State of the Presidential Race in Kenya’s 2013 Elections

UPDATE:

Since this post went up Musalia Mudavadi joined the UhuRuto coalition. This sets the stage for a real two horse race for the presidency between Raila Odinga and either Mudavadi or Uhuru Kenyatta. It is very likely that Mudavadi will run as a compromise candidate due to the charges Uhuru is facing at the ICC. This development, considering Kenya’s ethnic arithmetic, essentially gives the Uhuru camp a head start ahead of the March 2013 presidential elections. Whatever happens, this promises to be a very interesting and close presidential election.

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The presidential race in Kenya’s 2013 elections is beginning to take shape. Yesterday Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto unveiled a political pact that will see them run on a joint ticket, with Mr. Kenyatta at the top of the ticket. Messrs Uhuru and Kenyatta both have pending cases at the ICC on charges that they were behind the post-election violence that rocked Kenya in 2007; leaving 1300 death and more than 300,000 displaced. This has led some to dub their joint platform the “ICC ticket,”  since many see the union of the two as solely driven by their joint desire to earn immunity from prosecution by the ICC once they secure the presidency.

uhuru

Uhuru Kenyatta

The second big coalition will see former allies turned foes and then allies – Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka – come together. Mr. Musyoka is the sitting Vice President while Mr. Odinga is the Prime Minister. The latter is believed by many to have been the winner of the disputed 2007 presidential election. The electoral commission at the time said it did not know who won the election and declared President Kibaki reelected, sparking two months of violence across the country.

The third potential political grouping might gravitate around Odinga’s former deputy, Mr. Musalia Mudavadi. Mr. Mudavadi has been rumored to be in talks with several smaller parties, including those of Peter Kenneth, Raphael Tuju, among others.

Raila Odinga

Raila Odinga

The latest developments will make for an interesting race moving forward. The ethnic arithmetic involved – Kenyans vote largely along ethnic lines – will make for a very close race (More on this soon). Messrs Odinga and Kenyatta are the clear front-runners, with the former having a slight lead in the most recent opinion polls. The constitution requires the president elect to win 50 percent plus one votes, making it very likely that there will be a runoff between the top two contenders after the first round. The ethnic calculations makes Odinga, a Luo, the likely winner in case of a runoff (Uhuru, a Kikuyu, is the son of Kenya’s first president. The current president, Mwai Kibaki, is also a Kikuyu.) But Mr. Kenyatta might still win in the first round.

The biggest uncertainty moving forward will be the candidature of both Uhuru and Ruto. Following the opening of their cases at the ICC they had to resign as cabinet ministers. Already there is a petition in court seeking to bar them from running in the upcoming elections on grounds that their integrity is questionable. The constitution requires only individuals of the highest integrity to be eligible to run for office (It is hard to see how any Kenyan politician will avoid having at least one strike against their candidature).

The supreme court may eventually bar Uhuru and Kenyatta from running – the talk in the street is that if they are unfit to be mere cabinet ministers then they should also not occupy the two highest offices in the country. Their supporters obviously disagree. In their rallies “UhuRuto” have played the nationalist card, insisting that not foreigners (read the ICC) but Kenyans will decide who will be their next president. It is still unclear what course of action they and their supporters would take were they to be barred from running.

More on this soon.

khalwale re-elected

Bonny Khalwale has won back his Ikolomani parliamentary seat. Mr. Khalwale lost his seat after the courts nullified his election in 2007 on account of irregularities.

What does this mean for Kenyan national politics?

My answer is that it is hard to tell. The results will certainly dent Deputy Premier Mudavadi’s claim to be the voice of Western Province. The outcome also reflects badly on Premier Odinga who had staked his reputation in the election by campaigning repeatedly in the constituency for the ODM candidate – who came second. The biggest winner here is Eugene Wamalwa who has been angling for the title of ethnic chief spokesperson for Western Province. It just might serve to increase his chances of being nominated as a vice presidential candidate (by either Uhuru or Kalonzo) in next year’s election.

That said, all politics is local. Clan politics and Western-specific regional and sub-ethnic squabbles definitely played a role in this election. Plus, Mr. Khalwale can always be bought off into the Odinga bandwagon come next year. That is the nature of Kenyan politics.

As regards next year’s general election the field is still wide open. All bets are off until candidates hand in their presidential nomination papers. It is a good thing the constitution has a ban on post-submission negotiation of posts (and alliances).

power-play in public appointments in kenya

It emerges that Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga wanted President Kibaki to appoint a foreigner to head the judiciary. This can only mean one of two things: either (i) Mr. Odinga wants a super clean judiciary that will interpret the law in a disinterested manner or (ii) he thinks that the Kibaki-PNU faction is so strong that they will be able to buy off any local judge appointed to head the judiciary.

Because Mr. Odinga or his allies could potentially find themselves facing the judiciary in the future, I don’t think it is the former concern that is motivating the Premier. It must be the case that he realizes he has no way of locally dealing with the Kibaki-PNU faction, except through name-and-shame games and other sanctions involving foreigners. To compensate for the fact that he cannot contain the Kibaki-PNU coalition politically, Mr. Odinga is hoping he can do so via independent institutions.

What does this mean for Kenyan democracy? It means that it is not yet Uhuru. As long as there is a faction in the country that can do whatever it wants under a “wapende wasipende” mentality Kenya will remain a democracy in name only. True democracy will only come once all factions involved realize that the country belongs to all Kenyans and that they cannot get away with subordinating the interests of regular Kenyans to those of a few ethnic chiefs.

The man to blame for all of this is Kalonzo Musyoka. Mr. Musyoka is bad for Kenyan democracy because he is the all important median veto player, but lacks principles. Because his support gives either side the needed majority he remains the biggest stumbling block to any compromise arrangements that might ensure that regular Kenyans truly benefit from the new constitutional dispensation. Kibaki does not need to negotiate with Odinga as long as he has Kalonzo on his side. But given Mr. Odinga’s political clout, good and lasting institutions will only emerge if Kibaki and Odinga arrive at a self-enforcing arrangement.

Mr. Musyoka initially campaigned against the new constitution. Mr. Musyoka has been at the forefront of efforts to protect perpetrators of the 2007-8 post-elections violence that killed over 1300 Kenyans. Mr. Musyoka continues to stand on the wrong side of Kenya’s reform agenda. Given the recent comments from Francis Atwoli, the trade union leader, it is encouraging that Kenyans are cognizant of these facts.

kosgey resigns

Tinderet MP and Minister of Industrialization Henry Kosgey has resigned. Mr. Kosgey is being charged with 12 counts of abuse of office and faces a maximum of 120 years in prison if convicted. In the latest case of fraud linked to the Minister, vehicles older than 8 years old were illegally imported into the country under his direction.

Only a few weeks ago Mr. Kosgey was among five prominent Kenyan politicians and a radio host named as suspects by the ICC prosecutor Luis Ocampo in relation to the post election violence in Kenya (2007-08) that killed 1300 and displaced 300,000.

Mr. Kosgey is Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s pointman in the Rift Valley and is the current chairman of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).

More on this here.

kenya is not in a constitutional crisis

Kenya’s newly emboldened imperial parliament is up to some mischief. MPs rejected nominees to two crucial commissions created by the country’s new constitution: the Revenues Allocation Commission and the Commission for the Implementation of the New Constitution. The MPs rejected the nominees to the two commissions in response to a court decision that ordered the boundaries commission not to gazette newly created parliamentary constituencies. Their mischievous excuse was that the commissions lacked regional balance.

Pols from central Kenya went to court challenging how the redistricting was done. Many of them thought that the boundaries commission favored ODM, the Premier’s party. MPs from the western half of the country, the northeast and the coastal region seem to be OK with the list. I still do not understand how in the world anyone thought that redistricting of constituencies would be apolitical. [Despite the existence of a formula in the constitution].

I am always amazed by the naivete and lack of strategy among Kenyan politicians who seem to think that public officials always have the best of intentions – never mind the fact that the country is one of the most corrupt in the world. Given the outcome, Mr. Ligale and his commissioners must have been in the pockets of ODM. The losers should learn from this and in the future design more airtight systems that assume the worst of public officials. No country has ever succeeded whose institutions depended on human goodwill.

As a result, a crucial deadline has been missed in the implementation of the new constitution and any Kenyan can go to court demanding the dissolution of parliament.

Lawyers, however, refute the notion that Kenya is in a constitutional crisis. There are ways around the matter. Firstly, the MPs can amend the constitution to give themselves more time. Secondly, the judiciary can give the boundaries commission a new lease of life and extend its mandate until the job is done. Lastly, and perhaps most plausibly, the President and his Premier can arrive at a political solution to the problem and allow the process of implementing the new constitution to move on.

And in other news, Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga has very bad advisers. Asking that gays be arrested is so 16th century. In any case the last thing we want to do is waste critical police man hours policing private morality while criminal gangs continue to make the lives of many Kenyans a living hell. Mr. Odinga should know better.

Mwakwere seeks to retain seat in matuga by-election

Latest: The Daily Nation reports that former Kenyan Transport Minister Ali Chirau Mwakwere has been re-elected as member of parliament for Matuga. Mr. Mwakwere will probably be reinstated as Transport Minister by President Kibaki. The Matuga by-election was occasioned by a court order that annulled Mwakwere’s initial election in the 2007 general election.

Update: Mwakwere leading the tally halfway through the counting.

Former Kenyan Transport Minister Ali Chirau Mwakwere faces a tough challenge in his quest to retain his seat in the Matuga by-election being held today. Mr. Mwakwere lost his seat after a court ruling over constituency-wide irregularities in the 2007 general election. Mr. Mwakwere is contesting the seat on a Party of National Unity (PNU) ticket while his main challenger Mr. Hassan Mwanyoha is running on the Orange Democratic Ticket.

nairobi blasts were grenade attacks

The Daily Nation reports that the blasts at a “NO” rally in Uhuru Park, Nairobi were caused by grenades. This confirms Kenyans’ worst fear – that the explosions were not accidents but an organized attack on those opposed to the draft constitution. One hopes that Kenyan politicians will be sober-minded as the relevant authorities investigate this incident. The last thing we need is careless finger-pointing and sabre-rattling.

I hope that the president and his prime minister will follow on their promise to bring those responsible to book. This is a potentially dangerous attack on Kenya’s young and troubled democracy. Freedom of expression is one of the key pillars of civilized society. This is an attack on every Kenyan’s freedom of expression. Those opposed to the draft constitution should be allowed to do so openly and as loudly as they can, as long as they are within the limits of the law.

Politicians all over Kenya are currently on campaign mode for or against the draft constitution. The referendum on the new document will be held on the 4th of August this year. The main sources of division in the proposed constitution include land management, devolution of power from the centre, inclusion of Kadhi’s courts to adjudicate on Muslim family law and the existence of a loophole that could allow for the legalization of abortion.

kenyan mp Dick Wathika to lose Makadara seat

Following a petition by former MP Reuben Ndolo (of the “weka tire” infamy), Lady Justice Kaplana Rawal has nullified the election of Dick Wathika as Makadara MP in the 2007 general elections. Mr. Wathika becomes the 5th sitting MP since the chaotic 2007 vote to lose after an election petition in court. The 2007 elections were marred by irregularities that almost plunged Kenya, previously an oasis of peace in a turbulent part of the Continent, into civil war. 1300 people died before a power-sharing agreement was brokered between incumbent Mwai Kibaki and his challenger Raila Odinga. Given that most Kenyans voted “three piece”, the apparent widespread irregularities at the constituency level must be highly correlated with those of the presidential vote. Neither PNU nor ODM can claim innocence. The real culprit, however, is one Mr. Samuel Kivuitu. The former boss of the electoral commission presided over a sham election with a straight face and got away with it. Shame on him.

you can respect women’s rights without being pro-abortion

The Church in Kenya has every right to lobby for a pro-life amendment to the draft constitution. But that does not give them the right to completely rubbish the opinions of women leaders. Women like Gender Minister Esther Murugi are not crazy child-killers. They are reasonable people who do not want the male-dominated constitutional review process to usurp too much of women’s reproductive rights. Demanding for women’s reproductive rights is not being pro-abortion. And if the church leaders are so concerned about abortion perhaps it is time they eased their opposition to contraceptives that limit the occurrence of unwanted pregnancies in the first place.

The fact that the Kenyan clergy feel the need to legislate morality is a clear pointer to their failure to do their job right. If you do not want people to have premarital sex or use contraceptives, preach to them from the pulpit. Do not seek to make this into law. In any case, Kenyan society is already conservative enough when it comes to things like abortion and sexuality. What we need is not a constitution that pushes us further into paranoia about these issues but one that protects our mothers and sisters from the tyranny of the men from 10,000 BC who run our country.

This quote from Hon. Murugi captures the absurdity of the amendments being proposed by the anti-women’s rights team: “Let us have a reproductive health bill where all other issues are addressed. For instance, women are using morning after pills after sex. Are you going to put us all in jail?”

I am sure none of those opposed to the amendments is into the idea of killing the unborn. All that Kenyan progressives want is a law that does not take away women’s rights to choose what is good for them. Reason demands that we should not legislate morality. This will only lead to more kienyeji abortions that will continue to kill many Kenyan women each year.

It is fascinating how the conservative types (in both ODM and PNU) that ordered policemen to shoot rioters or organized militias to kill fellow Kenyans in early 2008 are the same ones at the forefront of the faux pro-life campaign. May their efforts to go against reason fail.

sunday editorials that I liked

As usual, Mutahi Ngunyi has a provocative piece in the Sunday Nation. I am sort of sympathetic to his idea of ethnic suicide (by which he means dumping ethnic identities and what they stand for) – I was in Eldoret and Timboroa for two days this summer and saw with my own eyes the fruits of ethnic hatred. The short-term operationalization of the idea may be problematic though. To make Kenyans out of Luos and Kikuyus and Kalenjins will take time. Because of this the process of “ethnic suicide” ought to take place sub-consciously, for if it is “managed” the end results or the process itself may be nasty.

Gitau Warigi pours some cold water on Bethuel Kiplagat’s TJRC. I like his argument. I am always baffled by how much we spend on such useless commissions only to be rewarded with “classified reports” issued to the president.  Philip Ochieng‘ has an interesting piece on ethnicity and politics in Kenya. I wonder how many politicians read his column… And Kwendo Opanga just gave me one more reason to think that Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka is as misguided as ever. This is not to say that the alternatives to Mr. Musyoka in the post-Kibaki dispensation are any better. Woe unto Wanjiku.

And in other news, is this legitimising crime or what?