Johannesburg – Kenya has experienced a tumultuous few months related to elections, including an annulment, an election rerun and subsequent a boycott thereof, all accompanied by violence, deaths, protests, anger and uncertainty.
As the dust settles - temporarily - following an announcement on Monday by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) that President Uhuru Kenyatta had won last Thursday’s presidential election rerun with a decisive victory of 98 percent, what lies ahead?
Opposition leader Raila Odinga, of the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition, says he will transform NASA into a resistance movement that will spearhead a campaign of civil disobedience.
Odinga was expected to clarify his next course of action soon, while Kenyatta has acknowledged that his victory would possible be challenged in the courts once again.
This is not the first time Kenya has suffered an election crisis. In 2007 over a thousand people were killed in election related violence.
And if the East African country is to avoid a repeat of this pattern, analysts believe certain issues have to be addressed.
Dominic Burbidge, from Oxford University’s Law Faculty, said the time given between the original August elections and last week’s rerun was insufficient and only exacerbated an unsatisfactory electoral system steered by broken institutions, specifically the IEBC.
“In a sign of what was to come, the electoral commission’s CEO took three weeks’ leave in the runup to election day, bowing to pressure from the opposition coalition,” said Burbridge, in a piece published in The Conversation, an independent news site run by academics and researchers.
Shortly beforehand, IEBC Commissioner Roselyn Akombe fled to New York, stating ominously that her fear over the safety of election staff in the field, was met with more extremist responses from most commissioners, “who are keen to have an election even if it is at the cost of the lives of our staff and voters”.
Police brutality during the elections also stoked anger and fuelled violence. Amnesty International accused heavily armed police of using unlawful force against protesters and bystanders in the western opposition stronghold of Kisumu in what appeared to be a deliberate campaign to punish inhabitants for continuing to protest.
According to Edward Kisiangani, a professor of political history at Nairobi’s Kenyatta University, since Kenya’s independence in 1963, political and economic power has been concentrated in the hands of the Kikuyus, the largest of the country’s 44 ethnic groups. Odinga is a Luo.
This fact required urgent reform to ensure fairer power sharing said Kisiangani as he expanded on how much Kenyan society was divided.
“There have been such divisions since independence but this is unprecedented. We are more divided than we have ever been before. It’s about the crisis of sharing political power, it has never been very smooth,” Kisiangani told AFP in an interview.
The crisis could be resolved, according to the professor, by restoring confidence, such as making it a criminal offence to hire family and friends for government jobs, and making it impossible to use elections to “dominate or threaten others”.
Other changes included a need for the presidency to be structurally reformed to hand power back to the people.
Kisiangani further suggested legal measures to weaken the presidency and strengthen institutions.
“A way of doing it is to create a federal constitution which will empower more the governors and will increase the allocation of resources and budgets to the counties.
“We could have a referendum in the next year and make sure that these problems do not reoccur,” said Kisiangani.