In the fall of 2017 the people of Kenya had the opportunity to elect a new president. This election was supposed to be one of the most democratic elections that this country has had. However, unreliable media sources and a horrible voting scandal ruined it. With the increasing influence of Kenya, and its economic strength and power, the competition for the Presidency grew stronger than it has ever been before. In the beginning of August, the country’s incumbent president, Uhuru Kenyatta, was up against opposing party candidate Raila Odinga. These two candidates are familiar with one another because they challenged each other before in the 2013 presidential election which was plagued with constant violence and conflict. Once again, they are competing for power in a controversial election.
There was a great incentive attached to ruling this regional superpower. Because of this incentive, both parties began aggressive attack campaigns with the goal of shifting voter support. However, this was arguably unsuccessful because campaigns in Kenya are limited to very strict media policies and practices. The violence that erupted during the last election caused the Kenyan government to implement policies that would enable them to strictly control political campaigns in Kenya. The policies were even allowing the government to raid media institutions and control the coverage that candidates received. These laws were intended to prevent the spread of, “Fake news.” Many people viewed them as problematic to democracy. However, these laws were still in effect for the 2017 presidential election. These laws did almost nothing to stop the spread of fake news. In fact, fake news was more influential than ever during this recent election.
There is a possible culprit responsible for the advancement of fake news in Kenya. It could be a political analyst company named Cambridge Analytica. This company has worked with both the Trump and Brexit campaigns and was now working to help incumbent candidate Uhuru win the election. Cambridge Analytica is responsible for most of the fake news that spread to social media prior to the election.Kenyan media policy is only permitted to regulate broadcast and print media. Because many of the fake news stories were presented on social media, it could not be regulated by the government. Fake news headlines spread rapidly throughout Kenya which ultimately influenced the political dialogue and debate in the country. A great amount of these news headlines claimed to be affiliated or in association with many reputable news sources such as, The New York Times and CNN. Thus, these stories were very persuasive and successful in making people believe what was being presented. Some of these fake news sources would even go to the extreme of falsifying public opinion poll results.
Immediately following the misrepresentation, it became obvious that election fraud occurred. A few days before the election was scheduled to take place, Chris Msando, the prime director of election oversight was found dead. Many believed that his death was a deliberate attempt to threaten democracy through a weakened election surveillance, which would perhaps allow the incumbent to manipulate the election in their favor. The opposition party protested because this strategy would ultimately make the election unfair and undemocratic. The Independent and Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) made an attempt to reestablish the legitimacy and validity of the election following the very suspicious death of Chris Msando. In order for this to be done, the IEBC implemented an innovative voting process to ensure an honest vote counting process.
However, this seemingly law abiding system proved to be infected with political interference as well. When the election results were stated, it was not surprising that the incumbent, Kenyatta had won. His victory was called into question considering the recent voting scandal and the amount of fake news that he produced in order to further delegitimize his opposition. General mistrust was ubiquitous in Kenya and these suspicious election results only further contributed to this lack of trust. Thus, it makes it difficult to consider Kenya a democracy when so many things have jeopardized and weakened their democracy which is clear in this recent presidential election.
The opposition, Odinga was not happy with the election results either. He blamed a corrupt voting system that was attacked by hackers as the cause for the results of the election. The argument led to a legal case that went all the way to the Kenyan Supreme Court. They found many instances of a possible breach of the electronic voting system and invalid documents. The court decided to rule that a new election must take place. Both parties agreed to participate in the upcoming election. However, Odinga agreed to participate in the new election under certain conditions. He requested that reforms be made to the current voting system. The citizens of Kenya were also frustrated with the corruption of the government.
The people of Kenya went to the streets and protested with demands that were very similar if not the same as requests made by Odinga. The necessary reforms that Kenyans and Odinga made were made in order to expedite the new election process and to calm the community of their frustrations and concerns. Although these reforms and changes were made, Odinga was still uncomfortable and decided not to re-run in the upcoming election. Thus, Kenyatta ran unopposed and won the election. The election that took place in 2017 continues to be a divisive contemporary event in Kenya. Kenya lacks free and fair elections, and greatly restricts the press which has contributed to the democratic decline in this country. The results of democratic erosion are very problematic. Kenya has persisted in implementing laws that further silence the voices of Kenyan citizens.