Kenya: Saved from the cliff




It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything –    

In a few days, Uhuru Kenyatta is to be sworn in as President of Kenya. He is coming to power exactly thirty five years after the death of his father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, the founding father of the country. He was in his teens when his father who led the country to independence died in 1978. His rise to power has struck a first in the continent; he becomes the first sibling of a former president who comes to power through a free and fair election.

Although his victory was contested by his rival, Raila Odinga, the victory has been affirmed by the country’s highest court as “free and fair” thus aligning with the verdict of the international observers who had earlier given the same verdict.

Kenyatta’s victory over his challenger, Odinga brings to mind the bitter rivalry which hallmarked the rule of his father and his arch-rival and the father of Raila. Oginga Odinga was like a thorn in the flesh of the older Kenyatta. Students of history would remember that the duo were the arrow heads of the fight for the country’s independence in the same way that the late Joshua Nkomo and President Robert Mugabe were for Zimbabwe.

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However, a combination of ethnic majority and intrigues led to bitter rivalries as it is wont in Africa. The older Kenyatta who came from the majority ethnic group of Gikuyu was able to subdue any threat from the older Odinga who was a Luo. It is perhaps the same ethnic rivalry that led to the present scenario.

Before the March elections, tension had risen around the world and many had feared that the unfortunate 2007 violence that trailed the election was going to replay itself. In fact, the fear was so palpable that many had already fled the country, in search of safe havens. The 2007 after election violence caught the international community unawares because the East African country, despite its hiccup democratic credentials had been an oasis of peace on the continent. The 2007 violence shattered all that reputation.

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It was therefore not surprising that the international community’s attention was focussed on the country so much that months leading to the election many had appealed for calm and called for a free and fair election. And as if the country was aware of the importance of the election and the need to redeem its image, it made sure the election was conducted as freely as practicable. This was demonstrated so much that even when some unexpected glitches came up the electoral body quickly made up and conducted the election fairly well.

However, as Kenyatta assumes office, he becomes the second African head of state to be indicted by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). He is joining this unenviable class with President Omar El-Bashir of Sudan who has been indicted for war crimes. Kenyatta’s indictment is in connection with the 2007 election violence. He is in this boat with his Vice President-elect William Ruto.

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How this would affect his reign and his relations with other heads of governments around the world is of interest to this writer. Would he be able to visit some countries that are signatories to the ICC treaty or would he be an isolated president as El-Bashir is gradually becoming?

Whatever happens Kenya must be saluted for their determination to rescue their country from a cliff-hanger situation. They have been able to tell the world that elections may be factitious and laden with acrimony, but that they are capable of making up with themselves. This is a lesson for the rest of Africa.

Africa is rising.

 

 







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