William Ruto Quits as Deputy President

Kenya’s deputy president-elect William Samoei Ruto has resigned even before taking the oath of office.

In a terse statement Mr. Ruto cited insurmountable impending wrangles within the Jubilee Coalition (rumors abound of a March 1966-style Limuru conference to oust him) and his ongoing cases at the ICC and the courts in Kenya as reasons for his resignation.

It is also believed that Mr. Ruto felt that his job was done after he and his team of young and upcoming politicians from the Rift Valley successfully denied veteran politician Raila Odinga the presidency.

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It is rumored that Mr. Ruto will choose the youthful Senator Kipchumba Murkomen of Elgeyo Marakwet County as his replacement. The new deputy president must be approved by Parliament before he can take office.

Despite Mr. Ruto’s stated reasons to quit the second highest office in the land, I believe that the real reason is this..

***Take note that this post was published on April 1st ***

Supreme Court confirms election of Uhuru Kenyatta

Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta has just been confirmed validly elected as president by the Supreme Court.

Earlier this month runner-up Raila Odinga had filed a petition challenging the declaration of Mr. Kenyatta as winner of the presidential election.

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Mr. Kenyatta will be sworn in on April 9th.

The unanimous court decision was delivered in under twelve minutes shortly after 5 PM. The Chief Justice promised a detailed ruling within two weeks.

Following the court decision Mr. Odinga held a press conference and accepted the ruling, after which he wished Mr. Kenyatta well.

Most Kenyans breathed a sigh of relief after the orderly conclusion of this year’s presidential election contest.

A post mortem of the election and why exactly Odinga lost coming soon….

Kenyan Blog Awards 2013

I just discovered that this blog got nominated by the Bloggers Association of Kenya (how does one become a member?) for the Kenya Blog Awards 2013 for Best Political Blog. Many thanks to whoever nominated the blog.

The list of nominees are here. Go ahead and vote for this blog if you feel like the content has increased your knowledge of politics in Kenya. 

Chinua Achebe, dead at 82

Renowned Nigerian author Chinua Achebe passed away last night in Boston, Mass. He was 82.

Achebe was the father of modern African literature, and a fearless critic of dictatorships in Nigeria and across Africa.

His last book, “There Was a Country” gives a moving personal account of the Biafra War. It is a great book (just read it a couple of weeks ago), and a fitting closing chapter to Achebe’s career (see Chimamanda Adichie’s review in the LRB here).

Achebe is most famous for the classic “Things Fall Apart.” The book has sold over 12 million copies and has been translated into more than 50 languages.

My favorite of his many books is “A Man of the People,” an astonishingly prescient critique of politics and governance in Nigeria (and by extension Africa) written in 1966. One of the characters, Chief Nanga, could have been a typical politician in many an African country today. The book ends with a coup, presaging the high levels of political instability that rocked much of Africa into the mid 1990s.

Chinua Achebe will forever be immortalized in the hearts of those of us who loved his work and admired his activism.

Together with those who wrote in the immediate post-independence era like Soyinka, Ngugi, Bitek, Tutuola, Okigbo, Ba, Armah, Liyong, and others, their works inspire and challenge us in equal measure; with reminders that there was a time in the giddy early sixties when things could have been different for Africa, that it wasn’t inevitable that things would fall apart.

Kenya awaits Supreme Court verdict

Kenya’s prime minister Raila Odinga last Saturday filed a petition challenging the declaration of Uhuru Kenyatta as president-elect (with 50.07% to 43.28%) after the presidential elections earlier this month.

In the petition Mr. Odinga cites a host of factors that, in his view, significantly compromised the integrity of the election – including an unstable voter register; inconsistencies and errors in final vote counts; and failures in the electronic tallying system.

In a rally in Mombasa this week Odinga claimed to have won the election with 5.7m votes to Kenyatta’s 4.5m.

With the filing of the petition, the country’s attention has shifted to the Supreme Court. The court is constitutionally mandated to issue its ruling within a fortnight from last Saturday (latest March 30).

Should the court find in favor of Odinga’s petition Kenyans will have a re-run election in late May, with a possible runoff a month after that. The law says that in case of irregularities the court has to nullify the entire (presidential) election. It is unclear if the judges can rule on limiting the re-run to a runoff between Kenyatta and Odinga. If the judges dismiss the case Kenyatta will be sworn in on April 9th.

It is obvious that the ruling will be as political as it will be legal. Six judges (see here) will hear the case as the nominated deputy Chief Justice is yet to be confirmed by the National Assembly. Under normal circumstances five judges would have heard the case to avoid a tie but since the selection of the five would have tilted the case one way or the other all six will be present.

Should there be a tie the status quo will hold and Kenyatta will be sworn in early next month.

So how might the judges vote?

Based on my conversations with people in the know, it appears that the swing justices will be Chief Justice Mutunga and Justice Mohamed Ibrahim. The two are largely expexted to adhere the most to the legal merits and implications of the petition. The eventual ruling will therefore partly depend on the ability of the two to persuade their colleagues. As President of the court, CJ Mutunga will be under pressure to be on the winning side of the ruling.

A tie would be the worst of possible outcomes as it would suggest that the court, by far the most trusted Kenyan institution, is just as divided as the rest of the country.

The court’s only other ruling before this was on affirmative action to increase the proportion of women in the Kenyan parliament to a third. They voted against (arguing for a gradualist achievement of the same), with CJ Mutunga being the sole dissenter.

On the left-right spectrum CJ Mutunga is the most progressive member of the court (and the highest rated public official, despite Kenya’s socially conservative bend). Justices Wanjala, Ibrahim and Ndungu are centrists, while Ojwang and Tunoi are conservative.

Kenyan pollster Ipsos explains why they missed the mark

Today Ipsos Synovate provided their own internal analysis (see here, pdf) of the election results vis-a-vis their poll numbers right before the March 4th election.

According to the final IEBC tally (Which Mr. Odinga is challenging in court) all the eight candidates except Mr. Kenyatta performed within the margin of error of Ipsos’ last poll before the election.

Mr. Kenyatta outperformed the last poll by 5.25%, well outside the margin of error.

How did Ipsos miss this?

Their answer on page 23 basically agrees with my observation that differential turnout, especially in the candidates’ respective strongholds, made the difference.

According to the final IEBC numbers, Mr. Kenyatta’s 20 biggest vote-basket counties averaged a turnout rate of 88%, compared to Mr. Odinga’s 84%.

In related news, tomorrow Mr. Odinga will officially file the petition that seeks to nullify Mr. Kenyatta’s election as president.

CORD may seek the nullification of the whole election or narrow their challenge to just whether Mr. Kenyatta actually crossed the 50% threshold.

Crucial figures to think about as we await to see the content of the petition tomorrow are (1) 10.6m votes were cast in the 47 governor races compared to 12.3m in the presidential race, a difference of 1.7m votes; and (2) Mr. Kenyatta crossed the 50% threshold by less than 10,000 votes.

More on this next week.

Kenyan Politics Reading List

Several readers that came to this blog for information on the elections have asked for suggested readings on Kenya’s political history. Here is a short, and so in no way exhaustive, list of books that I think might provide a good introduction. Other suggestions are welcome in the comments section. 

  1. Facing Mount Kenya, by Jomo Kenyatta: Many forget that Kenya’s first president was an Anthropologist (who studied under Malinowski, no less). In Facing Mt. Kenya, Kenyatta attempts to document and explain Kikuyu cultural practices. The book is not a politically neutral ethnography (and to be honest most, at least the ones I have read, never are); and is an apologist account of pre-colonial Kikuyu political system(s) and some practices that some may find questionable. Ultimately, the book is about what Kenyatta wanted the British to think of Kenyans, and that is why it is such a great piece of work. 
  2. Not Yet Uhuru, by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga: Mr. Odinga was Kenya’s first Vice President and father to Prime Minister Raila Odinga. The book highlights the post-independence disillusionment with the administration of President Kenyatta (with whom he fell out in 1966) through the tribulations of the elder Odinga. It is a poignant reminder of the extent to which economic motivations shape and define the cleavages in Kenyan politics, despite the manifestations of the same along ethnic lines.
  3. Defeating the Mau Mau, by Daniel Branch: Was the Mau Mau rebellion an anti-colonialism insurgency, a Kikuyu civil war, or both? Branch delves into the complexities that motivated and defined the Mau Mau rebellion. A fantastic read. 
  4. Decolonization & Independence in Kenya, edited by Bethwell Ogot: The book provides an excellent account of the Kenyatta and Moi years until the early 1990s. The reader might find it interesting to compare their projections on Kenya’s political future with the actual trajectory since the book was written. 
  5. Kenya: A history since independence, by Charles Hornsby: This is a sweeping account of the major political events in Kenya since independence. It is a good introduction to the historical dynamics and themes that have continued to influence Kenyan politics from independence to the present.
  6. The Rise of A Party State in Kenya, by Jennifer Widner: Although slightly more academic, this book is a good introduction to Kenyan politics for those who want to get more detail. It is especially helpful in understanding how the independence party KANU under former President Moi emerged as the “Baba na Mama” of Kenyan politics. 
  7. I would also recommend Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Detained, Michela Wrong’s It Is Our Turn to Eat, for an indirect peek into Kenyan politics, and and Angelique Haugerud’s Culture of Politics for an anthropologist’s take. 

Read on. 

Kenyan pollsters eat humble pie

No one in the mainstream Kenyan media, at least not yet, wants to talk about the failure of opinion polls to predict the outcome of last Monday’s election (For some thoughts on the election check out my post on the monkey cage blog here).

A week to the election the three main polls showed the race to be neck and neck between Messrs Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta, with a slight advantage to Mr. Odinga, on average.

But in the end it was not even close. Mr. Kenyatta handily beat Mr. Odinga by almost 7 percentage points (50.07% – 43.28%).

So what went wrong?

In my view, the pollsters missed the mark both by not taking turnout into account (despite my unwarranted advice!) and perhaps poorly weighting the results from the different regions of the country (Kenyans largely vote along ethnic lines for various instrumental reasons; ethnic groups are geographically concentrated, with variance in size and population density).

The polling firms ought to have done a better job of basing their results on likely voters as opposed to self-declared registered voters. Kenyatta’s strongholds registered voters at higher rates, and based on past elsctions, were likely to register higher turnout rates than  Odinga’s strongholds- and they did (88.6% to 84%).

My own pre-election predictions a month before the election highlighted this fact. In my estimation the polls consistently overestimated Mr. Odinga’s support.

I eagerly await the polling firms’ own rationalization of what happened. Hopefully the misses this time won’t permanently damage the public’s perception of opinion polls.

Despite the difficulties in forecasting political outcomes, it is better to have polls than fly blind into an election.

Uhuru Kenyatta Elected President of Kenya

Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s first president, has been elected president.

Mr. Kenyatta edged off veteran politician and son of Kenya’s frist vice president, Raila Odinga, garnering 50.07% (6.1m) of the total votes cast. Mr. Odinga managed to get 43.28% (5.3m) (compare this with my predictions here).

Slightly more than 12.2 million out of the registered 14.3 turned up to vote. The overall turnout rate was 86%, the highest ever in Kenya’s history.

The tallying of the votes took four days after the electronic tallying system crashed. The IEBC then resorted to a manual tallying system.

Mr. Kenyatta was born in 1961 and attended St. Mary’s School in Nairobi before attending Amherst. He holds a BA in Economics and Political Science.

His family holds vast commercial interests, ranging from agriculture, to manufacturing, to banking. The Kenyatta family is one of the biggest landowners in Kenya. Last year Forbes ranked Mr. Kenyatta as the wealthiest Kenyan, with a worth of over USD 500 million (Forbes later dropped Kenyatta from the list, saying the wealth was family-owned).

In 2001 former president Moi plucked Kenyatta from private life and nominated him to parliament.

Moi then endorsed Kenyatta for president in the 2002 presidential election which he lost by a lanfslide to President Mwai Kibaki.

Mr. Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto are facing charges of crimes against humanity for their alleged role in the 2007/8 post election violence in Kenya.

Back then they were on opposing political camps and allegedly financed rival ethnic militias. Over 1300 were killed and 300,000 displaced.

The ICC cases played a prominent role in the campaigns. Western envoys, overtly and implicity, warned Kenyans against voting for the ICC co-accused. This may have energised the base of the UhuRuto ticket.

However, more than anything else, Kenyatta’s victory was the result of demographic providence and resources.

Kenyans largely voted along ethnic lines. It therefore helped that Kenyatta and Ruto hail from two of the most populous regions in the country. The core of their alliance brought together ethnic groups that together make up 45% of the Kenyan population.

Mr. Kenyatta’s campaign was also super cash rich. Red caps and t-shirts dotted every part of the country, eclipsing Mr. Odinga’s orange movement. Overall the UhuRuto outcampaigned Mr. Odinga’s coalition.

For instance many believe that the duo won the elecction long before voting started by ensuring high voter registration rates in their strongholds – averaging over 87%. Mr. Odinga’s strongholds registered at rates below 78%.

Mr. Kenyatta comes into office at a critical time when Kenya is implementing a system of devolved government. Among the things on his in-tray will be how to tame the country’s debt and expenditure situation while also creating jobs. Security, both internally and regionally, will also be a key concern.

Messrs Kenyatta and Ruto will also have to juggle governing Kenya and attending to their respective ICC cases from July and May respectively. Mr. Kenyatta will be the second serving head of state facing charges at the ICC. The other is Omar al-Bashir of Sudan.

Mr. Kenyatta’s convincing win might just be enough to persuade the UN Security Council to rethink the ICC cases.

Due to Kenya’s geopolitical importance, the West will have no option but to engage with the incoming Kenyatta administration – interests will trump any other consideration.

Complicating the issue (at least from a non-legal perspective) is the fact that the UhuRuto ticket won with over 90% in the very same areas that were worst affected by violence in 2007/8.

Mr. Kenyatta will be sworn in on March 26th.

If Mr. Odinga contests the results, as the New York Times and Reuters seem to suggest he will, Mr. Kenyatta may have to wait until mid April before he is sworn in. Or there might be another election 60 days following the Supreme Court decision, if it is in CORD’s favor.

Many Kenyans dread the prospect of a court challenge, or worse, another election.

Day 3 after the Kenyan election

Counting is still going on following Monday’s general election in Kenya. Following the close of polls the electronic tallying system for the presidential election crashed, forcing the IEBC to resort to a manual tallying system.

Just under half of the 290 constituencies have so far reported. Mr. Kenyatta still holds the lead, by about 350,000. The projected national turnout stands at 82%.

The IEBC has promised to release the final results tomorrow (Friday).

A couple inexplicable things have happened since my last post.

Firstly, the 300,000+ “rejected votes” that consistently made up 6% of votes in the initial tally have dwindled down to 40,000 – less than 1% of the total votes counted so far.

The IEBC’s explanation was that there was a software malfunction in the electronic tallying that increased the rejected votes by a factor of eight.

Secondly, both CORD and Jubilee coalitions have issued statements regarding the tallying process. CORD claimed that some results were “doctored.” Jubilee claimed that the UK government had sent troops to Kenya and that the high commissioner was trying to influence the tallying process.

None of these claims have been substantiated. Kenyan media houses have agreed to deny live coverage to such political pronouncements.

Life is slowly getting back to normal – I was glad to see traffic on Nairobi roads today!

With regard to the final result, it is clear that Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta has an unassailable lead over Mr. Raila Odinga. What is not clear is whether or not he will win by a wide enough margin to avoid a runoff.

The wait continues…

Kenyan election update

Results painfully slowly coming in. About 5.54m votes have been counted so far with 43% of centres reporting. 333k of thesey have been rejected.

Interestingly, the IEBC this evening announced that the rejected votes will also go into the final tally since the law requires that the winner get 50%+1 of all votes cast.

That means that Kenyatta’s effective vote share at 11PM on Tuesday is 50.3% and Odinga’s is 39.6%.

The difference in raw votes between the two candidates has stagnated at aroung 600k all evening.

It appears that IEBC will simply incorporate the votes rejected without an audit. As I said below this move will likely force a runoff.

6% of ballots cast, so far, were rejected – a massive civic education FAIL, both on the part of IEBC and political parties.

Uhuru takes commanding lead

Yesterday Kenyans voted in a peaceful general election. Despite a few logistical and technical glitches that delayed the opening of some poll centres, in most of the country polling started on time and without incident.

Even a night time raid by a separatist group in Mombasa that left police officers dead did not significantly alter the process in the region.

The IEBC estimated turnout at upwards of 70%. Many polling stations had to close late since the snaking lines remained long well past the official closing time of 5 PM.

Results started trickling in late in the night and Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta quickly shot to the lead. As at 4PM om Tuesday Mr. Kenyatta leads Mr. Raila Odinga 53%-41% with 40% of the polling centres reporting.

With Mr. Kenyatta’s commanding lead many are wondering whether Mr. Odinga can get enough votes to force a runoff.

So far the situation looks bleak for Mr. Odinga. While he outperformed in Western region, in the backyard of third candidate Musalia Mudavadi, so far results show that he underperformed in most parts of North Eastern and northern Kenya. He also did not meet the minimum votes he required in the Rift Valley.

Regional turnout numbers are not yet out but I doubt they bear any good news for Mr. Odinga.

It is still too early to call the race yet but I think that, contrary to my own predictions, a first round win for Mr. Kenyatta is now on the table.

I put the upper mark on Kenyatta’s lead at 650,000. Beyond this I don’t see how Mr. Odinga will be able to force a runoff. By all estimates both Mr. Kenyatta and Mr. Odinga will meet the constitutional requirement of getting 25% of votes cast in at least half (24) of the 47 counties.

My model predicted an advantage to Kenyatta in the first round followed by a runoff. But Mr. Kenyatta significantly outperformed the national polls leading to the election. I estimated that the national polls over-estimated Odinga’s support by about 3 percentage points. It appears that I may have underestimated their overestimation. I am also beginning to think that their regional weighting was worse than I thought.

One curious thing in the poll results is the number of spoilt votes – about 6%. This high number raises (or doesn’t) an interesting legal question. The constitution says that the winning candidate must garner 50%+1 of votes cast. Whether this means only valid votes or not is at this moment unclear to me.

The 300,000+ spoilt votes make a difference in that if they are included Kenyatta gets less than 50% of the votes cast. My eye balling the results doesn’t seem to suggest significant biases of spoilt votes in favor of either candidate. If these votes are audited Kenyatta might still win in first round. If they are simply included with no audit then we may have a runoff in our hands.

Most spoilt votes are likely to have been a case of people putting ballot papers in the wrong boxes and so a simple audit can sort this out.

All this to say that Kenyatta has a commanding lead; Odinga is on the ropes big time; and that the technicalities are such that it might be a while before we get the final tally, depending on the spoilts votes question.

Kenyans are holding their breath, peacefully waiting for it all to play out.