Kenya, a colony occupied by the United Kingdom originating in 1895, was first colonized during the Scramble to Africa. At this time, European countries, predominantly Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom, colonized Africa’s entire continent, except for Ethiopia. Compared to all other colonialists, Britain viewed Kenya as an opportunity to raise its status on an economic level and gain raw materials such as gold, ivory, and rubber. Even though Kenya was not the only protectorate nation of Britain, it was favored by the royal family from the get-go. In an article published in the Royal Central, Rebecca Russell writes, “Kenya has seen a princess become a queen, a future king’s engagement and multiple important campaigns take place. Aside from the U.K., there are few places on the earth which will go down in the royal history books for what happened there”. Before these historical events, Kenya endured seventy years under colonial rule before gaining independence in 1963 and constructing the Independent Republic of Kenya. From this point, Kenya became a democracy and was led by the Kenyan African National Union headed by Jomo Kenyatta, who additionally served as president for fifteen years until his death on August 22, 1978. With Kenya being such a young state, it is prone to endure many forms of erosion. Democratic erosion, otherwise known as democratic backsliding, can be defined as a process in which a democratic nation’s norms and values are disrupted. In detail, elections have always been a breach of peace in Kenya. Case in point, one significant illustration of democratic erosion in Kenya would have to include the most recent general election for president, senate, and members of the National Assembly. On August 8, 2017, the presidential election between incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and challenger Raila Odinga led to rapid conflict. The election results showed Kenyatta won the election by a 9.3% margin on the popular vote, but Odinga contested the results, calling them fraudulent. Unlike the United States of America, Kenya uses a direct majority vote system while the U.S. continues to clasp on to the electoral college system. Partaking in free and fair elections is one of the main building blocks of a democratic nation; without it, a state will not survive as a democracy. For that reason, Odinga challenged the results claiming, “the electoral commission’s servers had been hacked to award the incumbent, Uhuru Kenyatta, a significant lead,” according to a New York Times Article. His dispute instigated protests and civil unrest across Kenya. In fear of a recurrence of the 2007 election, which killed about 12000 citizens, Odinga himself asked his supporters to stay calm to ensure all citizens’ safety. This did not stop individuals from burning tires, blocking roads with stones, or lighting fires which triggered police officers to unlawfully killing and beating protesters. A Human Rights Watch article confirmed that police officers “killed at least ten people, including a 6-month-old baby, in Kistenu county alone. In neighboring Siaya county, police fatally shot a protester near the town of Siaya and beat a 17-year-old boy to death in the outskirts of Ugunja, as they pursued crowds of protesters into the villages. Human Rights Watch found no evidence that protesters were armed or acted in a manner that could justify the use of such force”. Days filled with violence passed as citizens waited in anguish for the Supreme Court Decision. Within those days, Kenyatta was inaugurated as President of Kenya for a second term before the Supreme Court ruled in Odinga’s favor. The election was nullified, stripping Kenyatta of his win. To many people’s surprise Kenyatta honored the court’s decision. While preparing for the reelection, Odinga announced that he would not be participating unless he receives legal and constitutional protection from election fraud. He later withdrew from the race, leaving Kenyatta to serve a second term as president. Kenya has never been the crème de la crème of democracy since it has seen a steady decline for several years. From corruption, ethnic rivalries, and police brutality, this election has given the world a precise observation that Kenya is not a thriving democratic nation and has a long way to go before claiming the name.
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