November 22nd 2017

Top Stories / 2017 Elections

Citing "two deeply flawed elections", Financial Times recognises Raila's quest for electoral justice

"The context of the past two, deeply flawed polls in Kenya is important. On both occasions, Mr Odinga had good reason to suspect foul play. It was doubly important that this time the process was seen to be free and fair."

By Salim LoneMonday, 04 Sep 2017 09:37 EAT

Raila Odinga, accompanied by his top allies, speaks at the Supreme Court soon after the nullification of President Uhuru Kenyatta's win.

This remarkable Financial Times editorial highlighting our deeply flawed elections and celebrating the Supreme Court ruling is a must read for Kenyans and will give a huge boost to those struggling for greater democracy, the rule of law and electoral justice in Kenya and Africa. The editorial also bluntly criticizes international observers, citing John Kerry's behaviour in particular.

This FT position is a Godsend for those like Raila who have been pushing to reform the cynical and broken observer system now in place. I myself focused strongly on the need for reform of this crucial area in several radio interviews on the day of the Court’s judgement, including the BBC and CBC. International observers are a vital cog in the drive for greater democracy but only if the process is completely de-politicized and the observers are professional and look at ALL aspects of the process. The FT points out that there were so many warning signs before the election of attempts to rig, including Chris Msando's murder, and yet the observers were in a huge hurry to pronounce everything fine even before the results were declared. Why?

Of particular relevance to our current situation here is the FT’s explicitly recognizing Raila Odinga's long quest for democratic elections and electoral justice. In our last three presidential elections, the loser has been declared the winner by our electoral commission.

Raila has been the victim each time but he has never given up. He of course wants to lead Kenya in the democratic direction he has always fought and sacrificed for. But he also has kept going despite the profound injustice done him because he knew that this constantly deepening state dysfunction would otherwise kill our democracy and dispirit our people, allowing dictators a freer rein to take Kenya towards what could only be a much greater catastrophe.

In addition, there is now a cynical, pro-status quo international environment which is focussed on short term "security" in its partner states, which has seen Raila’s campaigns for accountability and change blamed for Kenyans' anger about stolen elections! The legitimate interests the international community has in Kenya can only be served by genuine stability built around inclusiveness, equity and opportunity for enterprise that is not reserved for Mafia-type oligarchs but is broad based and merit-oriented. Jubilee’s record does not provide any hope for that.The contrary in fact.

Anyway, to quote the FT on Raila, "The context of the past two, deeply flawed polls in Kenya is important. On both occasions, Mr Odinga had good reason to suspect foul play. It was doubly important that this time the process was seen to be free and fair."

To conclude, here is what the FT wrote on the international election observers:  “Their formulaic rubber stamping of results has become increasingly insidious - notably in undermining their own credibility, but also in spreading cynicism among the electorate. Since 2007 when Kenya went to the brink of civil war in the wake of polls marred by fraud, there has been a tendency among such observers to brush aside all manner of irregularities in the interests of preserving peace.

“John Kerry, the former US secretary of state who was representing the Carter Center during the most recent electoral showdown, went further when he commended the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for its work before it had completed it and urged the opposition presidential candidate, Raila Odinga, to accept defeat and “move on”. In so doing, he appeared guilty of “the soft bigotry of low expectations” to borrow a phrase coined by his own nemesis George W Bush."

This last sentence will please Muthoni Wanyeki of Open Society, whim I quoted in a post yesterday as saying the same thing about diplomats who want us to accept electoral weaknesses because we are doing better than before – but I am not at all sure that that is the case.

Salim Lone, a journalist and columnist for the Daily Nation for many years, was spokesman and adviser to NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga in the campaign for the court-nullified election. He lives in the United States.

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