Time for Kenya to Prove It Can Host Peaceful Elections
As protests briefly pause in Kenya over the IEBC’s role in next year’s presidential election, fresh doubts over Kenya’s ability to hold fair, peaceful elections resurface.
Nairobi can’t allow a repeat of the atrocities that followed 2013’s contested polls. Yet, the violent protests seen in recent weeks are a worrying sign of what could be ahead – both in the scale of opposition and the government’s handling of public calls for transparency.
In many ways, Kenya needs to make amends for the violence seen after elections in 2007 and 2013. More importantly, should Uhuru Kenyatta celebrate his second consecutive victory, he’ll need to prove Kenya has progressed from the violence that followed his first win almost five years ago.
Kenyans fear more chaotic elections in 2017
As Kenya grapples with violent protests over the role of its electoral commission, the general public fears more violent elections are on their way, according to a recent Ipsos survey. It says only 42 percent of Kenyans expect peaceful election come 2017, while less than half anticipate free and fair elections next year.
The survey, released on Friday, comes after five people have been killed by police during protests in recent weeks. The government’s handling of the unrest has prompted international concern. Calls for talks have brought a temporary end to the violence as opposition members agree to discuss the issue with Nairobi. However, weeks of police brutality and the eventual use of live ammunition on crowds hints at the extent to which Kenya’s government is still willing to go.
Kenya needs a peaceful election
Cynics and Kenyatta supporters alike would predict only one outcome in next year’s elections: a win for the ruling party. The bigger question for Kenya is how the nature of that victory (or any unlikely opposition win) will run course.
Regardless of the presidential outcome, peaceful elections would be a huge win for Kenyan politics. Aside from the human rights implications, another round of violent polls would prove Kenya has failed to progress over the last five years. And, at a time when experts warn the East African nation could lose its place as the region’s leader, it can’t afford any more proof of backward progress.
President Kenyatta, more than anyone, will have a tough job on his hands should violence break out. His conduct during the 2013 elections landed him with charges of crimes against humanity under the International Criminal Court (ICC). The charges were eventually dropped but the incumbent president won’t want another battle with the ICC to worry about.
East Africa in need of a peaceful election, too
Kenya has been an example for the East African region for some time now. That status may be weakening as its neighbours continue to develop at a rapid pace, but the fact remains East Africa needs some peaceful elections next year.
The chaos that followed Burundi’s 2015 elections has produced one of Africa’s most desperate security crises. This did little to deter Rwanda’s Paul Kagame from announcing his intentions to run for a third term as president next year, mimicking the move of Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza which sparked a national crisis.
Then we have the case of Uganda – East Africa’s other “example” – which placed its main opposition member under house arrest on the same day polls opened and later charged him with treason. Even Tanzania’s mostly peaceful elections were marred by violence in the semi-autonomous Zanzibar.
Elections in East Africa have become increasingly ceremonial: little chance of the ruling party losing out, but predictable violence and lack of transparency. East Africa is in need of free and fair elections in 2017 and Kenya may be the last shot from its current regimes.
In the meantime, Kenya has a more pressing spate of violence to overcome. The persistent anti-IEBC protests have only paused for dialogue. The oppositions’ demands that the body be disbanded before any chance of fair elections in 2017 have sparked violence more than a year before they even take place. The only hope is this gives the country enough time to gets its affairs in order to stage peaceful elections come August 8 next year.
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