Either politics is Kenya’s chakula cha moyo (soul food) or it is a way of life. Because we are back at it! 

Kenyans (at least just over 14 million of them) went to the polls last year in August and elected their preferred leaders in what was considered by many better elections than the previous ones. Well, at least better than the nullified 2017 (presidential) results. And so we thought that peace and development would therefore reign to get ourselves back on track after the derailment that has kept recurring every five years. But no, this is Kenya. Politics is forever!

The die had been cast ever since the split screen images of two factions of the Independent Election and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) giving different versions of the election outcomes appeared on our TVs on August 15  last year. We then had a soap opera of a petition process at the Supreme Court, resignation of commissioners from the IEBC, by-elections occasioned by new governmental appointments of individuals who had been elected by voters in various seats, and now a whistle blower’s hot dossier that if believable, would totally flip the presidential outcomes of the General Election. 

So here we are again with the political opposition claiming that there was a massive conspiracy that saw to it that more than 2 million votes were swapped from their candidate and appropriated to the incumbent’s tally for his victory. The dossier has been shared through the media and canvassed through massive opposition political rallies in Nairobi, where politicians who hitherto had seemed to accept the outcomes, even ceding to their own shortcomings, are now breathing fire and brimstone in the wake of the ‘expose’.

It is curious that the mysterious whistle blower did not see it fit to have exploited the opportunity of the presidential petition at the Supreme Court to release this information. It would have been more useful then, especially to the petitioners who were combing all over the place to secure a smoking gun that would have discredited the declared results.

A closer examination of the dossier reveals quite alarming concerns about the management of our elections – if of course the claims can hold water. It would basically imply that the elections were a sham and that they were massively manipulated by shadowy figures behind the façade of the systems and screens rendering the sovereign will and voice of the voter to be redundant and obsolete. This has massively treasonable implications. Again, if only this can be proven. But as things stand now, this has been legally overtaken by events.

A casual scan of the information shared shows that the figures given require more disaggregation, especially at the polling station level, to showcase how this fraud could have been committed. 

Remember, before any transmission of results happened, the final tallies were done at each of the 46233 polling stations across the country. Such results would have been shared with Party Agents, Observers, the Media and even security personnel who man these spaces. Such disaggregated data would be compared to what these actors have and it would be possible to establish any obtaining aberrations. So perhaps there is still more information that is yet to be released and we shall then wait with bated breath at the prospect and the turn of events when this is due. Perhaps the much-touted international inquiry can do the trick and unveil critical concerns as raised by the political elite. 

At the moment, however, what all these revelations have served well is to raise political temperatures akin to the 2018 tensions that led to the handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga. It Is not for me to get into the murky political implications of the current scenario, but I am very certain that any such tensions will not augur well for a country that requires a political détente to get back on its feet, economically and socially. 

Enough of the politics now. 

We have a CBC school system to contend with, a biting drought that is ravaging our country sides, an impoverishing inflation whose causes go beyond our borders and a frustrated youthful population that is groping for ways to eke out a living in difficult environments. There are many problems in this country. 

This is not to say that in case there are issues that need fixing within our electoral processes we should not address them. Far from it. The point is that rather than politicize these emerging issues, we should settle them through amicable and well-established avenues. The recourse to the political streets denies us the opportunity to test our institutions and structures in addressing the same. Until the Supreme Court annulled the 2017 presidential elections, the political class and indeed many of us did not believe they were capable of such courage and authority. I believe given the necessary time and space devoid of any political interferences, the IEBC, the police, parliament, and other state agencies that facilitate our electoral processes can rise to the occasion and effectively discharge their mandate. 

We have an opportunity to set up a largely new commission that will oversee the 2027 election. It will be haunted by the lingering perceptions of the previous ones and further tested by the work that they will need to underwrite during their tenure, including electoral reforms and the expected boundary delimitation exercise. Let us give the new commission the space to find its feet and support where this is needed. Above all, let us respect ourselves by respecting all our governmental structures. In any case, we are the ones who constitutionally set them up and continue to facilitate them vide taxes that come out of our hard-earned money. 

Author

  • Mulle Musau

    Mulle Musau is the National Coordinator for Kenya’s Elections Observation Group (ELOG), of which he has been part of since 2010. Under ELOG, Mulle was part of the election observation missions which oversaw the 2010 constitutional referendum, as well as the 2013, 2017 and 2022 general elections. Regionally, Mulle was a founding member and current Regional Coordinator (since 2016) of the East and Horn of Africa election Observers Network (EHORN), covering Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya, with Eritrea holding an observer status. In 2016 through 2017, Mulle served as Chairperson of the Transparency Committee in the Board of the Global Network of Domestic Election Monitors (GNDEM), a global network of observation platforms with a membership of over 200 organizations. During this time, Mulle consulted with the International Peace and Support Centre (IPSC), the Carter Centre, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI), the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISDA), Konrad Adeneur Stiftung (KAS), among others. Mulle’s other election-related work includes external evaluation of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network’s 2018 election program; leading research for the doctoral project An Assessment of the Legal and Institutional Frameworks of Elections in East Africa: A Comparative Study of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in 2016; and production of policy papers for the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (Gaps in the Campaign Financing laws in Kenya). Currently, Mulle co-convenes a continental elections observation think tank, the African Election Observation Network (AfEONet), hosting leading experts on elections.