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.