Kenya General Elections 2017: Regional Impact
Kenya set precedence. It broke bare the traditional tendencies of African democracies – sticking to power and rigging elections or suspending elections, altogether. Therefore, it was “Unafrican” and strange part of the governance system in the region. Also, it must have been received with surprise by the regional leaders.
Several reports showed that Uganda ever interfered in the electoral process of Kenya in the efforts to defend the statuesque. There were similar reports that Uganda security wore Kenya police uniform, with a mission of influencing election outcomes in Uhuru’s favour. Russia too was said to have been involved. Besides, calls from Uganda and other regional countries to cling to power and reject Supreme Court outcomes were expected.
Analysts said that the court decision had a lot to do with the 2007 election violence in which over 1400 people died. The awful memories of the violence could not encourage perpetrators to stage a similar episode this time around. On the contrary, militant civilians were determined to die for justice or otherwise see Raila in power. Two of my friends in Kenya told said to me, “no Raila, no peace, and we are ready to die.” This followed my question that, “what if Raila does not become president?” From their responses you could see sheer determination to see Raila in power. It was also evident from the conversation that, for long Raila was cheated out of elections and Kenyans had simply lost the patience. This time no chance would be given to Uhuru to either rig his way to power or assume the presidency. Simply, he had to go. It was just enough for majority of Kenyans to keep Uhuru and Ruto at the helm of Kenya leadership.
Early congratulatory messages and reports from observers caused outrage. At least, this time, civilians did not burst out in full-scale violence as the case in the Kibaki era. Media reports indicated total number of the dead as about 24 people. The congratulatory messages were sent along side concessions from some elite Raila supporters, who traditionally knew that once announced winner, no matter how victory was achieved, it remained valid. Not even the courts would nullify it. It would have been most pleasing if congratulatory messages returned after court ruling for the very extraordinary occasion in the history of democratic governance and thank Uhuru for consideration of nationhood against self. I think, on this event, Uhuru rose to become a hero, to be remembered alongside the likes of Nelson Mandela and other renowned statesmen and women.
Although there were some cases of violence, restraint was well exercised to give way for the courts to decide. The two “elephants” too made efforts to control respective supporters and give the courts a chance to arbitrate and decide on the matter. The outcome of the court was most eventful in the history of electoral disputes in any African country, when it ruled in favour of the opposition. The court decision was celebrated by oppressed people and opposition leaders in the region and made week-long news globally. Some opinion leaders explained that court action aimed at preventing another election violence that threatened the election process.
One aspect about Kenya people though, is: they are decisive and very well know what they want and get it if they have to, unlike people in other African countries. I would say, for example; that, Kenyans are not like Ugandans, even the Armies in both countries are different. Ugandans have been suppressed for long whose reaction is latent in a short run, but highly explosive in the long run, more over carrying an ethnic context.
Unlike Ugandan Army, which is still tied to a personality cult in Museveni, Kenyan Army is largely national. Uganda Army is still evolving in as far as carrying national image and appeal are concerned. Indeed the soldiers in Uganda care so much about their country, but the regime will never allow them to express it and respond to the plunder and chaotic socioeconomic and political environment in which the dictatorship thrives best. They only wish that civilians make the changes possible on their behalf, instead. Morally, they are at par with oppressed civilians as for any professional soldier or as human beings with families and friends within the civilian population.
The general elections in Kenya, as a whole, has for long carried a sharp ethnic line – featuring Kikuyu verses rest of the country’s tribes. The country’s socio-economic and socio-political structures have for decades been aligned, according Tribes, with the Kikuyu taking the biggest share of every aspect of Kenya resources and good life. There has been hopelessness on the part of other tribes, owing to generations of poverty and marginalisation, where urban crime has emerged as major way of life for the marginalised youths.
Despite the awful conditions of life most Kenyans have gone through for centuries, their proactive, principled and bold tendencies have never been compromised, and always showed promise that one day they would liberated themselves from maladministration and nepotism.
The Kenya’s revolutionary outcomes I see today are therefore not surprising. I have had a chance to interact with Kenya youthful activists, but one thing you can never take away from them is the zeal and courage, which are very characteristic of youth-hood. In Uganda such activism happens in isolation, one time in a long time. Universities and colleges, which were the brains of the whole country ceased to be, activism significantly declined, vibrant intellectual debates at universities went so low down the drain, and any political discussions are now highly compromised. The Mamdanis and Nsibambis have never been replaced. From here, other public sectors assumed dysfunctional states and private sectors suffer as a consequence. A country where youths once became national leaders at 30 during the pre-colonial and post-colonial eras, active drivers of country’s development endeavours, is no longer the same. Museveni succeeded at shuttering social life of Ugandans through poverty and political alienation as tools of oppression. What we have in Uganda is rule by pensioners who have ceased to act visionary and representative of the country’s future. Should the majority and corrupt members of parliament also decide that, there should no longer be retirement age for civil servants. Incidentally, the regime youths working for pensioner-politicians are shameless, celebrating the short term pleasures from regime handouts and unknowingly compromises their lifelong legacies of being champions of youth-hood they ought to have and be part of the good history of Uganda and democratic Africa. That is very possible, more so, now, when the regime can change anytime, any day and very soon.
Kenya is very impressive. Young people are very much at the forefront of change, and never succumb to tendencies of oppression that Uhuru regime tried to exhibit. The 2017 general elections were not only about the struggle for the structural and fundamental changes, but a desperate need to change the highly corrupt and gangster government of Uhuru Kenyatta.
As such, for the first time in Kenya history, the tribal factor counted was minimal, and Uhuru was bound to fall. In fact, the election defeat of Uhuru was bound to be a rebirth of Kenya. The active participation of youths and women was very spectacular. It was a true reflection of the need for structural reforms, to eliminate structural violence and achieve lasting peace for Kenya.
Particularly, the women; their socioeconomic and political liberation has been long overdue. Their enormous entry into the political arena marks the end of much dreaded cultural stereotypes against them. And a new Kenya, without Uhuru, was bound to break the myth of change-of-regimes as evil, and instead push for change as guarantor of new lease of life for citizens in neighbouring countries, and change as much desirable if national development is to be fast tracked.
The court decision on disputed elections was highly celebrated as victory for democratic governance in Africa. Kenya took the model role of revolutionarising the region from military dictatorship to democratic governance, and join Southern and Western African countries. It showed how strong-willed Kenyans are and independence judicial arm of government, which in countries like Uganda, is only a dream. The poor young lawyers are nurtured in the same sorry state of the legal environment and are recycled to become corrupt as part of the profession. Many Ugandans wished to be citizens of Kenya, to be led justly and genuinely and express their political will, which they lack. This showed how proud Ugandans are of Kenya. They would beg Kenyans to keep pushing for good governance; inspire them so that they can aspire to become the Kenya of today.
The changes in Kenya will have some interesting yet positive outcomes in the region, as the decline in wars and humanitarian crises which characterise the region from independence times. Since independence, the departure of imperialists has seemed to be more curse than a blessing. The promising African leaders turned rulers and dictators, worse than the foreign colonisers. They became new colonisers.
Therefore, the final nail in the coffin of bad governance in the region shall be realised, when the Uhuru leadership finally falls. This should the prayer for Africa from any lover of liberated minds and fully liberated Africa. However, with all these said, Uhuru must be congratulated for respecting the court decision, which any other person in his position would castigate and, instead, stick to power. Even possible influences from his counterparts – Museveni and others could be resisted! It is a legacy set, for which he can always be remembered for.
Research and projects Associate, and Community development and Peace-psychology Specialist