Electoral cycle is over but Uhuru must not assume that all is well; Nasa is not done yet

Saturday November 25 2017

President Uhuru Kenyatta addressing residents

President Uhuru Kenyatta addressing residents at Rukenya in Kirinyaga County after he launched the construction of Thiba Dam on November 23, 2017. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By KWENDO OPANGA
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It has been a long and nerve-wracking election cycle. Is it all over bar the shouting?

President Uhuru Kenyatta would want to believe it is, be done with Tuesday’s swearing-in; finalise construction of the Cabinet; and return to steadying the ship of state and, with it, his legacy.

But Mr Raila Odinga’s National Super Alliance (Nasa) could turn the sea turbulent.

It declared a civil disobedience campaign, since branded RESIST, on October 25 and may make good its threat: If there is no justice for the people, there will be no peace for government.

VICTORY

Justice? Mr Odinga petitioned the President’s victory announced on August 11 by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

The Supreme Court subsequently annulled the victory and ordered a repeat poll. Claiming the fix was in because IEBC, the cause of his woes was intact, he sat out the October 26 re-run.

So, what’s next for Nasa? It faces a tough time in the Houses of Parliament. Trounced in August, Nasa is a much-diminished minority.

It will be steamrollered by the crushing numbers of the Majority Jubilee Party. It is unlikely to force impactful scrutiny on legislation or oversight.

That is the elective dictatorship which I warned about on May 13 and August 20. With no room for legislative manoeuvre or hope of getting power through the ballot, Nasa may have to pay close attention to the three Rs – resistance, rebellion and revolution.

As I wrote on November 5, resistance may be Mr Odinga’s road of choice to power or roll of the dice. It is fraught with peril, especially because it has the slippery slopes of violence and usurpation in close proximity. Thankfully, resistance has a bright flip side.

In 1986 Filipinos, rallied by, among others, Catholic Cardinal Jaime Sin and Corazon Aquino, rose against electoral fraud and dictatorship and peacefully overthrew Ferdinand Marcos. This has come to be known as the Yellow Revolution and a demonstration of people power.

FRAUDULENT

The Yellow Revolution inspired the colour revolutions of Eastern Europe and the Balkans in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. Campaigners employed non-violent resistance against dictatorships. Most of these revolutions followed elections which opponents of the regimes dismissed as fraudulent.

Unfortunately, history is similarly replete with violent revolutions. While it remains to be seen how RESIST will pan out, some Nasa stalwarts have sent political temperatures soaring. They have been quoted as vowing to swear in Mr Odinga at a parallel ceremony.

While that would be a first in Kenya, examples from the continent are not inspiring. In 1993, MKO Abiola publicly pronounced himself head of state following elections he was widely presumed to have won.

The military, which annulled the poll and stuck to power, swiftly threw him into jail.

In Uganda last year, Dr Kizza Besigye was promptly carted off to jail after he publicly swore himself in as president despite the reality that plans were under way to swear in President-elect Yoweri Museveni .

Swearing-in Mr Odinga would be futile. Per Kenyan law, an IEBC-declared President-elect will be sworn in by the Assumption of Office of the President Committee.

NUCLEAR OPTION

Government would not want to arrest Mr Odinga and risk the wrath of multitudes, but this nuclear option stays on the table.

That aside, the President must grapple with myriad challenges posed by Nasa people’s assemblies; boycotts of firms accused of abetting vote rigging; demand for a transitional government and a fresh poll; and threats of secession. And he must construct the Cabinet.

It is expected to put faces to the professional, political, business and regional interests that will impact his legacy and succession; ensure continuity of government’s achievement and intentions; cause retention and rejection of incumbents; and be the face of Kenya.

The Cabinet, read together with the inauguration address, will indicate whether the President will govern as a unifier generous in victory, or as user of electoral capital to settle scores.

The latter is destructive, the former is patriotic and lends itself to inclusivity.
Mr Kenyatta should consider going beyond the right noises of “I will be President of all Kenyans”.

He should move deliberately to redress the chasm between Kenya’s advantaged and disadvantaged, which was amplified by his and Mr Odinga’s increasingly divisive campaigns.

Convoking a national conference to chart ways and means to prosperity and inclusivity would be a point of departure.

Yes, inclusivity. Deeply divided and embittered Kenyans need a thorough-going conversation with themselves about their future.

Opanga is a commentator with a bias for politics [email protected]


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