IN terms of the ferocity of political contestation, Kenya is like Nigeria. Ethnic loyalties are rather strong. The level of corruption is very high. The stakes are so high. It is, therefore, no surprise that after the Kenyan Electoral Commission declared President Uhuru Kenyatta the winner of last week’s election, his opponent, Mr. Raila Odinga, is contesting the results. But by so doing, he is pushing Kenya, once more, to the brink of another electoral misadventure.
The 2007 election was a nightmare no one would want repeated in Africa. At least 1,300 Kenyans were killed and 600,000 were displaced. The wounds of that election have not fully healed. In 2013, the world heaved a sigh of relief when the election of that year went without violence. Last week, in spite of a tough campaign in which each candidate did the most he could, the election was held in a peaceful atmosphere, devoid of violence and serious electoral malpractices. Incidents of voters not finding their names in the electoral registers, late delivery of materials in certain constituencies and the poor functioning of some electoral voting kits were noted in a number of places. But overall, the calamity that was anticipated during the election did not materialise, especially following the murder of Mr. Chris Msando, the electoral commission’s IT manager, who an official admitted “was no doubt tortured and murdered.”
The declaration of the electoral commission that President Kenyatta won by a margin of 1.4 million votes was unequivocal. The testimony of international observers, including the most reputable organisations and highly credible diplomats, was that the election had been free, fair and a true representation of the political will of the Kenyan people. Among those testimonies were those of the African Union election observer team, and the immediate past US Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry, which were corroborated by the head of the European Union delegation, Marietje Schaake, who stated that her team saw “no sign of centralised or localised manipulation” of the voting process. And, these organisations and individuals have called on Raila Odinga and his National Super Alliance (NASA) to accept the result.
In his victory speech, President Uhuru Kenyatta was thoughtful to appeal to the best patriotic instincts of Kenyans and, in particular, Odinga’s when he said, “we reach out to you and your supporters and say that in any competition there are always winners and losers but in the true democracy that Kenya is, there are no losers.”
We urge Odinga to accept the results of the election forthwith and cease any further activities that might suggest to his supporters that the election was rigged or somehow fraudulent. In saying this, we take the position that whatever evidence Odinga has against the conduct of the election should be carefully documented and presented to the election tribunal which has the responsibility to adjudicate such complaints. Too many Kenyans have already lost their lives to the election, the last count was 24. We consider it a disgrace that elections continue to be a cause of violence leading to many deaths in Africa, often caused by politicians who use innocent citizens as cannon fodder in the pursuit of their political ambitions.
We understand that Odinga, 72, has said he may no longer wish to put himself forward again as a candidate. We know that age is just a number and we also know that Kenya can still be enriched by his service in many other areas. Even in the opposition, we know that Odinga could still serve Kenya by pushing his noble programmes which include the need to fight corruption, to follow the rule of law, respect the freedom of the press, provide healthcare, reduce poverty and keep Kenya’s debts within sustainable limits.