I wanted to try out this consistency thing; publishing an article every Tuesday, but life friends – Life!
I’m not referring to my life as I usually talk about it. If I am being candid, I am referring to the General Elections in Kenya, which have dominated my life for the past two weeks. I wrote about why Elections were so personal to me last week.
I’ve been thinking about how best to express my thoughts, feelings, and observation of the elections. There is a lot to unpack, but here are my facts, figures, and feelings about the 2022 General Elections in Kenya.
- A majority of Kenyan voters did not vote for any candidate! 35% of voters did not turn out to vote. Of course, for different reasons, most Kenyans, especially young Kenyans, did not trust that the process would lead to a credible or meaningful outcome. On credibility – does the Electoral Commission have the capacity to deliver a free, fair, and credible election? On meaningful result – what is the quality of political candidates running for office? And does voting them in power guarantee relief from the worrying state of Kenya’s economy?
- This means that out of the entire registered voters’ population (not voter turnout) – 35% did not vote, 34% voted for William Ruto, and 33% voted for Raila Odinga.
- Comparatively, Kenya had a relatively peaceful election. I use comparatively, and peaceful very loosely and with an irk. The fact is and will always be Kenyans deserve an election where no one is harmed or killed. We did not achieve this in the General Elections.
- The peacebuilding interventions by different stakeholders, especially those led and implemented by young people, paid off. Every election, young people are misused and incited to cause violence. This time, young people have been vocal about maintaining peace despite the election’s outcome. I believe it did not matter to Kenyans who won the Presidential Elections. We just wanted to be done with it to move on with our lives.
- A peaceful election is not an excuse to sweep Kenya’s serious electoral and governance issues. Peace is not the substitute for a free, fair, and credible election. As a country, we should encourage citizens to express themselves and participate in the civic processes in non-violent ways.
- What was the point of Devolution if we would still hyper-focus on the Presidential Elections as a measure of good governance? These elections, like the preceding ones, continuously show us that Kenyan voters are not the primary problem. The problem is that our systems and political leaders fail us consistently! Even when we show up, they will never deliver their promises. It seems that there are more profound politics at the Presidential level that we do not know or understand as citizens.
- We have made significant progress in increasing the representation of diverse groups at the county and local levels. Representation, especially for underrepresented groups, matters. The 30% gender rule in Kenya has not been the easiest to implement. The last National Assembly was unconstitutional as it did not meet the gender quota. Young People continue to face additional layers of challenges when it comes to getting elected to office. It was encouraging to see the progress in getting more youth, women, and Persons with Disabilities elected.
- Youth – 17 elected as follows – 1 Governor (Elgeyo Marakwet), 2 Senators (Nyandarua and Migori), 3 Members of Parliament (MPs) (Oljoororok, Mumias East, Saboti), 1 Women Representative (Bomet), and 10 Members of County Assembly (MCA). It is important to note that out of all 17 young elected leaders, only one is a young woman – Woman Representative of Bomet County, a seat specifically for women. To see a young woman get elected to a countywide seat is encouraging. This statistic only validates the concerns of young women peacebuilders about the double marginalization they face in politics due to gender, age, and social norms.
- Women – 7 Governors (Nakuru, Kirinyaga, Machakos, Kwale, Meru, Homabay, Embu counties), 8 Deputy Governors (Kilifi, Makueni, Murang’a, Trans Nzoia, Kiambu, Taita Taveta, Narok and Bungoma Counties), 3 Senators (Nakuru, Kajiado, Machakos), 30 Members of Parliament (MPs) and 11 Members of County Assembly (MCA)
- Persons with Disabilities – 5 Persons with Disabilities, were elected as follows – 2 Members of Parliament (Westlands and Webuye East), 1 Woman representative to the National Assembly (Makueni), 2 Members of County Assembly (Kiambu and Siaya)
- Every Kenyan has the right to feel whatever emotions they have right now. Whether you voted in the President-Elect or not, or even voted at all, one thing is true; we are all deeply concerned with the state of our nation. I cannot emphasize enough the need for us to continue to hold space for each other to have differing opinions, as long as we criticize the electoral discourse in Kenya in a meaningful way.
- In 2017, Cambridge Analytica did all the dirty work on behalf of the state to spread misinformation, psychologically manipulate voters, and craft voter ads based on fear of electoral violence. This time, the Political Parties led the misinformation campaigns themselves. The political campaign narratives were based on class, ethnicity, and false victimhood. We must hold political parties accountable for their misinformation campaigns (up until the voter count/tallying process), the recklessness during political campaigns exposing the masses to Covid-19, and recruiting and hiring young people as political goos causing violence in political rallies, among others.
- It is worth noting the confidence of both Presidential candidates in the Judiciary to deliver justice. This is a considerable shift from what we are used to. I say if Azimio Party Leader and any other political candidate wants to go to Court, let them! Encourage it. We must encourage people to demand their rights, speak up, to pursue justice. More trust in the Judiciary to deliver justice means fewer chances of violent reactions to electoral injustice. Every time political candidates have gone to Court to dispute election results, it has left us with an improved electoral and judicial system.
Kenya is one of the most expensive elections in the world. Yet, we end up experiencing the same electoral flaws every election cycle. We have to find ways to reduce the burden on the citizen for a process they have no confidence in.
In the next few weeks, it will be interesting to follow:
- The Supreme Court’s Decision on the Presidential Election Petition
- The nature of appointing the new Cabinet and how it is structured
- The new Government’s delivery of the manifesto, especially the first 100 days of commitment
- The Government’s Plan to renew the Social Contract with its people and foster dialogue that promotes a united country that prioritizes the people’s urgent needs
- The Opposition – will it be another 5-year term for Kenyans on Twitter (KOT)?
Regardless of whoever is President, we must have a strong opposition. Both candidates are deeply problematic and, if left unchecked, can lead Kenya into a deeper hole. This is the time to strengthen civic education to transcend voting as the only means of political participation.
How did the General Elections make you feel? Let me know more facts, figures, and feelings in the comment section.