Post Kenya Election Violence and Protest
By Paloma Delgado
On August 11, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya was re-elected over his opponent,
Raila Odinga, receiving 54.2% in the election to Odinga’s 44.7%. The fallout from the
election has been serious and Odinga has claimed the election results are fraudulent.
Kenyatta’s re-election has spurred several protests, with an estimated 24 people dying in violent protests after the election results were announced. Kenya’s Security Minister, Fred Matiangi, rebukes accusations that police have shot protesters, stating that officers “did not use live
bullets.” Most of the violence has occurred in the slums of Nairobi that were primarily
supportive of opposition leader Odinga.
The President has encouraged the nation to maintain peace and to remain united. But
the chairman of the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights says that “there has
been excessive use of force and misuse of firearms by security personnel dealing with
members of the public who are exercising their right to peaceful assembly in accordance
with our constitution.”
Kenya is no stranger to violence related to post election results. Back in 2007, 1,200
people died due to post-election unrest. In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr. Odinga says that much of the population was too frightened to vote for anyone but the former president, stating that they are being held “under metaphorical gunpoint.” Odinga has run for president 4 times and has failed each time. But when Odinga speaks about his loss in the election, he claims that it is more than just a yearning for victory that propels him to run each year for president. In Odinga’s opinion, it is not the people themselves but “the computer in the national tallying centre” that makes the final decision in the election. “We just want Kenyans to know what happened, what the whole world is not understanding is happening,” he said.
Kenyatta is a man who represents the elite of Kenya. He comes from a wealthy family
who owns various businesses and properties that include TV channels, newspapers,
radio stations and sectors in tourism, construction, banking and insurance. Back in 2013, he branded himself as the “digital president.” To much of Kenya at the time, he appeared down to earth and approachable, earning him the name “Kamwana,” meaning “young man,” as he is the youngest president in Kenya’s history. His father, Jomo Kenyatta, was the first president of Kenya in 1964, only further demonstrating the legacy that he was expected to preserve.
However, Kenyatta’s administration has not necessarily been seen as a shining example
of integrity and democracy. In fact, his government has been tarnished by nepotism,
corruption and tribalism allegations. He has been further accused of limiting freedom of
expression by passing laws that have reduced press freedom. Not to mention that he was
indicted by the International Criminal Court on crimes against humanity. There are no campaign finance laws in Kenya and there are questions of abuse of power of incumbency. There is also concern of a lack of transparency, as Kenyans cannot see which candidate won in which constituency.
Lawyers that represent the National Super Alliance coalition, the center-left political
party that Odinga belongs to, have filed a petition through the Supreme Court to
challenge Kenyatta’s reelection. In 2013, Mr. Odinga claimed the election was rigged
and appealed to the Supreme Court, but his petition was denied. Despite concerns that the petition will meet a similar demise this year, the new Chief Justice, David Maraga, may accept it. Maraga has warned Kenyatta not to undermine the judiciary and has accused politicians of threatening its independence. Odinga’s team has also filed a number of lawsuits in the election process and the courts have primarily sided with him.
According to John Aglionby, the Financial Times Nairobi correspondent, one of the
major challenges that Kenyatta will face as president is the division that the election has
caused in the nation. “If you live in the slums, you believe the world is against you,” he
says. “As soon as you step 100 yards away from these areas, life is starting to return to
normal... It’s as if nothing ever happened.”
The second major challenge that Kenyatta faces, according to Aglionby, is the economy.
“In the 6 to 8 months before the election, the economy slowed significantly. Much of this
was election related but there were also other factors.” For example, the cost of living
has increased dramatically.
Pertaining to foreign relations, the country has endured great apprehension towards
Somalia and South Sudan who are experiencing civil war and unrest.
Kenyatta’s greatest threat, however, may be regaining the trust of the Kenyan people
that has eroded ever since he first became president.
***UPDATE: The election in Kenya was recently overturned by the Supreme Court due to the manipulation of electronic votes. This may set a precedent not only for Kenya but to the entirety of Africa.