06 November 2017

A LOOK AT KENYA’S REPEAT ELECTION

On October 26th, Kenyans went to the polls for a second time after the August 8th elections were nullified by the Supreme Court of Kenya following findings that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) did not conduct the elections in a credible manner. Since the nullification, Kenya has experienced unrest and violence, especially after main opposition leader Raila Odinga challenged the IEBC to conduct reforms within the commission or else he and his coalition would not take part in the fresh elections. Among the demands Odinga made, was one calling for the appointment of new commissioners to manage the elections and the Commission’s CEO Ezra Chiloba, be removed from his post since he was at the helm of the nullified elections conducted on August 8. Odinga further accused the electoral commission of failing to implement reforms to prevent the elections from being marred by irregularities yet again.

He urged his supporters to boycott the fresh election and stay at home instead, a position that has allegedly contributed to the violence that erupted on the fresh polling day resulting in a violent exchange between protesters and police, blocked roads and limited access to some polling stations. Low voter turn-out was recorded in a number of polling stations, with reportedly thin voter lines in cities along the coast with less than 30% of registered voters casting their votes at some polling stations.

On the eve of election day, Kenya’s seven Supreme Court judges were supposed to meet for a hearing to decide whether the repeat elections should proceed and if a credible vote would be guaranteed. The case was brought by three Kenyan citizens, including a human rights activist, who were urging that the elections be postponed until the electoral commission can guarantee the administration of free and fair elections. A day before the judges were set to meet, the driver of Kenya’s Deputy Chief Justice, Philomena Mwilu, was shot in the mouth and twice in the chest by unknown people and left for dead by the roadside. Following this, Kenyan citizens took to social media to express their worry that these happenings were aimed at intimidating of the Supreme Court before the hearing the crucial case. After the shooting, the Supreme Court judges failed to sit and consider the petition to postpone the repeat elections. Only two of the minimum five judges required to hear such a case showed up to court amid tensions and fears of violence.

In the run up to poll day, the Chairman of the IEBC, Wafula Chebakuti expressed concerns that credible elections would not be guaranteed at the time while some members of the electoral commission expressed deep concerns about the safety of IEBC staff during the polls. The concerns heightened after one the notable IEBC Commissioners, Dr Roselyn Akombe resigned and fled to the United States of America, citing threats to her life.

 At least 8 people have been killed as a result of political violence and tension arising from what are believed to be more discrepancies during the repeat elections. In areas where the opposition has a strong following, demonstrators have clashed with the police leaving many injured, dead or arrested. President Uhuru Kenyatta has since been declared the winner of the repeat elections and a question begs, what is the way forward for a divided a Kenya? 

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