A few months ago, Kenya was looked upon as the indicator of a maturing democracy in Africa given that it is one of the few African countries that have always enjoyed a smooth transition of power from one regime to another.
Since the country attained its independence from Britain in 1963, there has never been a major civil war resulting from the refusal by a sitting president to hand over power, like it has been witnessed in several African countries.
The country has also not suffered any major ethnic, religious or political conflict, save for the unfortunate post-election violence witnessed in 2007 and several other isolated clashes in previous elections.
However, the last two months have tested Kenya’s ability to overcome major political upheavals, with experts warning that the country could be headed for an unprecedented political crisis that might disrupt the longstanding peace and stability.
The current stalemate has arisen from the highly divisive electioneering period leading up to the general election that was held in August 8 and the subsequent annulment of the contested presidential election results by the Kenyan Supreme Court on September 1.
Polarizing Repeat Poll
In its ruling, the court ordered the Kenyan Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to conduct a fresh presidential election within 60 days. In the repeat poll, which was conducted on October 26, Mr. Kenyatta emerged winner with 7,483,895 votes, which is 98.27 percent of the valid votes cast.
However, his main challenger, Raila Odinga withdrew from the fresh poll a week to the election and asked his supporters to boycott it., a call that was heeded by at least four counties in the Nyanza region, where Mr. Odinga enjoys fanatical support, forcing the electoral body to postpone the voting exercise in the region indefinitely.
During the voting exercise, there were major riots reported in many parts of the Nyanza region, especially Kisumu, Migori, Siaya and Homabay, with at least four people losing their lives in the protests.
Local leaders and clergymen from the region have blamed the police for using excessive force when dealing with the rioters.
Mr. Odinga has been questioning the legitimacy of president Kenyatta’s government, arguing that Kenyans have no faith in him. He has also vowed to marshal his supporters to pile pressure on the government, further deepening the current political standoff.
Treading Unchartered Territories
Pundits have warned that the country could soon fall into a deeper political and ethnic crisis especially since the opposition remains adamant that the ongoing demonstrations will continue until their demands are met.
Speaking at a rally in Nairobi on Wednesday, Odinga announced that the current opposition coalition party, the National Super Alliance, will be transformed into a National Resistance Movement.
The announcement has left many Kenyans anxious about the future of the country seeing that most resistance movements in Africa have led to guerilla wars and bloody coups – a good example being the Ugandan National Resistance Movement, which overthrew President Milton Obote’s regime in 1986.
Many have called on the President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta to sit down with the opposition leader Mr. Odinga to chat the way out of the current political quagmire. But speaking to Al Jazeera on Saturday, Kenya’s deputy president William Ruto dismissed the calls for a dialogue between the two leaders, insisting that the government will ready to dialogue on any other matter but not the election.
President Kenyatta also insists that the only dialogue he is willing to have is with the citizenry at the ballot. Many are now holding their breaths to see if the declaration of Mr. Kenyatta as the President-elect will plunge the country into deeper crisis.