By NWABUEZE AKABOGU
Recently, Kenya’s Supreme Court nullified the presidential election, at the end of which the Kenya Independent Electoral and Boundary Commission (IEBC) declared the incumbent President, Uhuru Kenyatta, as the clear winner. President Kenyatta scored 54% of votes against 45% scored by his rival, Raila Odinga, of the opposition party
It will be recalled, however, that the presidential election which was monitored by both foreign and local observers including the former U.S Secretary of State, John Kerry, and former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, among other eminent personalities, was adjudged free, fair and transparent. The defeated opposition contender, Raila Odinga, midway into the counting of votes by the Electoral Commission, rejected outright the outcome of the election, alleging massive rigging and fraud in the exercise. Odinga’s supporters spontaneously took to the streets in his strongholds in Western Kenya and the surburbs of Nairobi, the nation’s capital. There was palpable fear that the highly volatile situation might once again degenerate into ethnic conflagration as witnessed in previous presidential elections way back in 2007 when more than one thousand people were killed and property worth over three billion Kenyan shillings destroyed during the terrible crisis.
It is heartwarming, however, that wise counsel seems to have prevailed in the present situation as leaders across the political divide in Kenya passionately appealed for calm among their supporters and advised them to await the final announcement of the results. Eminent foreign observers including former U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, as well as former U.S President Obama equally added their powerful voices and called for restraint and further advised Kenyans not to take the law into their own hands but should rather exhaust all electoral and legal processes in accordance with the Kenyan constitution.
The defeated Odinga initially was averse and not too keen on challenging his defeat in the court, stressing that he had lost confidence in the Kenyan judiciary. However, when he realized that he had at his disposal enough evidence to challenge and upturn Uhuru Kenyatta’s electoral victory, he proceeded to the Kenyan Supreme Court which is saddled with the arbitration in presidential election disputes, claiming that the electoral commission’s electronic database in Nairobi was massively hacked into by agents of his rival, President Kenyatta. The Supreme Court in its landmark and historic judgment had allowed Odinga’s petition and subsequently ordered for a fresh poll within a period of sixty days. In their separate mixed reactions, President Kenyatta condemned the Supreme Court judgment and blasted the judges whom he labeled as “crooks”, while Odinga welcomed the judgment but called for the immediate dissolution of the Electoral Commission and prosecution of members of the commission for their “criminal” act.
The Kenyan experience should, therefore, serve as a great lesson for all democratic nations across the globe, particularly the young democracies in Africa and Asia which are yet to embrace democratic principles.
It is equally instructive to observe that the Kenyan experience had clearly shown that no electoral process, no matter its technological sophistication, could be considered as completely foolproof and hence, technology is yet to develop the antidote to electoral rigging and manipulations across the globe.
The bastion of democracy and global super power, the United States of America, was not immune to this terrible malaise or phenomenon as was clearly evident during the presidential election between former President, George W. Bush, and former Vice President, Al Gore, when the electronic counting machine in the State of Florida was allegedly manipulated in rigging the election in favour of President Bush. And, coming later on the heels of the above electoral fraud, was the recent presidential election in the same U.S when it was alleged that Russia brazenly meddled in the electoral process that ultimately favoured President Donald Trump to win the election against his rival, Hilary Clinton.
Coming back to the Kenyan situation, it will be recalled that the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta is the great son of late Jomo Kenyatta, the leader of the highly dreaded Mau Mau guerrilla movement, that fought British imperialism and occupation to a standstill during the independence struggles in the mid- fifties, while Raila Odinga is also the great son of late Odinga Odinga, who was equally involved in the struggles for independence and emancipation of the Kenyan people. Jomo Kenyatta later became the first President of Kenya at independence in 1963 and died in 1978.
The British, in the early fifties, had always looked upon Kenya as the gateway to East Africa’s huge agricultural market and other economic potentials of the region. Hence, she immediately adopted the obnoxious policy of segregation or apartheid aimed at holding down the Kenyan populace. The policy of segregation effectively separated the white settlers from the indigenous African population in both social and economic activities.
After her independence in 1963, Kenya by virtue of her population and strong economy, became the economic power house of the East African nations comprising Kenya, Tanganyika later renamed Tanzania, and Uganda and the three nations agreed to integrate under the defunct East African Economic Community (EAEC) which was a model in African Economic integration. Kenya had maintained stable and successful democratic governments since her independence and never witnessed any military incursion in governance. This was essentially due to the maturity and spirit of patriotism on the part of her political leaders as well as the absolute loyalty of the Kenyan Armed Forces to the Kenyan State.
As the campaigns for the fresh presidential election get underway, it is hoped that Kenyans would continue to maintain the peace and stability as they exercise their franchise once again to elect the president of their choice. The world is already watching and it is incumbent on the Kenyan people either to re-confirm their earlier decision to re-elect Uhuru Kenyatta or switch over their votes in favour of Raila Odinga this time around.
The Kenyan electorate will definitely prove in the coming weeks whether Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory was a mere fluke or whether Raila Odinga was actually denied victory through the manipulation of the electoral process as he claimed. Whatever happens, the will of the Kenyan people must be respected whenever the outcome of the re-scheduled election is eventually announced by the electoral commission.
Akabogu writes from Enugwu-Ukwu, Anambra State
In conclusion, the developing nations of the world particularly Nigeria that is already looking forward to her next Presidential election in 2019 should borrow a leaf from the Kenyan experience and take adequate and effective measures that would guarantee free, fair, transparent and credible election in their various countries. As the countdown to Nigeria’s forth coming general elections in 2019 begins in earnest, it is expected that the electoral umpire, INEC, should take necessary measures to plug all loop holes in its preparations towards the conduct of the polls in order to checkmate or prevent desperate and unpatriotic politicians who are already bent on wrestling power by illegitimate means from carrying out their anti-democratic designs.
The litmus test already awaits the electoral umpire, INEC, as it prepares for the forthcoming Anambra State gubernatorial election coming up on 18th November, 2017. Political watchers have revealed that some opposition parties had already perfected their nefarious acts or strategies to circumvent the electoral process and by so doing undermine the collective will of the people of Anambra State. These political desperados had reportedly boasted that they has already concluded their evil plans to manipulate the system and rig the gubernatorial election with the active collaboration and connivance of some INEC officials at Abuja.
It has become imperative therefore, that the INEC authorities at Abuja must do everything humanly possible to protect their image and must not allow these political terrorists and scavengers to carry out their evil plans to undermine the electoral process. The INEC authority must equally ensure that their personnel for the election must be persons of proven integrity and impeccable character and who must be thoroughly screened before their deployment to Anambra State.
In the same vein, the electronic data base for the collation and transmission of results must be supervised by qualified security agencies to be accompanied by political party agents who are well versed in the knowledge and operation of electronic system as it relates to electoral process. These stringent measures if they are painstakingly and religiously carried out will definitely reduce if not completely eliminate the possibility of rigging and manipulations in our electoral process.
Nze Nwabueze Akabogu (JP)
Is a regular Public Affairs Commentator and analyst.
He wrote from Enugwu-Ukwu, Anambra State
E-mail: [email protected]
4th September, 2017