Monday, April 15, 2013

Moving past the election controversies in Kenya

President Uhuru Kenyatta his Deputy William Ruto share a light moment with Former Prime Minister Raila Ondinga and his running mate Mr Kalonzo Musyoka at State House Nairobi. Photo credit, the Daily Nation

In the past week Kenya is slowly moving past the election controversies and the Supreme Court ruling that upheld Kenyatta as the newly elected president. The Carter Center released a report that heavily criticized the election procedures and the IEBC but also praised the handling of the situation by the candidates and the government. Overall, the Center argued, the results of the election are "an expression of the will of Kenyan voters" (Carter, 2013). I am particularly gratified by the Carter Center's results, because I have said since the beginning that the technological problems were very dissapointing, but the election was free and fair. I hope we can look forward to even better elections in the coming years.

The Chairman of the IEBC, Issack Hassan, stated that despite the problems of this past election that have been painfully scrutinized, they will be continuing the use of electronic technology after a full audit of the equipment is completed. Hassan stressed, “Overall the election was credible and transparent; we did not hide anything; all the failures were seen by the public” (Mayabi, 2013).

Moving forward, on Tuesday, April 9th , Uhuru Kenyatta, was sworn in as the nation’s fourth head of state. Although the ceremony went well and was peaceful, there were concerns about violence during the ceremony earlier in the week when reports of youth being recruited to create chaos were made. Eighteen areas of potential threat were identified and four people who were accused of being behind the plans were taken into custody (Burrows, 2013). During the Ceremony, criticism of the ICC trials emerged during various speeches. During his speech, Kenyatta made a slight reference to the court but moved quickly on to other items such as giving a list of his goals and plans for his presidency. He congratulated Kenya for a successful election, although presidential opponent Odinga was not in attendance (Gettleman, 2013). Many have hailed Odinga as a statesman for giving a concession speech. In my personal opinion, which you may not like, it is not statesmanlike at all for him to boycott the inaugural. It lacks style, class and distinction. I for one, am dissapointed.

Now that the election is over, the issue of the ICC trial is front and center. Since the election over a dozen witnesses have been dropped from the cases (Ndonga, 2013), there is sharp criticism over media coverage, and the government has been accused of not cooperating with the ICC prosecutors. The ICC prosecutors stress that the country must follow their protocol and no one, even head’s of state, will be given immunity. Attorney General Githu Muigai exclaimed that since the accusations made by the court have serious implications, the complaints of no-cooperation should be on notice to give Kenya a chance to respond, which has not been done (Kaberia- Sabotage, 2013).

Fergal Gaynor, representative of victims in the ICC case against Kenyatta, backed the ICC’s accusations and asked for the Chamber to speed up Kenyatta’s trial due to claims of witness intimidation. Gaynor claims that charges against former head of state of civil service Francis Muthaura were dropped on basis of witness intimidation and the prosecution should have prevented this and its now an incentive to those who seek to undermine the court through bribery and intimidation. Kenyatta’s council has requested the case be referred back to the pre-trial chamber. Fergal expresses that this is just a tactic to delay that he argues, carries enormous risk (Kaberia -hurried, 2013).

Kenyatta and Ruto still claim the ICC trials will not interfere with their work and that their trial is only a minor, and temporary distraction. During his inauguration speech Kenyatta offered words of hope and stressed that politics should not divide the nation. He promised that he will lead all Kenyans to prosperity and peace and his government will be inclusive, which will reflect the “true face of Kenya” (Matata & Omino, 2013). 

During his first 100 days is office, Kenyatta promises that he will reallocate the SH6 billion ($70 million) he put aside for a possible run-off election to a youth and women’s fund. He also promised to provide free maternal health care as well as making laptops the standard for students next year (Matata & Omino, 2013). As an educator who studies technology, until all children in Kenya have the benefit of free standard secondary education, I do not think that laptops are a good investment. The best investment is that every Kenyan has mastered reading, writing and arithmetic at high levels by age 18.

Analysts and economists, however, wanted to focus on Kenya’s economic growth and bridging the gap of inequalities, realistically. On March 5th Kenya implemented a new devolved system of government where decisions affecting the 47 countries will be addressed at the local level rather than the national and during his speech, Kenyatta has promised to create a million jobs (Gathigah, 2013, Lattus, 2013).  Analysts speculate that the economic environment looks promising and with the implementation of the constitution and government spending, investor’s confidence will likely boost and therefore bring economic growth (Lattus, 2013).  Further, the most logical place to expand jobs is in the government sector, due to the local government offices being built because of the devolved system of government, which will improve distribution of resources (Gathigah, 2013).  Unfortunately, expanding government jobs will not strengthen the Kenyan economy, but will place an additional burden on Kenya's already top-heavy government.

In other news, Kenyatta has made it clear that no cabinet members from Mwai Kibaki and former PM Odinga’s coalition government will serve under him. He stated their tenure has came to an end and all members should vacate their offices immediately. Permanent secretaries and accounting officers will continue to look after affairs until new appointments are made. He did offer since gratitude to the Ministers for their service. Burrows, 2013 Further, Vice President William Ruto has been given the responsibility to coordinate and supervise ministries in the next government. Ruto will name half the Cabinet under the terms of the Jubilee coalition agreement while his URP party has large blocks in both the National Assembly and the Senate. Kenyatta has delegated supervision of government to Ruto, which will allow him to deal with other components of the Presidency. Since both are on trial at the Hague, and have been denied video-conferencing, this consultation is crucial. It was noted that Ruto called former PM Odinga and discussed range of topics, including the need for Odigna to work with the Kenyatta administration to unite the country. It was reported that Odinga wished him nothing but the best in the new position.
Mathenge, 2013

Huge thanks to my fabulous GA, Jillian!

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