BEYOND ELECTIONS: STRAINED NATIONHOOD AND REFLECTIONS ON ELECTORAL DEMOCRACY IN KENYA

21 Nov

By Javas Bigambo

Every election is essentially a battle cry, driven by convictions of candidates and their supporters, informed by fundamental principles that men and women of our nation-family lost lives to have them founded, and must be inevitably sustained by individual and collective sacrifices.

The contours and margins of democracy are formed by the imagination, push, commitment and diligence of citizens, and Kenyans, beyond any precept or example of any other country on the African continent keep proving that they know who they are. What if the Greeks would have this country for their own?

Following the repeat presidential election, the Supreme Court has rendered its verdict today, laying to rest officially the hard-fought contest for presidency, a duel wrestled by political notables in the ballot and the courts. With that judgment comes not unity, harmony, brotherhood or spirit-lifting progress.

Kenyan Supreme Court judges, from left to right, Njoki Ndung’u, Jackton Ojwang, Deputy Chief Justice Philomela Mwilu, Chief Justice David Maraga, Smokin Wanjala and Isaac Lenaola preside over the hearing of the petitions. The court upheld President Kenyatta’s re-election.

What is undebatable is that detailed recorded fact point to the reality that the 2017 general election was in many observable cases virulently fraudulent, scandalous, disturbingly opaque and divisive, tribal and threatened the very foundations of our stability and nationhood.

But we had to get over the 2017 election all the same, whichever way it had to come. This does not mean that the many anomalies noted in the election process should be pushed to the backwaters till the next general election.

The malpractices that took place in the 2017 general election sullied our democracy, and amounts to spitting on the faces of the fathers of democracy here in Kenya and all over the world. In justice lies safety. It must be our collective national realization that democracy is not a delusion, and should not be made to be that aberration.

So it must be necessary that independent investigations should be conducted on how the the electoral process at the IEBC was managed, and critical recommendations to remedy those errors effected, followed by charged being pressed against any persons found culpable.

Questions of electoral injustices are not small or of private or individual interests. They are universal in effect and interest. The cause of free, fair and veritable elections is the cause of human liberty.

Therefore, following the nullification of the August 8th 2017 Presidential Election, as well as the repeat presidential election and its determination by the Supreme Court, so much remains politically unresolved. There is still so much pain in many parts of the country.

The post-election incidences have also demonstrated that there is need for more reforms in the Police Service. Such reforms should be focused on police training, and how police should interact with or manage public spaces and demonstrations at all times.

The police need to embrace a rights-based approach in handling protesters.

There are people who lost lives, and some lost loved ones following disputes and protests related to the election outcome. To them, closure did not come with the Supreme Court verdict that upheld the re-election of President Kenyatta.

There are those whose property was destroyed or looted, hence lost earnings and sources of livelihood following post-election protests. They cannot find closure just because the court has closed the matter.

It is for this reason that I am not indifferent to the opinion of those uncharmed by the decision of the Supreme Court to uphold the re-election of President Kenyatta. Neither am I enthused entirely by the inconsiderate celebration of those tickled by the affirmation of the court.

What is vital is how we must begin building bridges, and refuse to build political walls. Now then, whatever measures conciliatory that are needed, let friends and foes pursue that. We cannot afford to be slaves of hopelessness, and by so doing neuter a young democracy.

President Kenyatta has a duty, so unique and solemn to bind the open political wounds in the country. I know not how his second inaugural speech will be written or how it will read, but how that speech will be weaved will be the starting point of lifting the spirit of the nation.

The Supreme Court upheld the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta by disallowing the two petitions challenging his re-election for lack of merit.

The Hon. Raila Odinga has a critical role to play too in the healing process. Being sworn as president in a recalcitrant act will not at all assuage the pain of his supporters. In any case, it will be out rightly unconstitutional.

NASA leader Raila Odinga (center), withdrew from the repeat presidential election on grounds of unmet reforms in the electoral process. Mr. Odinga is critical in the necessary effort to reduce political temperatures and restoration of normalcy in the country.

We are all a part of what we have witnessed and experienced. So there is so much to be done in an effort to move Kenya forward. Is it not true that Milk and honey have different colors, but they share the same house peacefully? Then let us remember that we are one nation, and Kenya is our country.

I must bring myself to the appreciation that here in our land, I know no law higher than the Constitution, and thus, obligated to respect it as it provides, till such time that we shall, collectively, elect to amend sections of it.

The Media and Safety of Journalists

The press and television journalists need to operate within boundaries of decency, responsibility, compassion founded on conscientious professionalism, not sensationalism.

Journalists on the other hand need not be threatened or to operate in an environment where their security is threatened or compromised. We should have outgrown the age of press censorship, the fancy of absolute rulers, dictators and fear-ridden office holders who suffer insecurities of public scrutiny. Media censorship portends the decline of liberal democracy, which must be guarded against.

Media freedom, without doubt, is an inherent and unassailable element of liberal democracy, that facilitates part of the right of information essential in holding state and public officers accountable.

Similarly, integrity in the practice of journalism must also be demanded of journalists by citizens and leaders, so that news content should not be sought or twisted at the bidding of special interest groups, but for the greater good as a general principle.

Building an Accountable and Democratic Kenya Together

The shadow of patience must not grow shorter. Need we entertain the imagination of secession and the attendant untamed savages of individualism that come with it? Let secession remain a mirage, or at best, an apparition that we live not to experience.

We cannot take pride in divisions. We cannot for so long sustain the negative energy, abhorrence and squabbling. It is obvious that there are critical social justice matters, land matters and electoral reform issues that must be undertaken. This work is ours as a people.

There is an understanding in African tradition that brothers love each other when they are equally rich. We have to make sure that we overcome the high inequality in Kenya, breath life in our national values, boost entrepreneurship and business environment, facilitate sustainable agriculture and put more money in devolved government as we put premium on accountability.

There are many pillars of nationhood. Many of those pillars are not strong here in Kenya. Let us not ask of anyone, politician or foreigner to strengthen them. We the people have to rise, fold our sleeves and strengthen those pillars.

Javas Bigambo: Not all is ok in the country. There is need to build a new Kenya through critical reforms and abiding by the rule of law.

Greater sense must reign among Members of Parliament and Members of County Assemblies to work toward better reforms through pieces of legislation and debates in the house.

Let us elevate our thoughts, moderate our excitement; contain our anger, and fathom that ours is a country to secure, a nation to unite and saunter into the future, thankful that we have it in our power to strengthen our national home. That effort of building a truly new Kenya should start right now.

The writer can be reached through jbigambo@interthoughts.co.ke

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