By Willy Mutunga (Chief Justice & President of the Supreme Court, 2011-2016 )
Kenya’s mixed election history
Sometimes it is said, with some validity, that the only peaceful, non-violent, free, fair, credible, verifiable, and acceptable elections took place during the “sunset” years of British colonialism in Kenya (1957-1963).
During these six years we elected our African representatives to the now multi-racial Legislative Council (LEGCO). It is during this period that decolonization talks took place in Kenya and later at Lancaster House, London.
In 1961 Jomo Kenyatta was released from his detention at Maralal in the Samburu County. He soon joined his fellow Africans in the LEGCO, participated in the independence talks at Lancaster, London, as the leader of Kenya African National Union (KANU).
His party KANU won the 1963 Elections, forming the internal self- government (Madaraka) from 01 June 1963. He became our first Prime minister on 12 December 1963 and the first President of our Republic on 12 December 1964.
Although it was widely accepted that the colonial government and the British settlers would have loved a government of Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) and the liberal British settlers, KANU was the more popular party.
Rigging an election against KANU was out of the question. Gone were the days the colonial government would select their colonial chiefs from the outcomes of rigged queue voting (if for some reason they thought this voting was necessary).
The post-colonial times are peppered with stories of the rigging of elections, particularly during the few years the Kenya People’s Union (KPU) existed before it was banned and its leaders detained in 1969.
The by-election in Kandara (1966) in which independence hero Bildad Kaggia ran on a KPU ticket was rigged by making sure that ballot boxes were thrown out into coffee farms as government land rovers ferried cast votes to the district headquarters for the Loyal and law-abiding peasants in Kandara who showed up with the ballot boxes they found in their coffee farms were routinely arrested and detained!
Later in local government elections that took place, all the KPU candidates were disqualified because it was said they were unable to fill their nomination forms correctly! What saved the country from widespread violence was the strength of the provincial administration and the machinery of violence that the KANU government was able to mobilize.
The chilling call “Fanyeni fujo muone/Cause trouble at your own risk was often repeated, driving the point home that Jomo Kenyatta’s KANU would not be defied. That is not to say there was no resistance against the subversion of the right to vote.
When Kenya became a de facto one-party state in 1969, the KANU party and its government used many tricks to disqualify its members from running for elections. Members were either expelled from the party under dubious party disciplinary proceedings, or simply denied nominations to run for elections.
In cases where elections took place and so-called KANU “dissidents” were elected, a Judiciary, enslaved by KANU party and its government was able to nullify such victories. Others who were found guilty of election offences were barred from running for office for five years.
It was in 1988 when KANU dropped all pretense of holding free, fair, and credible elections. The Mlolongo/Queue Voting (where candidates would be elected based on the length of the queues of supporters lining up for them) took place and rigging took place in broad daylight.
In Othaya Constituency where former President Kibaki was a candidate, KANU party and its government tried to rig him out of his victory displayed by a long queue, far longer than his opponent’s.
It was during this election that Kibaki famously told the Presiding Officer that he could not rig that election because “it takes intelligence to rig elections.” Clearly, if the Presiding Officer had tried to declare Kibaki’s opponent the victor he may not have left Othaya alive!
The post second liberation elections of 1992 and 1997 elections were won by KANU because of the violence in the Rift Valley, a divided opposition, a subdued Electoral Commission of Kenya and its twin institution, the Judiciary.
Although in 1997 the KANU party and government allowed for opposition representation in the Electoral Commission, the changes didn’t curb electoral fraud.
The 2002 Presidential election was won by NARC (National Rainbow Coalition) because the barons (mabaroni/mababe vita) of the five communities that control over 70% of the vote (Kalenjin, Kikuyu, Luhya, Kamba, and Luo) voted for President Kibaki. It is safe to assume both Kibaki and Uhuru being Kikuyus shared the Kikuyu vote.
The violence that took place after the 2007 Presidential election is well documented. The loss of property and lives are well documented. The raping of women is well documented. One only needs to read both the Kriegler and Waki Commission Reports for the details.
This time round the Judiciary was rejected as a possible institution to hear the Presidential election petition by the losing political party. Again the Electoral Commission of Kenya was rightly accused of not conducting free, fair, peaceful, and credible elections.
It is clear to me that the 2013 Presidential elections did not result in violence because Raila Odinga stated that he accepted the decision of the Supreme Court although he did not agree with it.
In 2017 the Supreme Court nullified the Presidential election. The subsequent presidential election was boycotted by NASA Coalition and the resultant presidential petition filed by citizens was dismissed by the Supreme court.
The Supreme Court had shown that it could rule against either of the political factions, Jubilee and NASA. The “we shall revisit” warning by Jubilee to the Judiciary is still being felt.
It is possible that the two Supreme Court decisions birthed the dictatorship of the government and opposition (the Handshake and its child named BBI) and the continued political instability in the country.
Potential Electoral War in 2022
The potential for conflict, strife, instability, and violence in 2022 cannot be ruled out. The dynasty/hustler narrative is fraught with danger. Demystified it simply means that a possible war between haves and have-nots that the intra-elite conflict instigates.
The author of the hustler narrative, Deputy President Ruto identifies four dynastic families (Kenyatta, Odinga, Mudavadi, and Moi) as the cause of all societal problems in Kenya. He refuses to acknowledge he is the political orphan of the Moi dynasty.
He refutes the scientific wisdom of the OXFAM report that states that 8,300 billionaires and multimillionaires own assets equals to what the rest of the population of 48 million own.
Now that is the comprador bourgeoisie that can be characterized as the dynasty/monarchy. And without a doubt, the Deputy President along with other black, white, and brown dynasties are part of that class.
He is not calling for a class war between Kenya’s working people and the middle classes against the comprador bourgeoisie, the dynasties/monarchs/walalahai/Mabwenyenye who are multi-racial and multi-ethnic and who rule this country with their foreign masters.
The Deputy President is not calling for that class war, but a war against competing dynasties who are grouped in BBI, NASA, and the One Kenya Alliance.
He is inviting Kenyan youth to join in that war with a promise of a budget of 30 billion Kenya shillings to set them up in the so-called wheelbarrow economics!
If we go back to 2008 and ask ourselves who sowed the seeds for the post-election violence (PEV) we know it was the ethnic barons representing their cartels and the comprador class in their struggles to capture political power.
Unable to reach a consensus on how to protect their collective interests they used their evil genius in the politics of division to declare war on the people of Kenya. We still face this danger, more so because no alternative political leadership exists to warn Kenyans of the dangers they face if they are duped to participate in this intra-elite war. Already, we can clearly hear the war drums being beaten.
What the Kenyan youth must do
The 2019 national census told us that 75% of our over 48 million population comprises youth aged under 35. It is the youth who have borne the brunt of the denial of their material interests: education, water, land, national resources, housing, work, sanitation, health, food, and security. Without these public goods available to the youth we cannot talk of their human dignity.
Of course, the youth are not homogenous, but the majority are not the offspring of the 8,300 billionaires and millionaires. We are talking here about the daughters and sons of working-class and middle-class Kenyans. It is this youth that the elite have been able to divide on the bases of ethnicity, religion, region, race, generation, gender, clan, class (where the elites have successfully convinced these youth that their problems are caused by their parents who in reality subsidize the failings of the government and the ruling elite), and sports.
It is also this youth, particularly those who come from the working classes that are used as cannon fodder for the intra-elite battles through bloody handouts that do not result in any of their material interests being realized.
It is on the basis of the history that I lay out here, and the potential for war in 2022 that I call upon Kenya’s youth to do the following:
- Demand that IEBC immediately complies with the Constitutional decree to register every youth who is over 18 to vote in 2022 election;
- Support the parties that the youth are forming on the basis of their interests and ensure they come into power;
- Refuse to vote for the baronial elite parties that have shown in the last 58 years they cannot give the youth of the working classes human dignity;
- Absolutely refuse to be divided along the bases I have stated and stay focused on their material interests, particularly the right to work which is the basis of their humanity dignity;
- Refuse to be recruited in ethnic and other criminal militias to be deployed to kill fellow youths in the country;
- Solidly support the implementation of the Constitution and join movements that call for Linda/Tekeleza Katiba/Protect and implement the 2010 Constitution;
- Vote out the elite and their factions of Kieleweke, Tinga Tinga, Tanga Tanga, One Kenya Alliance, Wipa Wipa, Fodi, Fodi, all Dynasties including those calling themselves Hustlers;
- Demystify and expose the cruelty and inhumanity of laughing at the working people, the real hustlers, by endangering their lives in a war among the elite;
- Promote peace among fellow Kenyans and save the Motherland from warmongers and ethnic barons who are the causes of war amongst Kenya;
- Join in struggles can seek alternative political narratives to those of theft, corruption, banditry economy, leadership by agents of foreign interests, politics of division, politics of foreign and national exploitation (Wavuna Jasho ya Wavuja Jasho), politics of incurring national debts against our collective national interests;
- Understand clearly how elections are rigged today; through the capture of institutions implicated (IEBC, the Armed Forces, the Treasury, cartels, the Judiciary among others), use of Public Relations agencies, and Artificial intelligence (for example algorithms) that we are now familiar with;
- Ensure that you focus on the MCA seats so that challenges can come from the grassroots; and
- Defend the Motherland and its people.
A time for transformation
If we go back to the elections of 1963 and 2002 it is clear that there are elections that cannot be rigged. In both elections the voice of the majority was clear. That voice could not be reversed. It could not be revoked.
The powers that be, the colonial government and the Moi-KANU dictatorship respectively knew what would be the consequences of rigging those elections.
The voice of the majority in 2022 must be the voice of the Kenyan youth. Giving this country a political chance to implement different economic, social, cultural, spiritual, and cultural narratives that subvert the status quo is the result of our poverty.
It is true that our elections are about money, big money. What Kenyans should remember is that the first people’s representatives in the 1950s were financially supported by the people themselves.
There is absolutely no reason why this cannot happen again and our people see the need to invest in alternative politics that will be anchored on their collective humanity.
My dear Kenyan youth, all I can think of under these suggestions I have made to you is a clarion call to action, to transformation, to fundamental change in this country, to the protection of the Motherland by all means necessary, including death! I believe this is the reality that has to be said.
We must think of freedom and emancipation from forces that enslave and divide us. We can start this patriotic dialogue by putting in place a political leadership that cares about your humanity, a leadership that you participate in directly and not as proxies.