Kenya’s Next General Election: A Mixed Bag of Hope and Despair
Kenya’s next General Election, which is expected to be held in December this year or March 4, 2013, is estimated to be the most expensive election in the world, at the cost of Ksh 36 billion ($427 million). The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) that is responsible for conducting the elections, had initially requested for Ksh 41.5 billion ($493 million) but the Treasury has offered only Ksh 17.5 billion ($207.5 million). On May 20th, presidential aspirant Uhuru Kenyatta showed financial might when he launched his political party (The National Alliance) with pomp and fanfare. The event was beamed via satellite at various locations countrywide. It was also broadcast live on television and on the Internet. It is claimed that the launch cost up to Ksh 150 million.
Kenyans have mixed feelings about those who have declared their candidacy in the forthcoming presidential elections. Two frontrunners, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, have been charged with crimes against humanity which were committed during the post-election violence (PEV) in 2008. They are expected to defend themselves at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. However, they are determined to contest the presidency and do not see the charges as a hindrance. Their assumption, which will stand the test of time, is that they have a lot of support from their tribes, namely: the Kikuyu (Uhuru) and the Kalenjin (Ruto).
The ICC does not oppose their presidential ambitions, although some Kenyans (according to various opinion polls) feel that they should step down from politics completely, on moral and ethical grounds. Chapter Six of Kenya’s new Constitution deals with integrity and states that public officials must have honor and should promote public confidence in their offices. As per this Constitutional provision, the two ICC suspects ought to abandon their presidential dreams.
Recently, Chief Justice Willy Mutunga warned that he would not hesitate to use Chapter Six of the Constitution to bar politicians with questionable integrities from contesting elective office. “Being Kenyan is a full-time commitment. This country needs citizens who are Kenyans all the time; not those who are vernacular Kenyans most of the time. Just in case you forgot, Chapter Six is partly intended to eliminate this breed,” said the Chief Justice.
An interesting angle in Kenya’s next elections is the role of tribes. Kenyans are very inclined to support a presidential candidate who belongs to their tribe. At the moment, there are candidates from the key tribes, namely: Kikuyu, Kalenjin, Luo and the Luhya. The Kikuyu have five contestants, the Luhya and Luo have two each and the Kalenjin have one, so far. According to past opinion polls, many Kenyans do not want another Kikuyu president after Mwai Kibaki’s ten year rule. Non-Kikuyus feel that Uhuru Kenyatta will add another decade of unaccountable Kikuyu leadership, at the expense of other tribes craving for their sons and daughters to come to power so that these tribes “can eat”.
Martha Karua is a victim of sexism
Since Kenya’s Independence in 1963, Kikuyus have ‘enjoyed’ the presidency for a total of 25 years (15 with Jomo Kenyatta) and 10 with Mwai Kibaki. The Kalenjin also ‘enjoyed’ the presidency for 24 years under Daniel arap Moi. Popular opinion has it that it is therefore prudent to rotate the presidency among other tribes apart which have not been in power. At this rate, when will the Digo, Ndorobo, Rendille, Maasai, Borana, Ogiek, Mijikenda and other small tribes lead? Politicians must stop playing the tribal card to further their personal goals.
Since appearing at The Hague last year, Uhuru Kenyatta and Ruto have held ‘Prayer meetings’ in their strongholds (areas dominated by their tribes) and have continually launched personal attacks on Prime Minister Raila Odinga, whom they perceive as the person who masterminded their Hague tribulations. This perception has caused tension among their sympathizers, some of whom have split from Raila’s political party, the Orange Democratic Party (ODM). Close MPs who support them have also quit. The issue of party defections is very common and although the Political Parties Act states that whoever defects must seek re-election, none has done so.
Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi who also recently left ODM, is now busy shouting himself hoarse about Raila Odinga’s ills, yet he lacked the mettle to quit KANU in 2002 and lost his Sabatia parliamentary seat. He made a political comeback in 2005 when he joined Raila to oppose the constitutional referendum. Another presidential aspirant, Raphael Tuju, who is widely seen as a Kibaki government sponsored Luo presidential candidate aimed at splitting Odinga’s votes in Luo Nyanza, has gone silent after insulting Raila for a few weeks since launching his political party. He has nothing more to offer Kenyans in his presidential bid. Raila Odinga’s opponents seem to dwell on his personality instead of presenting their agenda for Kenya as future leaders. This is how petty they get and how widely they propagate tribal hatred. Many of these presidential candidates hold rallies in the tribal zones instead of crisscrossing the country to have a national outlook.
Parliamentary elections will also be highly contested with the electorate planning to oust those MPs whom, they feel, have not uplifted their living standards through allocated development funds. For instance, various audit reports indicate grand corruption annually and gross mismanagement of the Constituency Development Funds (CDF). MPs have been accused of nepotism since they notoriously deploy their relatives and cronies to manage the funds. Other new political positions created are those of the Governor and Senator, and some MPs have already said they will go for them instead.
Despite a provision in the Constitution for more parliamentary seats for women, there is a general perception that they are not fit to lead. A case in point is that of Martha Karua, a female presidential aspirant who is also an MP and a former Justice Minister. She is a Kikuyu and many times has been threatened to drop from the race, to allow Uhuru Kenyatta to run as the sole Kikuyu candidate. However, she has stood her ground and believes Kenyans need a female president. There are only two women who have publicly expressed their interest in the presidency. Past experiences for female politicians have been bitter, with some being beaten by goons sent by male politicians, in order to discourage them from contesting. Furthermore, there have been cases of fraud within political parties whereby men get awarded nomination certificates to stand as MPs, against women candidates who have rightfully won at the primaries.
A Line-up of candidates
A lot of money is used to ‘buy’ political seats, so those who have development records and are likely to do well as MPs, simply lose if they do not ‘donate’ cash to the party leader. Being an MP in Kenya guarantees instant wealth, since it is highly paying. MPs carry home salaries and perks to the tune of USD 9,300 per month, which they award themselves willingly. In 2010, they voted to earn an after-tax salary of USD 126,000 per annum after the next General Election. Meanwhile, the people they serve (poor Kenyans), earn an average of USD 730 annually and survive on less than $1 a day.
A thorny issue which is not addressed candidly by Ruto and Uhuru, is that of the internally displaced persons (IDPs). The saying of “there is no permanent enemy in politics” is correct in their case. It is paradoxical that Ruto was once a wanted man among the Kikuyu, since he was alleged to have sponsored the PEV. However, because of political expediency, he is now palling around with Uhuru, whose Kikuyu people suffered fatalities and material losses in the Rift Valley, meted out by Kalenjin warriors.
Will the Kalenjin vote for a Kikuyu leader and vice-versa? So far, both leaders have marshaled their people and assume they are the right leaders for Kenya. The Rift Valley remains tense as elections approach and many Kikuyu IDPs continue languishing in tattered tents, without a clear date of resettlement to resume normal life. Kalenjins had sworn before they would drive Kikuyus out of the Rift Valley. The recurring tribal clashes during the General Election are likely to be experienced, though they may target the Luo and other tribes deemed to be against Ruto and Uhuru.
From Wikipedia: publicly declared and speculated presidential candidates
Raila Odinga (current Prime Minister of Kenya)
Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka (current Vice President of Kenya)
Uhuru Kenyatta (current Deputy Prime Minister of Kenya)
William Ruto (MP for Eldoret North Constituency)
Sir George Luchiri Wajackoyah (Diaspora Candidate)
Martha Karua (MP for Gichugu Constituency)
Eugene Wamalwa (MP for Saboti Constituency)
Mutava Musyimi (current Gachoka MP)
Kingwa Kamencu (Oxford Rhodes Scholar)
James Ole Kiyapi (former Permanent Secretary Education)
Musalia Mudavadi (The other Deputy PM)
Peter Kenneth (current MP Gatanga Constituency)
Paul Muite (former MP Kabete Constituency)
Raphael Tuju (former MP Rarieda Constituency)
Joseph Hellon Jazz Maestro (Chair Placenta Party)
George Saitoti (Minister Internal Security)
Dennis Nzioka (Gay Kenya Public Relations Director)
Cyrus Jirongo (current MP Lugari Constituency)