Kenya’s politics are public, equal, and free. In 1991, the transformation from a single party to a multiparty democracy was one of the biggest changes within their country. Kenya went from having political instability to having a promising future of democracy and a strong economy.
They’re controversial 2017 presidential election resulted in being overturned by the Kenyan Supreme Court on September 1st. This event also caused political violence and a boycott by Raila Odinga, the opposition candidate. Protests involving violence broke out in multiple parts of the country, and Odinga eventually backed out of the election due to a lack of electoral reform. Since Odinga backed out of the election, that automatically made Kenyatta the winner of the election. President Uhuru Kenyatta received 54% of the votes during the election. Previous elections were accused of stealing votes, but this was the first time electronic voting systems went into affect. Although this may seem like a huge step toward true democracy, there were conflicts involving the electronic voting system. The IEBC restricted the court’s access to the computer system; therefore, fraud could not be tested. Odinga felt that the results were manipulated, but at that time nothing was able to be proven. A new election would be announced 60 days of the post decision, due to alleged voting faults and Odinga would consider participating if a different company took control of the printing ballots. Kenyatta won the second election and secured 98% of the votes.
There are many components that countries must execute for a country to be democratic. The competitive elections is one way that Kenya looks like a democracy. Just because they have elections, does not make them a democracy. They allow many parties and politicians to participate, but it’s only fair to a certain extent. What makes people question how true of a democracy they are is how the killing by the police makes the system skewed and unfair. Protestors that sided with the opposition were the ones getting abused and killed by police and security that used tear gas and water cannons. Due to the killings of significant people by authority, Kenya can’t be considered as a democratic country.
Populism is still present in Kenya, meaning the low and middle class people are against the corrupt elite. The ruling elite has taken advantage of the elections, and used them to sustain their role in the government. A big question is whether the people in the government or the people in opposition represent the people. Both Kenyatta and Odinga claim to represent the people. However, populism hurts democracy, because it privileges one group over another.
On January 30th, the government shut down the media along with other stations, and this raised questions as to what condition their country was in. Restricting information to the people is a clear example of authoritarianism. The media outlets were taken away so they couldn’t report Odinga. During this time is when he claimed to be the people’s president of Kenya. Lawsuits were filed so that the government could end the blackout. Other countries such as the U.S. are interested in the economy, but people within Kenya suggest they themselves have to fix their own problems and address their weak system. Another example of how democracy is diminishing is they lawyer of the opposition was raided in his sleep by the police. This event resulted in him being deported to Canada. Democracy is eroding right in front of the citizen’s eyes, and they’re voice does not override those in power. The actions of the government are incompatible with democracy.
Kenya has a wide range of political divisions and they’re concerned that another unfair election will cause more division within different ethnic groups and the government. The citizens fear that democracy is eroding away from them. The fall in Kenya has been witnessed by other African countries, and it’s possible for them to the follow their direction. Until the people in power take accountability for the events that have occurred in Kenya, they will continue to lose basic democratic values. The citizens need to have equal opportunity to express their voice and opinion without paying the consequences. There needs to be adjustments to the system so that there are fair elections and freedom of the press. In Kenya’s case, reporters were continuously influenced and intimidated by police; therefore, true and accurate reports were not available to the people. Journalists have also been concerned with facing jail time for putting out content that isn’t what candidates want. At this moment, it is uncertain whether Kenya will reach true democracy. The future of their country will have to respect election winners as long as they play fair. A large majority of Kenyans are not content with their current situation and the future of their country. Although they do have an optimistic perspective of the future.
*Photo by ISS Africa
www.nytimes.com Kenya’s About-Face: Fear for Democracy as Dissent Is Muzzled