Mini-buses and buses travelling upcountry are reported to be packed as people return to their home areas before the election. Fares have more than doubled and buses that normally make one trip per day are now making two.
People have asked me for my predictions on the election. Here is my assessment at this time. The presidential race will be very close. Uhuru/Ruto seem to have the upper hand. First they are the incumbents and are using the state apparatus to help them (with loud complaints from the opposition since this is illegal). Uhuru and Ruto are traversing the countryside dedicating roads, bridges, schools, the new standard gauge railroad, and even announcing two new state recognized tribes to add to the existing forty-two. Second the Kikuyu, Uhuru’s tribe, also register to vote in large numbers and most of them turn out to vote. I have been told that the planes from the US to Kenya are filled with Kikuyu who are returning to vote for Uhuru.
Yet incumbency has its drawbacks which the NASA opposition is exploiting as much as it can. First many of the pledges that Uhuru/Ruto made during the 2013 election have not been fulfilled. NASA also has challenged Jubilee on every real and imagined case of corruption that has occurred. Lastly due to drought, mismanagement, and corruption the cost of food has skyrocketed. Maize (white corn), sugar, and milk have all increased substantially. If voting in Kenya were not tribally based, this food inflation would be an indicator of defeat for the government. How much food inflation is going to affect the voting is unclear.
NASA strength is its diversity. This had given it headaches as four of the five principals (as they are called) wanted to be the presidential flagbearer. Raila Odinga was the obvious choice even though he has lost the last two elections as the opposition candidate (through rigging they claim). Although he is the king man of the Luo, his strength is that he is one of the few politicians in Kenya who has substantial following among other tribes, the Luhya, for example, and also in the coast which has a number of smaller tribes.
In addition to the almost 4,000 independent candidates, there are a total of thirty-seven parties which have fielded at least one candidate. Therefore the results are going to defy any simple explanation which is so easy to do in the two party system in the US.
Will the election be considered free and fair? In other words, how will the work of the IEBC be received? So far the indications are mixed. The IEBC has not been very transparent in its deliberations. The first contract to print the ballots was thrown out by the court so they gave an inflated no-bid contract to a firm in Dubai which might have connections to Jubilee. Then they printed almost one million extra ballots which the opposition claims can be used for ballot stuffing. The IEBC then announced that they would not give running updates on the vote counts but only announced the winner after all votes were tabulated – this brought howls of protest and this idea was withdrawn. They also wanted to have the tallies announced only in the central office in Nairobi rather than in the tally stations in each of the 47 counties. This would thus allow the center to determine how the voting was going and then manipulate the results. The opposition took this to court and won so that the official numbers will come from the county tallying centers and the central tally center will only be adding up and announcing the results. Another issue is that the opposition and a neutral religious group have announced that they would conduct parallel tallying centers – in the 2002 election the parallel tallying center indicated that then KANU candidate, who happened to be Uhuru Kenyatta, was losing badly so it was impossible for the vote to be manipulated. The IEBC responded by saying that only they could release the official results (which is correct), but then they wanted to ban any other parallel tallying centers. When they lost this in court, they have restricted the media from announcing any results before they do. All of these manipulations do not bode well for a “free and fair” election.
On the positive side, the IEBC claims (and will see if this happens) that any polling station that has more votes than the number of registered voters will be consider “rigged” so the tally will be zero. Also every voter will be given six ballots and, if a polling station has more votes for president than the other positons, then it will also be considered “rigged” and the votes will not count. This is supposed to be programmed into the electronic results so that no human intervention is possible. Note that if these two restrictions had been carried out in the 2007 and 2012 elections the results would have been different from what was announced.
Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s Data Centre and Infrastructure acting director, Chris Msando, was assassinated last weekend.
Then early last Saturday morning Chris Msando, the acting director of the computerized voting system for the election, was found tortured and murdered. On the following Monday he was supposed to conduct a trail test of the electronic system of identifying voters and reporting the results. This had not been tested before the 2013 election and had failed miserable. This assassination has held to increased rumors and speculations and additional tension to an already tense country. The fact that he was a Luo (Raila’s tribe) and had replaced a Kikuyu (Uhuru’s tribe) as head of the ICT work (who had been suspended for failing to cooperate with an audit) has added to the suspicion. The mock test was postponed on Monday because he was in charge of the test, but it was performed on Wednesday, satisfactorily according to the IEBC. US’s FBI and UK’s Scotland Yard have volunteered to help with the investigation of his murder and the Kenyan Government has indicated that they will accept these offers of assistance.
One person has asked me who I prefer and support. My response is that as a peacemaker I don’t prefer/support any particular candidates, but work to see that the election is as fair and free as possible without violence. One Lumakanda candidate whom I know asked me for a contribution to support his candidacy and I responded that as a neutral observer of the election I can’t donate to any candidate.
Will there be post-election violence? My feeling is that there will not be the nation- wide violence as occurred after the 2007 election, but I think there may be a good amount of violence over local elections. If these clashes are severe, they could lead to property destruction and numerous fatalities.
There has been a considerable amount of pre-election violence already. Previously I have reported on the violence on Mt. Elgon (see http://davidzarembka.com/2017/07/05/report-from-kenya-446-assassination-of-peacemaker-robert-juma-on-mt-elgon-july-7-2017/). In addition, a number of youth have been killed in clashes between rival candidates. More significantly in May Thomas Loktari Minito, a candidate for Member of the County Assembly (MCA) in Baringo County, was assassinated. Another MCA candidate has been reported missing for over a week. The three small boys of James Ratemo, an MCA candidate in Eldoret, were tragically kidnapped and murdered. The suspect was his brother who was angry with James because he has sold some of the family land in order to finance his election – I don’t know if this can be considered election related violence or not.
As a result people, particularly from the urban areas, are reported to be leaving areas where they are a minority to return to their ancestral home. In hotspot Mumias where TSCS is working a person has been arrested for distributing fliers that demanded that all Kikuyu (who are assumed will vote for Uhuru) leave Mumias before the election. Various foreign embassies and companies are allowing their employees to leave Kenya for vacation. Many countries have issued travel advisories. Businesses are running down their stock so that it will not be stolen if there is violence. Importers from the surrounding countries which normally use Mombasa as the port of entry for their imports are sending their goods to Dar es Salaam instead. The newspaper reports that people are already stocking up on food. We ourselves went to Eldoret yesterday to stock up on food, medicine, airtime, and cash in case we are marooned in Lumakanda as we were during the 2008 post-election violence. Caution is prudence.
In summary the situation is tense.
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From 1998 to 2016, David Zarembka was the Coordinator of the African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams. He continues his peacemaking work in East Africa with Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC) and Friends Church Peace Team (FCPT). He has been involved with East and Central Africa since 1964 when he taught Rwandan refugees in Tanzania. David is married to Gladys Kamonya and lives in western Kenya. David is the author of A Peace of Africa: Reflections on Life in the Great Lakes Region.
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