Kenya has faced its most important general elections in the country’s 50 years of history. Five years have passed since the last content, with more than 1,000 people killed in political and tribal violence after the presidential election. In December 2007, the votes gave 47% percent to re-election candidate Mwai Kibaki against the 44% of opposition leader Raila Odinga. The accusations of election fraud, partially supported by international observers, made Odinga partisans to take the streets and protest. Police repression raised a cycle of months of violence that ended with a national agreement that made Kibaki President and Odinga Prime Minister.
Now, the new presidential elections have been celebrated with a great effort for peace. Last saturday, Uhuru Kenyatta was officially declared the winner although his great rival, Odinga, who was standing for his third elections. Kenyatta won by a narrow margin: 50.07% of the votes, the absolut majority that is needed to avoid a second ballot. No violence has been reported.
Odinga has alleged fraud again. But, this time, he has remarked that the battle will be limited to the supreme court. And he specifically urged his supporters to remain peacefully despite losing. “Any violence now will destroy this nation forever”, he said. Kenyatta speaked in the same line: “Despite the misgivings of many in the world, we have demonstrated a level of political maturity that surpassed expectation. We voted in peace, we upheld order and respect for the rule of law, and maintained the fabric of our society”. Even Barack Obama made a video to urge for peace before the elections.
As Kenyatta said, the country needs maturity to make a policy of shared societies. The messages for integration launched by the candidates are a great step, but there is still a long way to go. Tribal politics is a problem in Kenya. Deflecting the class tension by appealing to ethnic constituencies has been an usual and very dangerous strategy. It emerged in the mentioned post-electoral violence between two ethnic groups. The majority kikuyu (represented by Kibaki and now by Kenyatta) against the luo (represented by Odinga).
This time, kenyan society has joined the caution of candidates with rallies, concerts and online campaigns against violence. But this effort for security must evolve into a real integration politics. “Kenyatta will fail if he cannot unite the whole country behind him”, says Binyavanga Wainaina on The Guardian. And to end with tribalism Kenya needs good political and economic practices. Because when land and resources are scarce and the state is in charge to share them out, it seems logical that any social group wants to see his own representatives in power to guarantee their share.
Musalia Mudavadi, the third candidate, described clearly this situation in Kenya’s first national debate, in which the need of a shared society was the main theme: “The way that we have practiced our politics is that we have created a sense of insecurity amongst communities. We have reached a stage where we are telling communities unless you’re herded into one corner then your interests are not properly taken care of.”
In the same debate, Kenyatta identified the problem: “Tribalism is cancer that has afflicted this country for a very long time and has been a source of conflict, has been a source of death, has been a source of destruction of property.” Now as President he will have to demonstrate that his concern was deep. Furthermore, he is facing charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC), which accuses him of encouraging post-electoral violence in 2007. This matter can handicap the foreign politics of Kenya. “The US, Britain and leading figures including Kofi Annan have already made clear that Kenyatta’s victory would not be welcome”, writes Simon Tisdall in The Guardian.
Photo: Simon Maina/AFP