September 24th 2017

Opinion / Commentaries

Confirmed in party primaries: Kenyans abhor democratic order, in love with election riggers

Also unprecedented in the nomination stage has been the level of corruption and bribery. Some aspirants have been caught on camera dishing out cash to scrambling wananchi in violation of the law. Some of those caught red-handed have gone to great lengths to deny what was the obvious.

By Joe KhamisiFriday, 28 Apr 2017 13:28 EAT

ODM supporters from Homa Bay County engage each other in a brawl after a political rally.

In a few days, the contentious sometimes violent party nominations ahead of Kenya's forthcoming general elections will come to an end and the final and most delicate leg of the political phase will begin. During the past three weeks, Kenyans have invested substantial time and emotions in the exercise to nominate the best party candidates for the big contest on August 8.

In the process, some people have lost their lives and others injured as rivals have gone for each other's throats to secure a place in the ballot box in what is destined to be the most bitterly-contested election in recent history. This level of antagonistic behavior among aspirants and their followers has never been seen before in an exercise of this nature.

What this is doing is to push Kenya closer to what many think could happen in four-months time: an all-out mayhem between winners and losers. We seem to be getting a taste of that in these primaries as losers violently complain of being rigged, and leaders inciting followers to take the law into their own hands.

Also unprecedented in the nomination stage has been the level of corruption and bribery. Some aspirants have been caught on camera dishing out cash to scrambling wananchi in violation of the law. Some of those caught red-handed have gone to great lengths to deny what was the obvious. Their denials, however, have not erased the fact that corruption and bribery have now become a way of life in Kenya's electoral process.

There have also been reports of blatant rigging. In some areas, votes cast have far outnumbered registered voters; in others, people have not found their names in registers; in others, people whose names are missing in registers have been allowed to vote. In some cases, ballot papers have been marked in advance.

Rigging aside, what has been most obvious in these primaries is the fact that even the rich and famous can be vulnerable. By Wednesday, five County Governors, scores of Members of Parliament and Senators, and hundreds of County Assembly members had lost their positions, floored by less endowed individuals, in some cases, complete neophytes.

In the past, rich candidates have used their financial might to influence the outcome of elections. It is a little different this time around, at least in these nominations. Some of the losers are top stalwarts of the two main political groups, Jubilee and NASA; some even close allies of the two main contenders, Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga. This is a clear signal that this year the elections could sink more than the usual average of 70 to 75 per cent of elected officials in the legislative bodies.

It has not surprised anybody though that some of the most notoriously corrupt individuals have been favored by voters. Some of these people have stolen billions of shillings from public coffers. With their stolen money, they are now only one step away from becoming "honorable" members of Kenya's political establishment. There, they will use their positions to loot some more and further impoverish the country.

For the second time since the enactment of the current constitution in 2010, the political establishment has ignored the provisions of Chapter 6 of the constitution which sets integrity guidelines for elected officials. As a result, the Kenyan legislative chambers will, once again, harbor the corrupt, thieves, land-grabbers, and other criminals. With a situation like that, Kenyans have no reason to expect change in governance.

The writer is a veteran journalist, author and former Member of Parliament for Bahari. All his books are available in bookshops in Nairobi and on Amazon.com





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