Saturday, 14 October 2017

Kenya’s Current Political Stalemate Calls for Dialogue

Anti-IEBC demonstrations in Kisumu.
Photo: Courtesy
With the uncertainty of the October 26th repeat presidential election growing day by day, the animus between the ardent supporters of Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga also seems to be on an upward spiral. This politico-legal conundrum is a consequential effect of the unwillingness by the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the Jubilee Party and the National Super Alliance (NASA) to engage in a constructive and comprehensive electoral discourse. 

The electoral body, IEBC, has shown complete lack of effective leadership in steering discussions between the two leading political camps. Apart from the cosmetic show of concern by IEBC to initiate and mediate talks between Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Odinga, the top leadership of this commission has been inconsistent in charting the way forward in regard to the processes and systems leading to the presidential election.

Hard line positions adopted by the Jubilee Party and the NASA coalition are in fact the fundamental basis of the quandary that the country faces. The amendments to the election laws by the Jubilee Party are hell-bent and only meant to trigger chaos in the country. One doesn’t really need to be a rocket scientist to take notice of the ill motives that fuel the Uhuru Kenyatta-led party in pushing for the ‘convenient’ amendments to the election laws.

Jubilee Party’s move highly qualifies as party dictatorship which was the political order during the hey days of the grand old party, KANU, as highlighted in a recent article. The Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi and his Senate counterpart Ken Lusaka, lack the leadership and resolve to preside over the order of business in Parliament particularly at this time. Their failure to provide effective leadership is deeply rooted in the political religiosity that they bear as dictated by their masters.

NASA’s demands, the now famous irreducible minimums, are credible and valid but can all of them be implemented at the moment? Methinks it is impossible to implement a number of the irreducible minimums but at least fundamental changes are necessary since the Supreme Court ruled that the outcome of the nullified presidential election was characterized by illegalities and irregularities.

Weak leadership by IEBC and the Speakers of Parliament to facilitate dialogue within an institutional set up has resulted in the ‘peaceful’ street demonstrations by supporters of Raila Odinga.

‘Peaceful’ Protests
Protests by a section of the supporters of Raila Odinga have been marred by incidences of violence with cases of deaths, injuries, looting and vandalism of property reported. The hallmark of these protests has been the failure to stick to the prescribed laws hence a justification of the subversion of the spirit of constitutionalism.

Take for instance the rogue police officers who have killed and maimed a number of the demonstrators and other innocent Kenyans not involved in the protests. Since the state is riddled with a high degree of complicity we are yet to see the killer police officers being brought to book.

Protesters who infringe on other people’s rights through destruction of property and looting should not be killed. In any case, the law is pretty clear on the course of action to be taken against such individuals with their prosecution guaranteed but not the kind of political persecution we are witnessing. Police brutality must be condemned and not condoned.

Mainstream media seems to be selectively cautious in reporting some of the cases of police brutality. Despite the fact that the police force is intimidating mainstream media from reporting on the inhuman acts by the police, they (media) must come to the realization that they have the right to uncover the injustices. I was expecting to see constant reporting about the act of criminality in which a vehicle rammed into innocent and peaceful protesters. The police officers are yet to arrest the driver of the vehicle. The mainstream media should not hesitate in singling out the rogue police officers.

Presence of a militia group that masquerades as ‘Nairobi Business Community’ raises elemental concerns in regard to the maintenance of law and order and the role of the police in protecting people’s lives as well as property. How did we get to a point in which a gang assumes the responsibilities of the police officers? It is either Kenyan police officers are incompetent or this gang is politically insulated or both.

In my view, the ‘Nairobi Business Community’ is a militia apparently being used by politicians to settle political scores, an affirmation of the heightened political differences and enmity between the leading political camps.  Its dreaded members are ferried in mini-buses to the capital’s central business district to strategically protect 'business interests'. This shouldn’t be the norm in a country that claims to have a progressive constitution with constitutionally mandated institutions.

The recast of the 2007/08 violence script is inevitable due to the re-birth of a police state and hard line political stances. As the scions of Odinga and Kenyatta square out for their political interests, the ghosts of a failed state and a banana republic are within vicinity.

In the event that Mr. Odinga fails to participate in the repeat presidential election and Mr. Kenyatta wins then the legitimacy of the latter’s administration will be seriously dented. Furthermore, Mr. Odinga’s withdrawal will be followed by intensified calls for self-determination (secession).

The negative perception of the governance institutions among Kenyans, depending on one’s political affiliation or way of thinking, is bound to rise. There is no doubt that the National Police Service will continue being perceived as a police force. IEBC’s ratings will also plummet as the electoral body seems to be a spineless institution rocked with suspicions among its senior officials. The Judiciary is already perceived as “enemy of the people” among the majority of Uhuru Kenyatta’s supporters. Mr. Kenyatta promised to “fix” the Judiciary after his ‘victory’ was annulled and his sentiments, as echoed by other elected representatives from the Jubilee Party, signal the institutionalization of Executive despotism.

Way Forward
Short-term and long-term politico-legal solutions will be impossible if dialogue is not embraced. With the current impasse, dialogue involving the IEBC, Mr. Odinga and Mr. Kenyatta is crucially important. The IEBC must put its house in order and deliver a free, fair and credible election.

As the possibility of pursuing the secession cause by the NASA coalition and its proxies looms, that is in case Mr. Odinga fails to contest for the election, dialogue will be the most effective way to solve the issues that drive the calls for self-determination. As I documented in a previous article, secession isn’t good for the Republic but the political and economic exclusion practiced by all the administrations since 1963 make it seem a reality and an eventuality.

For the long-term, national dialogue is critically important and the outcome of this should be the adoption of a Parliamentary system of government that would effectively address the possibilities of Executive absolutism, help to establish politically civilized political parties among other short-comings of the current presidential system.

As Winston Churchill stated that “to jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war”, we must embrace dialogue at this juncture or perish altogether. The sooner we sit on the table and engage constructively, the better for the country’s present and posterity.

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