Kenyans went to polls on December 27, 2007 to elect their political representatives. The elections were held in what was reported by independent observers as well as the media as peaceful, free, fair and all available adjectives that can be used to describe virtues.
Various reports and commentaries and the (mane) consultants who were on the ground also noted. It would be wrong to simply describe the outcome and the current status of the country which was otherwise known to be sane as deplorable.
Pushing Kibaki and Odinga into a closed-door or open-door dialogue would be pointless since we believe that the situation in Kenya, whereas it could be viewed as a power struggle between the two leaders, to the Kenyan citizen, it’s more than that. The leaders have no mandate to discuss the electorates’ decision of December 27.
The leaders may even agree to a power-sharing scenario as being called for by some commentators, but would the public agree with a situation of two presidents while they only elected one? It has to be either Kibaki or Odinga, but not both.
Secondly, it would not be the first time the two entered into some agreement; they had one before they managed to remove Daniel arap Moi’s KANU from power. This agreement was broken where the two and several others in the coalition, unceremoniously parted ways. Kenyans thus lost trust in agreements signed between political leaders –basically, the agreements are not binding.
Political leadership in Kenya have lost trust of the electorates. If the unexplained election results are allowed to stand, how easy would it be for the next set of leaders to manipulate election results and then hope to have dialogue to maintain status quo? If it’s leadership by dialogue, what reason would the electorates have to head to the polls come 2012 to pretend to choose their leaders only for the outcome to be overturned by state security?
The violence we are witnessing from a section of the public is not tribal as now being reported in a section of foreign press that easily grabbed the ethnic angle (may be because it sounds better for their audiences) or simply because they don’t understand the tribal situation of the country.
Most importantly, Kenya should not be compared to the Rwanda genocide. The difference is a big one: Rwanda had two tribes (ethnic groups); Tutsis and Hutus, while Kenya has over forty ethnic groupings. The majority in Kenya are below the age group of 50 most of who have inter-married to a point their children do not align themselves with any one particular tribe.
Others would argue with this reasoning and demand to know why the casualties have mainly been from two ethnic groups; the Luos and the Kikuyus. To answer this, politically, the two groups could have been political rivals since independence in 1963. That was when Jaramogi Oginga, Raila Odinga’s father, reportedly declined to take leadership of the country from the British colonial government while the other freedom fighters including Jomo Kenyatta were still in detention, only for Kenyatta to sideline him and his group three years after independence. But such political animosity had never regenerated into violence at a scale now being witnessed.
Secondly most Luos who have died since Kibaki was declared president have been victims of police gun-power while most Kikuyus who have been killed during the same period have suffered in areas that are not dominated by Luos.
As Philip Ochieng, a columnist with Kenya’s Sunday Nation wrote, people have been venting their anger on the wrong people. It’s a situation where nearly all the other ethnic groups in the country are ganging-up against the group they believe rigged the elections. Unfortunately the victims were not party to the manipulation of votes.
The unfortunate situation is that those responsible for fixing poll results reside in fortified homes beyond the reach of the offended electorates while the poor Kikuyu man, woman and child who have been struggling like most Kenyans have become vulnerable. This is what has resulted into the senseless attacks on a people who have lived as loving neighbours for decades.
Possible mediators must first acknowledge that talking between the two leaders alone would not be enough because the electorates would not trust their respective motives. The electorates want their votes to count and until that issue is addressed, the animosity amongst easy targets shall likely prevail.
Kibaki’s previous leadership was laced with acts of corruption, re-appointments of previously retired old-guards into positions as opposed to numerous highly qualified younger generation.
To prove this lack of trust, as our consultants were busy working on this analysis, three things happened. First was the acceptance of an international mediator in the form of the Africa Union’s Chair, John Kufuor, next, Kibaki extended invitation to Odinga to meet him at his State House jointly with key ODM members on Friday January 11. And finally, as Kufuor was arriving in Nairobi, Tuesday January 8, Kibaki was announcing his Cabinet through a pre-recorded television address.
The reasoning could elude most, but should the mediation go the people’s way and another presidential election were to be called, Kibaki is preparing to share the spoils with Kalonzo Musyoka whom he has appointed as his vice-president.
He is banking on Musyoka’s 879,903 votes that the latter collected in the disputed elections. Musyoka’s supporters would likely vote for Kibaki with the hope that their candidate would be the next on-line to the country’s top political leadership.
With the current Kenya’s Constitution, the president has powers to appoint and fire all in his Cabinet; so what would stop Kibaki from firing his deputy, Musyoka or just fail to re-appoint him once he has succeeded in the re-run? Nothing! But that would be enough to return peace to the Republic. The anger of ODM supporters would then be redirected at Musyoka and not Kibaki.
Journalists are known to source for information often using the tagline the public has a right to know and we are here to tell them…For this reason, when all had failed, the public expected the Kenyan media to tell them exactly what went wrong. This is also the reason why the first thing the new Kibaki’s government did after hurriedly being sworn into office was to ban all live transmissions and a subsequent threat to media houses against publishing or broadcasting any alarming reports. The excuse John Michuki, the then Minister for Internal Security gave was “in the interest of public security.”
We hereby revisit days before the illegal gag: nearly all media houses had reporters at various key constituencies. Reporters filed results as they were being announced. Even Samuel Kivuitu initially praised the media for being timely in their reports. Let’s re-cap what takes place on a normal polling day.
An electorate would queue for his turn to enter the polling station. Once inside the designated area, he/she would produce his/her voters cards and an Identity Card, the two documents that are used to verify if he/she is the individual he/she claims to be. The voter is then confirmed to be registered to vote at that particular station.
Once all these are authenticated, the voter would be provided with his/her first ballot paper for the local government representative (Councilor) followed by the legislative representative (MP) then finally the presidential candidate. All these take place under the watchful eye of observers, the media, respective parties’ agents and the electoral officials.
At the close of voting, the ballot boxes are respectively emptied and counted. The results are then noted by the Presiding Officer and counter-signed by all agents before being conveyed to the Constituency’s Returning Officer who tally them up, still in the presence of all the above and the agents sign their acceptance or note any disagreements if any. Then the RO would make his announcement to all that are present.
At that point, the reporters would be filing their reports to their respective newsrooms or political desk as the Returning Officers would be seeking means of relaying the same results to the Electoral Commission’s headquarters. Nothing should be altered after the announcement.
To begin with, if there were such huge numbers of voters who just decided to vote for their presidential candidates and not the rest, the observers and the journalists on the ground would not have missed it.
As it was later to transpire, the figures alleged to have reached the ECK’s headquarters from some constituencies (after the alleged disappearances of some Returning Officers) were quite different from those collected by the reporters and observers. Whereas the observers maintained their figures, all media houses, for whatever reasons, agreed to adjust the figures collected by their reporters.
With the senseless killings in Kenya, the local media owes the public, in whose names they’ve always solicited information, an explanation why they never stood by their figures. If their respective reporters got it wrong, then the public has a right to know what else in the past they had got wrong.
This cannot be blamed on any political pressure. The moment the Chairman of the Electoral Commission admitted that he wasn’t sure whether Kibaki had won the elections, the media was under the obligation to tell their audience something like, “according to our respective reporters spread across the country, our tallies showed xxx results while the ECK’s uncertain tallies were yyy.”
Yet to date, as this report was being filed, no media house, apart from some few online sites, have been bold enough to do so. As things stand now, ECK has no results and the media houses have decided to keep their figures under lock and key. Should these lots be relied upon to report any truth?
It’s professionally unacceptable for Kenyan media to blame the government for the gag while they have voluntarily ignored their responsibility to keep the public informed objectively without fear or favor. This culpability should not be allowed in whatever environment. It is fraud in the part of the media.