The defiance of the majority of Kenyan voters

A number of my Rwandan acquaintances were glued to their sets watching Kenya’s Citizen TV last Saturday. All spoke of the elation they felt with the declaration of Mr Uhuru Kenyatta as president-elect. For whatever reason, their choice was Uhuru.
Gitura Mwaura
Gitura Mwaura

A number of my Rwandan acquaintances were glued to their sets watching Kenya’s Citizen TV last Saturday. All spoke of the elation they felt with the declaration of Mr Uhuru Kenyatta as president-elect. For whatever reason, their choice was Uhuru.

Then one of them narrated how he went to congratulate his Kenyan friend, only to discover, by the reaction he got, that it did not seem to have gone down very well.

 The friend was a supporter of Mr Raila Odinga, the runner-up in the presidential elections, and whose CORD coalition is now in the process of petitioning the Supreme Court to test the validity of the presidential results.

Though my Rwandan acquaintance admitted to his naivety of the “Kenyan differences” and the rough and tumble of their politics, he seemed to laud what he saw as the defiance of the majority voters to elect Uhuru, despite his date with the International Criminal Court to stand trial for crimes against humanity in the previous elections.

My friend did not believe in the credibility of ICC process. Neither had he read the recent opinion piece, “Kenyans elected a president we felt could bring peace” by the notable Kenyan writer, Binyavanga Wainaina, in the Guardian, which my friend probably would have agreed with.

Binyavanga wrote, using his characteristic expressive and often caustic tone: “We have come to see the track record of the ICC and doubt it. Bungled Congo. More bungled Sudan. The ICC came swooping when we were deeply vulnerable – at the lowest point in our history. Now, it seems toothless. More than anything, it seems to want to use the Kenya cases to make itself legitimate as a meaningful global institution. We are not keen at all to be playing that sort of experiment.”  

Note, however, that the president-elect has committed to comply with ICC requirements and will attend trials in The Hague as will be called upon. 

 Nevertheless, a theory doing the rounds, much of it in the social media, and not without sympathies in the region, was that in their defiance, the Kenyans had “stuck it” to the West (read USA) for their “hypocrisy” not being signatories to the ICC but who “want everybody” to toe the line with their veiled threats that “choices have consequences”.

But it is also possible that it was democracy at work with the choices made. Whatever their motives to vote, the new Constitution has greatly expanded the people’s freedoms, and not least by maintaining their right to choose.

Also, with the new Constitution providing a guide, the prerequisite must be presumed that their participation was open, transparent and that it was an inclusive deliberative process.

Therefore, whatever the outcome, it may be looked at as a reasoned public deliberation that played out at the ballot, and that ended up defining the risks the society was willing to accept by the principle of the majority.

Call it “the tyranny of numbers”, if you will, as was recently explicated by the Kenyan political analyst, Mutahi Ngunyi, when he now famously foretold how the voting patterns would play out in this particular election.

But the point is, at the bottom was the Kenyans’ right to choose – and be challenged, if need be – as is now happening with the CORD case due to be presented at the Supreme Court to challenge the outcome of the elections. That is a democratic process.

While the president-elect seems to have hit the ground running meeting envoys from Africa and across the world, he will only be sworn in after the democratic process is fully exhausted with the culmination of the Court ruling.

The new Constitution provides that presidential elections should be challenged in court within seven days after the announcement of election result. The Supreme Court has 14 days to hear and rule in the  case.  If the court rules that the election was invalid, a fresh one must be held within 60 days. The decision reached is final.

Twitter: @gituram

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