Not so long ago Kenya was seen as a bastion of peace and stability in the region, with working institutions and a more or less functional democracy especially when compared with our neighbours. However the 2007 election and the violence that followed has called this view of Kenya into question. As a consequence the lead up to the 2013 election has been filled with speculation by both Kenyans and the international community about the country’s ability to hold an election that is not only free and fair, but that one that is peaceful as well.
Though Kenya has recovered somewhat since the 2007/2008 post election violence. Somewhat because there are still several internally displaced persons. The economy though better than in the aftermath of the 2008 election is still in a slump. Ethnic tensions are still high as evidenced by violence parts of Coast, North Eastern, and Nyanza, and though we have a new constitution there have been several attempts by parliament to water down the provisions.
In addition the reform of crucial institutions is proceeding with varied results. The reform of the election monitoring body, the Independent Election and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), and the Judiciary are going relatively well (though not as smoothly as one would hope) while reform of the disciplined forces has been going less well.
The Citizen Pathway Group, made up of Kenyan professionals and business leaders, have done an interesting analysis comparing the situation of the country and its various institutions in the period preceding the 2007 election and the situation of the country now.
Of Kenyans the group makes the finding that, “Kenyans remain with tribe as their main source of identity, especially in regard to politics and elections…In 2007 Kenyans were conditioned to believe if their man did not win, all was lost.” In the lead up to the 2013 election the report points out that this is still the case, and that poverty and high levels of disenfranchisement make the youth particularly vulnerable to being used for politically instigated crimes. However the report highlights that there is an emergent voting population that is more politically informed and that have the ability to make better choices.
With regards to the leaders the group writes, “the defining characteristic of leaders in Kenya continues to be the pursuit of power at any cost. Impunity remains a live and well amongst our leaders. The investigations on the 2008 violent crimes including by the ICC, while important, may have made politicians seek to be cleverer on how to cover their tracks in inciting people and organising militia. The strong rivalry between Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta is of particular concern.”
The report also further highlights the fact that leaders seem to determined to form winning coalitions regardless of issues of, “integrity, reform credentials or past political difference” stating that, “the object appears simply to win.” The report cites the strong the leadership and integrity provisions in the constitutions as a remedy to this but is also cognizant of the attempts to water these provision down; and points out the tension that exists between leaders and citizens with regards to implementation of the constitution with regards to leadership.
According to the report Kenya faces pretty much the same challenges in the lead up the 2013 election as it faced in 2007 i.e. negative ethnicity, institutional weakness, and a leadership deficit. However the central question remains, “will Kenyans recognise the challenge and rise to meet it? Will they resort to the usual methods for winning political power in spite of attempts at reform? Will they elect capable leaders with the integrity required to focus on the desired positive future?”