On the 30th October, Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the victor of Kenya’s re-run election. The repeat of the election was enacted after the Supreme Court declared the previous results, carried out in August, as invalid due to ‘irregularities’. The recent election saw Kenyatta win by 98%, with only a 39% electorate turnout.
Kenyatta, the current President and leader of the Jubilee Party of Kenya, was battling both elections against his main opposition Raila Odinga, leader of the Orange Democratic Movement. Odinga, prior to the re-run election, encouraged his supporters to boycott the election and partake in civil disobedience. Odinga’s instructions to his base encouraged further violent clashes among electorate strongholds.
The August election was surrounded by speculations of election rigging, deep tribal divisions, and fear of a repetition of the 2007 post-election violence. In an unprecedented act, the Supreme courts nullified the results and declared the need for a re-run. No blame, however, was placed on Kenyatta or his Party. Due to security concerns, key opposition stronghold-constituencies were suspended from the administration of the re-run election. So contentious was the re-election, that senior election commissioner, Roselyn Akombe, unexpectedly resigned and fled to New York out of fear for her security.
‘tribalism has long been a determining factor in the success of a candidate’s presidential bid.’
Odinga’s calls for a boycott of the October election came as he believed no measures were put in place to reform the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission after the previous nullification. The calls made by the opposition for supporters to reject the results of the re-run election proved successful, hence the low electoral turnout. The Supreme Court is yet to respond to petitions and legal challenges questioning the lawfulness of the October election.
Both elections, this year, have resulted in numerous violent clashes between the police and vehement opposition supporters. Just last week, in Western Kenya, there was street violence between the police and opposition supporters. Four people died as a result of this brawl. Kisumu county, similarly, saw one person shot dead and three others injured due to election-related grievances.
Kenyatta has spoken of the possibility of a meeting with the opposition leader in order to calm the violence in the country. He stated that ‘as a responsible leader, you must reach out’. Despite Kenyatta’s attempts, the opposition’s supporters have not been pacified.
Tribalism has long been a determining factor in the success of a candidate’s presidential bid. Kenya is made up of numerous tribal groups such as the Kikuyu, Luhya, Kalenjin, Luo, and Kamba. The Kikuyus, tribe of Kenyatta, and Luos, the tribe of Odinga, have historically been at odds, especially during elections. Many Kenyans vote along tribal lines and so leading presidential candidates are often reliant on cross-tribal alliances in order to achieve an overall majority.
Both Odinga and Kenyatta come from the two feuding families who have dominated Kenyan politics since Kenyan independence in 1962. Odinga’s father, Jaramogi Odinga, was Kenya’s first vice president. Kenyatta’s father, however, was Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first President. The dynastic environment in Kenya, mixed with deeply entrenched tribal rivalries have led to a sequence of violent elections since the 1960s.
The parallels between this year’s two elections and those of 2007 have caused great fear amongst Kenyans, and internationally too. The 2007 election was fought between Odinga and the former Kenyan President, Mwai Kibaki. Odinga’s supporters, similarly, contested Kibaki’s victory in that election leading to street violence across the capital. An estimated 1,400 people were killed during the protests, while 600,000 Kenyan’s were displaced.
Election violence, both in 2007 and this year, can be seen as the product of tribal exploitation for political gain. Kenya is of great importance internationally, especially in the fight against terrorism. Political instability could therefore lead to far-reaching consequences.