out and would rather dismiss it with a wave of hand,
no one can rule it out completely. Rather, other pundits are predicting a
possible alliance along ethnic lines between the Kikuyus, Kalenjins and the
Kamba - the so called KKK/G7 Alliance. In the likely event of Uhuru Kenyatta
(a Kikuyu) and William Ruto (a Kalenjin) not running for the presidency, the
beneficiary may well be Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka (a Kamba). On the
other hand a segment of 'diehard' conservative Kikuyus favour the emergence
of a 'dark horse' in the person of the Minister for Internal Security, Prof
George Saitoti (a Masai/Kikuyu) as a possible inheritor of the Kikuyu block
of votes per chance Uhuru Kenyatta is excluded from the contest. It is
rumoured that Prof Saitoti has a Kikuyu lineage hence the affinity of some
Kikuyus towards him. Opposition to this alliance is already mounting and has
allegedly led to formation a group known as Kikuyus for Change - a coalition
of those who see the KKK alliance as an extension of the old style politics
rooted in ethnic appeals and patronage.

So where do we go from here? The palpable wish among Kenyans to find the
best way to challenge entrenched power structures of the malignant political
class and virulent power elite is commendable. The progressive letterings in
the new constitution will require a conducive political environment for its
effective implementation. There will be efforts - indeed desperate ones - to
contaminate such an environment by the same people who have been associated
implicitly or explicitly with the political rascality and irresponsibility
of the past - who exploited ethnic divisions to service selfish interests
and primitive accumulation.

Expectations are high that the forthcoming elections could become that
long-awaited keen contest between the progressives and the so-called
'dinosaurs'. Candidates like 27-year-old Ms Kamenchu Kingwa and Ms Martha
Karua - both female aspirants for the presidency -- symbolise a radical
departure from the past and mirror the yearnings and aspirations of the
youth and women for a deeper democratic space in Kenya. A broad
interpretation of Chapter Six of the constitution could provide a level
playing field that will lay a foundation for that new Kenya that many
Kenyans dream of - where transparency, centrifugal devolution of powers,
political accountability, professionalism, commitment and meritocracy will
be enthroned above cronyism, divisive hostility, backward political
ethnicity and corruption.

Uche Igwe is a governance expert.


      ------------[ Sent via the dehai-wn mailing list by dehai.org]--------------
Received on Fri Feb 17 2012 - 08:37:05 EST
Dehai Admin
© Copyright DEHAI-Eritrea OnLine, 1993-2012
All rights reserved