Is it time to start packing?
In late 2007, early 2008, Kenya went up in flames. Long building tension and widespread dissatisfaction culminated into violence. People took to the streets, machetes were raised and homes and churches burnt to ashes. Thousands were killed and injured and hundreds of thousands were, and remain, displaced from their homes. The unrest carried a dangerous resemblance to the initial stages of the mass genocide in Rwanda in the 90’s.
Can Kenya promise any different in the weeks to come?
General elections will be held in Kenya on 4 March 2013, electing the President, Senators, County Governors, Members of Parliament, Civic Wards and Women County Representatives. They will be the first elections held under the new constitution, which was passed during the 2010 referendum. Due to the terms of the new constitution, it could also be the first presidential election in Kenya where the candidates face a second round run-off between the first and the second if no one achieves a simple majority in the first round or if the winner does not get 25% of the votes in at least 24 counties.
Out of the eight (so far) nominated candidates, the battle will undoubtedly come down to two political titans. Raila Odinga is the current Prime Minister, whose battle against the current President, Mwai Kibaki, was the largest of factors that culminated into the climate for post election violence. In the wake of the results of the previous election, the “People’s President,” as he was dubbed, called for the “mass demonstrations” that later, wittingly or unwittingly, escalated into post-election violence. The case could be made that his actions directly instigated and incited the country into violence. His main opponent is Uhuru Kenyatta, current Deputy Prime Minister, who is the legacy of Kenya’s founding political family, and who boasts the backing of the Kikuyu people, Kenya’s majority tribal group. The latter, along with his running mate William Ruto, happen to be under an ongoing investigation facing allegations of crimes against humanity by the International Court of Justice. The election will come down to a tight battle between the two giants.
This is not an optimistic scenario. Neither of these candidates will be a real positive change for Kenya as president. I would not, however, lose faith. Kenya will not erupt back into violence. There might be some incidents here and there, but the residents of the corridors of power have realized that they are not above consequence, especially under the global scrutiny in the coming weeks, and more so, Kenyans have better understood the repercussions of acts of violence, on society and on the economy. Hatemongers are frowned upon and are threatened with unforgiving prosecution. Full scale violence is unlikely. So expats, I’d hold on to that plane ticket, and keep a little more faith in our Kenya.
– Luca A.
Next Week: America’s stake in the Kenyan elections