By: Guadi Calvo / Source: Resumen Latinoamericano / The Dawn News / August 14, 2017
Kenya, once more, seems to be sliding down into a post-election massacre after the August 8 elections, which ended with no clear winner. The current president, Uhuru Kenyatta, who ran for the Jubilee Party of Kenya, proclaimed himself winner with 54% of the vote against the opposition National Super Alliance (NASA), led by Raila Odinga, who allegedly received 45% of the votes but has rejected this result.
Odinga has denounced fraud by hacking of the vote-counting system, and added that his party was in fact winning by a million votes. The electoral commission proclaimed the victory of the current president after counting only 74% of the votes.
Odinga’s accusation is strengthened by the fact that, on Tuesday July 31, after having gone missing for three days, Chris Msando, director of Information and Communications Technology of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEBC) was found dead in a forest near Nairobi. Msando’s body displayed brutal signs of torture. This created a tense climate for the elections, which was worsened by the government’s impromptu decision to expel from the country all campaign advisors who had been hired by the opposition.
After the announcement of the results by the Electoral Commission, Odinga’s followers took to the streets in some of the poorest neighborhoods in Nairobi, such as Mathare Kibera and Dandora, and in some cities of the West where the opposition is the most prevalent, like Homa Bay, Kisumu, Migori and the Siaya district. The latter was the place where most of the 120 deaths of protesters occurred, and shops closed due to looting.
Kenya’s complex ethnic and tribal structure has had a determinant influence in the life of the country as an independent nation. Since the declaration of independence from the UK in 1964, the struggles for power between tribes has set the path for politics with different alliances. This explains why the country has only had four presidents: Jomo Kenyatta, considered the father of the republic (1964-1978), Daniel Arap Moi (1978-2002), Mwai Kibaki (2002-2013) and currently Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Jomo, who rose to the presidency in 2013 and seems to want to hold on to it. While Moi is of the Kalenjin ethnicity, the third in size, representing 14% of the population, the other three belong to the Kikuyu ethnicity, the biggest in the country, which comprises 21% of the population. There are 42 tribes in total in Kenya.
In 1991, after the first multi-party elections, Arap Moi began a repression to remain in power and prevent the rising of an opposition alliance made up of three allied ethnicities: the Luo, the Luhya and the Kikuyu. He began a repression that ended with 1,500 deaths and 300 thousand displaced. Then again in 2007, and this time there were 1,200 deaths and 600 thousand displaced. For their role in those massacres, president Kenyatta and his current Vice-president were judged in the International Criminal Court, but they were superseded due to lack of evidence.
The current electoral battle is not only a struggle between two ethnicities, but between two men of the establishment, who will undoubtedly not change the current course of the country, where over 50% of the population lives under the line of poverty.
The President and alleged winner of the latest elections, Uhuru Kenyatta, who had promised he would renounce if defeated, is the favorite of capitalist markets and western governments. This relates to the fact that he was educated in the Amherst College of Massachusetts, which teachers liberal economy, and therefore follows the mandates of the IMF and the World Bank religiously. Kenyatta is also, according to Forbes, the richest man in the country. The recent elections were approved of by John Kerry, former US Secretary of State and chief of the Carter Center’s Electoral Monitoring Commission. Kerry praised the transparency and diligence of Kenya’s elections, while the European Union has ignored the claims of the opposition.
Radila Odinga, of the Luo ethnicity, the fourth largest ethnicity comprising 12% of Kenya’s population, is a veteran of politics who has had many seats in successive governments. This is his fourth attempt to reach the presidency. With 72 years, he abjures his Marxist past.
This year’s electoral farce repeats the scheme of the 2013 elections, when Odinga was running against the current president and defeated by him, despite the fact that polls prior to the election showed he had a significative advantage over Kenyatta and was leading the final count. Therefore, the EU’s election monitoring commission was forced to acknowledge that “the lack of transparency and the mount of irregularities casts doubts on the exactness of the result”.
Weeks before the election, political analyst and anti-corruption expert John Githongo had declared: “there will definitely be violence, the question is how much”.
The Somali factor
Fundamentalist group al-Shabaab, which is the Somali branch of al-Qaeda, is operating with some frequency in Kenyan territory, occasionally making dramatic acts of violence such as the attack on the Westgate Shopping Center in September 2013 or the seizing of the Garissa university in April 2015, which ended with about 200 deaths. Besides, they made dozens of attacks and kidnappings on populations near the border.
Al-Shabaab’s attacks in Kenya are mainly a response to the participation of Kenya’s army in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which tries to control, with little success, the onslaught of the wahabi gang that has been punishing the country. This is an urgent issue for whoever governs Kenya, since they must be able to deal with the constant activity of terrorism on the country’s border.
Kenya’s elections didn’t go unnoticed for the fundamentalist band, and candidates referred to their goals regarding terrorism as a campaign proposal.
Al-Shaabab had threatened to interfere with the elections, and in fact it attacked the electric plant of the Lamu county on Monday night, leaving 100 thousand people without power for 14 hours. On the day of the elections, al-Shabaab mujahideen (Jihadist fighters) attacked a bus on a road, killing three, and stole three vehicles in the Mandera district next to the border between both countries.
While President Kenyatta had promised in the campaign that he would continue to have troops involved in the AMISOM program, Odinga had announced he would withdraw them from Somalia, even though he was the one who ordered their deployment in 2008, as he was Prime Minister under President Mwai Kibaki.
A week after the vote, the result of the elections continues to be uncertain, and there’s concern that protests might erupt again, along with repression, which in Kenya is frequent in electoral times.