Kenya’s Elections, ICC and the Road Ahead
Democracy is seen as the best form of government as it paves way for the people to decide their leaders through credible plebiscites. Election malpractices, the dominance of modern days' democracy, arouse agitations and create tensions that threaten the survival of democracy in most countries.
Kenya's election in 2007 with the accompanying post elections violence claimed numerous lives and crippled the socio-economic status of the country. The indelible marks of the inimical history left the country under tension as the suspected protagonists of the violence are under fire to face the law.
As it is, the humid Kenya weather is tension soaked. The uncertainty is palpable. Any moment from now, the International Criminal Court (ICC) based in Hague will rule on whether six prominent Kenyan politicians and a radio journalist have a case to answer on charges relating to their alleged role during the 2007 post election violence that engulfed the country. The outcome of that ruling has a potential of redefining political trajectories in the next Presidential elections. Already the aftermath of the initial investigation carried out by outgoing Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has cracked the camp of the incumbent Prime Minister, and frontline Presidential hopeful, Raila Amollo Odinga and may put his anticipated landslide victory in jeopardy.
Among the high profile suspects include Henry Kosgey, Chairman, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and William Ruto, the Deputy Leader of the party. Two of them supported the Prime Minister when he ran for the Presidency under the party in 2007 elections. MP Ruto, who was Minister for Agriculture and then Higher Education, was also accused of instigating some of the killings in the Rift Valley Province, by calling for mass demonstrations, after the election results were announced in favour of incumbent President Kibaki. An accusation he has bluntly denied. Mr. Ruto himself was said to have expressed shock that PM Odinga did little to defend him as whatever happened in 2007 was in solidarity to him(Odinga) and in response to alleged rigging that robbed him of the Presidency. It will be recalled that Mr. Ruto used his influence in Rift valley province to galvanize support for Mr. Odinga and now strongly feels that he must not be abandoned to 'pay' for his 'sins' alone. Consequently, in response to PM Odinga alleged betrayal, Mr. Ruto is believed to have withdrawn his support for the Prime Minister and is now vying for the Presidency under a new party, the United Republican Party (URP).
Another person on the list of suspects is the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Uhuru Kenyata. Amiable and financially endowed, Uhuru is the son of Kenya's first President, Jomo Kenyatta and firmly backed incumbent President Mwai Kibaki in the 2007 elections. Many observers believe that he is being groomed as Kibaki's possible successor. He was accused of using his influence and wealth to grant members of Mungiki(a Kikuyu ethnic militia) access and finance to perpetrate retaliatory killings in the Rift valley during the 2007 violence. An allegation, he also flatly denies.
With the clock ticking to the ICC judgement, there are a few implications. Most importantly, incumbent Prime Minister who is seen by many as a President in waiting may be fighting a political battle of his life. His former political ally, William Ruto, has parted ways with him and publicly declared that 'he does not know who will be the President of Kenya, but it will not be PM Raila Odinga'. It is believed that Mr. Ruto is relying on his political structures in the Rift valley to work against Mr. Odinga. Those were the same structures which he (Ruto) used to support Mr. Odinga and which the Prime Minister was naturally relying upon before the disagreement between them.
As is typical in many post colonial African countries, a fierce inter ethnic competition is expected again in the 2012 elections among 42 ethnic groups in Kenya. The 2007 post electoral violence reawakened tribal sensibilities and rekindled traditional ethnic rivalries and alliances. For instance the finance minister, Uhuru Kenyatta, will be the man to beat among Kikuyu's his ethnic homestead which constitutes about 20 percent of the country's population. PM Raila Odinga will naturally sweep the votes among the Luos, his home stead. With the new development, Mr. Ruto will also be expected to win at least among the Kalenjins who constitute about 12 percent of the population. Incumbent Vice President, Kalonzo Musyoka, will win among his Kamba tribe of about 11 percent. This anticipated fragmentation of votes along clear ethnic cleavages may become the political albatross of PM Odinga as it may be difficult for him or any other Presidential candidate to garner the 51 percent majority votes as required by the Kenyan constitution.
The perceived political game changer at the moment is the Meru ethnic group which constitute about 5 percent of the population. Political pundits believe that PM Odinga is showing discernible political apprehension and is therefore campaigning vigorously across the country especially among the Merus. The permutation is to use these votes to compensate for his anticipated loss in the Rift Valley province. There are speculations alluding to an unwritten grand strategy among other candidates to frustrate Raila Odinga from winning the constitutional 51 percent majority during the first round of voting and then uniting themselves to support one candidate to defeat the Prime Minister at the run off. As it stands now, regardless of the outcome of the ICC ruling in Hague and the popularity he enjoys, it is not safe to say Hakuna Matata for PM Odinga's Presidential aspiration.
Uche Igwe is a governance expert. He wrote in via [email protected]