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.