KENYA ELECTION – Odinga as the winner

Odinga as winner

 ‘Baba the 5th’/ 5th time lucky/ 5th times a charm 

Third time lucky is not always enough. Sometimes you must try again and again.

Such has been the case political bridesmaid Raila Odinga – next president of the Republic of Kenya? – surely

His first attempt on the top job dates back 25 years to 1997.

He came close 2007 and 2017. Now Odinga can finally claim victory – surely.

Raila’s own vote-counters and strategists were happy to claim Azimio’s presidential victory by midday on Wednesday the 10th – the day after the election.

Twitter and other social media sites showed him finishing over 700,000 votes clear of his nearest opponent, William Ruto.

Signs have been pointing to an Odinga victory – in part because Ruto’s team could not present the similar claims, all-be they speculative.

But Kenyans and international observers alike have been extremely wary of disinformation.

So a major celebration has been held off until the IEBC release the official result.

That in itself has been painstakingly tense, with the two front-runners neck and neck right up to the finish post.

For this election voter turnout is below average for a country that usually hovers around 80%.

We saw it for ourselves at polling stations we visited around Kilifi North.

Enthusiasm was predicted to be low.  But turnout was lower than expected. All four candidates failed to mobilise the youth, a demographic that makes up the majority the Kenyan population.

Assuming Uhuru Kenyatta’s mantle, Raila Odinga will face considerable challenges.

Among them high youth unemployment.

He must also wrestle with a tough economic climate and bring an end to corruption.

But has the so-called ‘old man’ got the fight left in him for these challenges?

Raila’s manifesto is built on 10 key points. These are the key elements.

He wants a Kenya which overcomes poverty, ignorance and disease.

He wants to put manufacturing at the heart of Kenya’s economic strategy.

He claims he’ll support micro, small to medium sized enterprises (MSMEs).

He promises to invest heavily in agriculture.

And he’s offering a $60/month basic income for the country’s poorest.

The plans are ambitious from a 77-year-old political veteran.

But a cost-of-living crisis in part caused by external factors may scupper any progressive growth and redistribution.

Kenya is also said to be teetering on the edge of a debt and borrowing crises which Odinga has promised to address.

With Odinga a winner the  next few days will be defining.

If there’s violence, Kenya could be plunged deeper into crisis.

But if the country remains calm we may see a nation more progressive, less corrupt, richer and more cohesive during the coming term. Many Kenyans I’ve met are hopeful of the latter.

OS 11/08/22

KENYA ELECTION – voter confidence gone

voter confidence gone

Election day arrived – Kilifi town was filled with anxiety and optimism.

Change is here – whatever it brings.

We attended polling stations across Kilifi North, humbled, initially, by the crowds heading to the ballot box. Each voter hoping for a positive future for their community and country.

Queues, at the start of the day, were extensive, caused by problems with the new biometric voter-registration machines.

Edna, an IEBC presiding officer at Majaoni Primary School, told us that the machines were temperamental. Across the constituency, we heard similar reports.

Despite long waiting times in the heat, people were determined to vote. At Bahati primary school, I spoke to Frankie who told me that he had been queuing for two hours – he expected to be waiting at least another hour.

This did not stop others patiently joining the back of the line to exercise their democratic right.

But the crowds thinned. By mid-afternoon the polling stations were largely deserted.

On an election day like this, people go and vote early to avoid potential unrest or violence later in the day.

Low voter turnout is unusual in Kenya. At Mnarani Primary School, a presiding officer told us that, at 3pm, they had only had 25% of their registered voters, and anticipated to have about 60% by closing time.

But at Takaungu Primary School, they had less than 50% of their registered voters by 5pm – 30 minutes before closing.

Evance

Evance, an election observer from HURIA (Human Rights Agenda), claimed people were dissatisfied with the system.

“Many people decided in the last election that they would never vote again… they felt democracy was not achieved.” He said.

In 2017, Raila Odinga disputed the election results. The IEBC ordered a rearranged vote. Odinga withdrew from the second round, which left president Kenyatta with a landslide victory, bagging 98% of the second-round vote. But in 2017, there was  an 80% turnout of the first round, the rearranged election only saw just 38% at the poling stations. Many believe they saw democracy fail then and would not put their faith in it again.

Perhaps this explains this year’s poor turnout.

Other officials claimed that fewer young people are voting because they do not feel they benefit from aging politicians.

Despite a 2019 consensus showing 75% of the Kenyan population is under 35, less than 40% of those registered to vote in 2022 are young people.

Disenfranchised youth and disappointed adult voters plays badly for faith in democracy and political institutions.

Whether Raila or Ruto is crowned this year remains to be seen – but either will have work to do to repair the damaged trust of Kenya’s citizens.

GH 10/08/22

 

KENYA ELECTION – Uhuru’s legacy

Uhuru’s legacy

The streets have been quiet in Kilifi.  Shopkeepers closed their stalls and the beaches have been deserted.

Uhuru Kenyatta

Campaigning is over. Politicians can no longer endorse a candidate.  Polling companies jobs are done for another five years.

Uhuru Kenyatta leaves his post with a nation in the middle of a cost of living crisis, high youth unemployment with the threat of ethnic violence.

Jumo Kenyatta

The son of the first President Jomo Kenyatta, Uhuru used his name to rise to the top of political tree, elected president in 2013 and again in 2017.

His supporters will say that Kenya has come a long way – hailing achievements such as exploding infrastructure investment, his Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and his overall management of the economy as highlights of his 10 year reign.

Infact, the Jubilee Party leader is allowed to boast of having built more roads than the previous 123 years of governments before him.

strong support for Odinga

It’s a result of heavy borrowing and potential debt traps from Chinese firms. But the public now has access to another 11,000 kilometres of road, drastically reduced travel times and easier opportunities to trade and do business.

But not everyone’s a fan. Griot’s East African Director Eric Kimori said many feel Uhuru has failed to tackle corruption, with perhaps the longest shadow being. Cast across his own government and maybe even over his presidency.

It is estimated that Kenya is losing roughly two billion KES a day through corruption and illicit financial flows. A failure even the president has acknowledged, stating ‘’the devil of corruption is still alive and well here’’.

But, others say he is working to rectify these problem by endorsing former rival Raila Odinga to be his successor. He claims running mate Martha Karua will not ‘’give corrupt leaders and looters a chance’’.

Once bitter opponents, Raila and Uhuru came together in 2018 to attempt to put an end to ethnic tensions across the country in what was known as ‘The Handshake’ – the start of Kenyatta’s Building Bridges Initiative.

Critics argue his support for Odinga and Karua has more to do with his loathing of his current deputy William Ruto.

Ruto’s ambition and perceived lack of humility has seemed a trigger for the incumbent.

Kenyatta’s time in office has not been perfect, even by his own adminission, but it has made long strides towards a modern, connected Kenya. It has addressed some areas of health care provision and brought peace and stability.

But it’s not time to count his legacy. The new man in office will have to build on what has been started and the benefits of the Uhuru years will have to be judged then.

 

OS 09/08/22

KENYA ELECTION – change, whichever way Kenya votes

Change, whichever way Kenya votes

The current regime in Kenya is the first elected under the new constitution. It’s the first to govern under the new devolved power-system. But as the curtain falls on the Uhuru years change is once again in the air, writes Eric Kimori.

President Kenyatta has completed his two five-year terms, as have most of the county Governors. Under the constitution they cannot run again. So Kenya is poised for change at both national and county levels.

‘Freedom is coming’ is the rallying cry of the Kenya Kwanza coalition led by Deputy President William Ruto.

Mr Ruto’s campaign has focused on mobilizing the young and women.

Through his ‘Bottom-up’ manifesto he is promising a radical shift from trickle-down economics.

He’s drawing crowds of hopeful young and women wherever he goes.

He’s plagued by an association with corruption. But Mr Ruto is a flamboyant mobilizer, endowed with the ‘gift of the gab’.

His eloquence is not matched by closest rival Raila Odina. Political pundits and analysts claim it is the reason Mr Odinga skipped the national televised presidential debate a fortnight ago.

Inawezekana’ – translated to mean ‘it’s possible’ – is the battle-cry of Odinga’s fifth stab at the presidency.

He’s is riding on his track record of democratic and political reform that he has been championing.

If Odinga wins, his running mate, Martha Karua will become Kenya’s first female deputy president.

She is thought to be the energy behind Odinga’s recent surge in support.

Their manifesto addresses social reform. The most talked about intervention is an economic stimulus targeting families living below the poverty line.

Mr Odinga proposes a cash transfer programme of Kes 6,000 (about 60 USD) for poor families in a bid to spur economic growth in hard-hit regions of Kenya.   

The two remaining contenders, Prof George Wajackoya of Roots Party, and church leader Waihiga Mwaure of Agano Party, are seen as non-starters, not expected to marshal a combined 1% of the total votes.

So which way Kenya? Either road leads to change.

But as the saying goes, ‘The more things change the more they stay the same’.

Odinga is running for a fifth time – his face is not new to Kenyan politics. He is a former Prime Minister.

Ruto has been deputy president for the last 10 years.

One of these two will become Kenya’s fifth president.

As the national debate, so too the counties. Most of the leading contenders for governor are deputy governors seeking to inherit governor posts from retiring bosses.

Whichever way Kenya votes, change is in the air!

 

EK 8/8/22

KENYA ELECTION – devolve, involve, solve

devolve, involve, solve

At a rally, for Kilifi governor candidate Gideon Mung’aro, I was struck by the excitement and enthusiasm of the locals – despite the headline speaker showing-up over an hour late.

We were travelling with a lady called Saida, who represented the IEBC as a voter-educator.

So, I asked her if there had always been a passion for politics in Kenya.

“Since the constitutional reforms of 2010,” she said, “devolution has meant that people feel more involved.

“Most people know somebody personally who is involved in local politics”.

Saida

The new constitution of Kenya replaced the one penned in 1963, when the country won independence from British Colonial rule.

The changes in 2010 were defined by power devolved from central government to county government level. This brought greater financial autonomy.

Before the reforms people felt remote from the ruling classes and unable to influence the political discourse. This led to indifference in the population, particularly in rural areas.

Following the establishment of assemblies in each of the 47 counties of Kenya, with each county containing wards which elect Members (MCAs), power seemed to get closer to the people.

The distribution of the county budget is now in the hands of local people answering to their friends and neighbours as constituents.

County development plans are also debated locally, by MCAs who are accessible, approachable, and communicate issues which affect people in their local community.

Representation was also expanded with the introduction of County Women’s Representatives. From 2010, each county elects a Women’s Representative to sit in the national parliament. These representatives are provided with funding for their county which they can allocate for the needs of women, and other minority groups.

“People feel as though their voices are heard much more”, Saida said.

Disaffected voters have been re-engaged. People are finding interest in party and national politics.

And the proof is in the pudding – In 2007, prior to the reforms, voter turnout for the presidential election was 69%. By 2013 this had jumped to over 85%. From what we’ve seen of the enthusiasm and commitment of people attending the rallies, the high figures are not surprising.

People now feel listened to. An engaged public means an active public and now everyday Kenyans feel they have something to gain for their families and their community by involving themselves in the political process.

GH 05/07/22

KENYA ELECTION – political hash, or hash-politics

Political Hash, or Hash-Politics

Waiting for an Azimio Party campaign rally to start on a football field, in the forest near Tezo, we were struck by the number of men openly smoking cannabis – or ‘bhang’ as the Kenyans call it.

Tezo

Throughout the afternoon we watched a dealer distributing small brown paper bags he would retrieve from a nearby bush.

The country’s history and attitude towards the drug has been mixed.

Cultivation, harvesting and use of cannabis has gone-on for centuries – a history rooted in spiritual, religious, medicinal and recreational practices.

British Colonial rule outlawed the crop with the introduction of the Abuse of Opiates Prevention Ordinance of 1913 – a legal position that remains, despite independence being won in 1963.

To cultivate, possess or consume cannabis brings the threat of lengthy prison sentences and harsh fines – indeed Kenya has even outlawed the smoking of tobacco in public.

KBC

Onto this stage steps presidential wild-card candidate George Wajackoyah.

Dressed in a black tracksuit and wearing a ‘durag’, the Roots Party hopeful campaigns almost exclusively on a policy of cannabis legalisation.

It is not, however, his only controversial position.

Other plans to settle Kenya’s burgeoning £58-billion include the export of hyena testicles.

 

He also aims to put corrupt officials to death – but not before “eating some ugali”.

His campaign for the presidency is ruffling some feathers, from the political establishment, but also from the Kenyan Catholic Church. Controversy that Wajackoyah welcomes.

And he’s lit a fire under the campaigns of both the main presidential candidates. – despite only polling at 2.9%. The election is likely to be quite a close-run affair and both the main parties are concerned about losing votes to Wajackoyah.

According to our Tezo guide and ex-local government chief Lennox, his policies speak to Kenyans, disaffected with government and the political process overall.

The legalisation of bhang, tackling corruption and his own personal firebrand style have gained him significant support, particularly amongst young men like the ones we met in Tezo.

While polls indicate current Deputy President William Ruto or former Prime Minister Raila Odinga will be next President, Wajackoyah’s campaign has raised hopes of radical change in the country – but maybe in the years to come.

O.S. 03/08/22

KENYA ELECTION – flour flurry

FLOUR FLURRY

August 3 2022 – The Flurry for Flour

Ugali

Browsing the aisles in Naivas, the only supermarket in Kilifi town, at the start of our trip to Kenya, I noticed that everybody was buying huge amounts of flour. Now, I know flour is the main ingredient of the Kenyan staple Ugali, but was it really necessary to buy in such quantities?

Discussing this with local friends, we learned people were filling their shelves for election time.

Apparently, the price is set to jump, the closer we get to polling day.

Election cycles in Kenya bring a risk of violence. So, shelves must be stocked in case the shops and markets remain closed for a few days, while any unrest passes.

Later that week, we woke one morning to the bustle of swarming crowds, across the street from our apartment.

Venturing out to see why the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) was creating such a stir, we met local shopkeeper Abdullah.

He told us the stockpiling we’d seen in Naivas was not the only pressure on flour sales.

He said the government had put a cap on the price of flour at 100ksh (around £0.70) for a 2kg bag – less than half the previous retail-price of 230ksh.

Abdullah predicted the cap and the crowds would continue until after the election. Every day, people queuing, from sunrise to sunset.

The supressed price brought reports of millers hoarding stocks, leading to shortages in shops and markets.

With stock-levels low and pre-election demand increasing there is panic buying and a sense of desperation, as seen outside the NCPB.

Back in Naivas, a few days later, and the flour-queue stretched through the store and all the way out of the door – we estimated people will have waited around two hours for a bag

Life in Kenya can be a day-to-day challenge at the best of times, but with a global grain-crisis and the pressures of geo-politics weighing heavy here, a return to post-election stability cannot come soon enough.

 

 

 

 

GH 03/08/22

 

 

 

 

 

KENYA ELECTION – to represent or self-enrich

To represent or self-enrich

August 2nd 2022 – Politics or a Racket? 

Kenya is a country waiting – as the 2022 election looms ever closer.

A key part of our mission for heading to the East African country was to act as short term observers for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). It’s a body that oversees and monitors the election process.

We’d been in the country around two weeks, when we got our first real taste of the power of the process. We visited a rally held by the party of current deputy president and presidential hopeful William Ruto.

The gathering of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) was  in the small roadside town of Tezo, on the Malindi-Mombasa highway in Kilifi County. Following the distant noise of loud music and cheering we came to a clearing in the forest to meet local IEBC representative Fridah Santa.

She introduced us to the senate candidate for the town as well as Kilifi North’s MP Owen Baya. The lecturer turned lawmaker, had arrived in a large blacked out Toyota Land Cruiser to speak to a crowd of a few hundred – a ‘’small turnout’’ according to Fridah.

At 4 o’clock the crowd mainly consisted of women and children, as the men of the town were mostly working – but slowly they began to trickle in and join the throng.

It may be more profitable for them to be here than to work.

Stable employment is difficult to find and easy money can be made attending the rallies or helping to organise them. Individuals earn anything from 50 KES (less than 40p) to 300KES. What you pay in return for the small earnings, you pay with your vote.

We’re told the practice is common during Kenya’s electoral periods. Politicians from all parties seem happy to part with cash, alcohol and gifts. In return they expect support.

We heard reports that some campaigns on polling day may go as far as to send alcohol to opposition strongholds. An inebriated voter is less likely to use his vote than a sober one!

We experienced the practice of cash-for-votes first-hand. Toward the end of the rally we were led away early. It was reported to us later that Baya had joked in Swahili that he would not give out any money in front of ‘muzungu’ observers.

‘Vote buying’ seems accepted in Kenya. It raises integrity concerns, of course. Those standing to gain being the politicians seeking power. And the contrast between an elected representative earning a minimum salary of £33,000 a year compared to a under-educated motorbike (boda-boda) rider earning less than £10 a day highlights who the winners are.

The political landscape consists of business owners, landlords and political dynasties. And it is not uncommon to self-enrich from devolved and loosely overseen government funds.

According to Oxfam, Kenya has one of the fastest growing super rich classes in the world. It is predicted that by 2033 there will be an extra 7,500 millionaires. Many see politics as a means of of reaching their ranks.

But while the number of super-rich grows in Kenya it seems unlikely  the gap between rich and poor will narrow.

 

OS 2/8/22

 

 

 

 

 

KENYA ELECTION – process or power?

Process or Power – democracy under the light

1st August Blog Entry – Grace Hunt

Working in the emerging world is bound to come with its challenges – for us, Challenge No:1, in the process of monitoring the elections in Kenya, was to gain access to our observer accreditation passes. We’d been approved weeks ago, but getting our badges was, at least a little, tricky! The upside was that our search brought us into contact with Hussein, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) County manager for Kilifi County.

Hussein was, like much of the country, a mix of optimism and anxiety about the up-coming vote.

“This election must be a success”, he said, explaining that Kenyan democracy is not yet full and effective.

He said the value of the process for faith in democracy and political institutions could not be overstated.

Memories of the 2007 and 2017 elections hang over the heads of Kenyans, with a fear a return to violence –  even killings.

Hussein’s emphasis on the election for the sake of democracy seems fair.

Pressure is clearly building at the top of the IEBC. On-lookers regard their job as impossible.

Speaking to local friends, there’s fear that violence is inevitable.  But is this merely a lack of faith in the IEBC, or recognition that politicians and supporters will dispute results, regardless of how democratic the process is?

One friend said that if presidential candidate and current deputy, William Ruto wins, the current president, and supporter of Ruto’s opponent, will use his influence in the police and armed forces to oppose the results.

Alternatively, if front runner Raila Odinga succeeds, Ruto is unlikely to accept the result. His supporters are likely to instigate violence and disorder.

Many locals have echoed this. While violence in Kilifi is unlikely, they fear for fellow Kenyans in the West of the country.  And they feel a threat to national democracy.

They’rr not alone. The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has published a report which reinforces these worries. They claim politicians are exploiting high youth unemployment by paying the young to intimidate opponents. This often turns violent.

The IEBC’s agenda of promoting free and fair elections has many facets – one being violence following the vote.

You might think, that if the IEBC can provide a free and fair election, there would be no need for violence.

But violence and elections are entwined in this country. It’s only the severity that changes.

Perhaps politicians and their campaigners are destined to fight. And, while they crave power over process, the IEBC will have a job on its hands to keep the process safe – at least for this round of elections.

 

GH 3/8/22

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KENYA ELECTIONS 2022

Kenya Elections 2022

At Griot we have been working solidly in Kenya in recent years.

It began with the support of Maasai girls who were electing to chose education over genital cutting and early marriage.

In 2020 we started work on a programme of social impact investment, funded through the economics of carbon credits. This has seen us oversee the planting of hundreds of thousands of mangrove seedlings and rehabilitate hundreds of water-pumps in rural settings.

This year, we are proud to have been granted IEBC accreditation to monitor the 2022 elections across the country. We are choosing to direct most of our energy to the coastal region and specifically Kilifi County.

Joining us for election season are two young politics graduates from UK.

Grace Hunt and Ossian Schofield will be sharing their observations with us during the last week of Uhuru Kenyata’s Presidency whilst keeping in touch with the impact of the process on the people of Kenya and the countries it trades with.

We look forward to their input!

HG. 02/08/22