Kenya held its presidential election on March 4th. Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in as president on April 8. A number of candidates were competing. The winner, with 50.07% of the vote, Uhuru Kenyatta, is son of the first president, Jomo Kenyatta. Uhuru is the richest man in Kenya according to Forbes . His victory was challenged in court by the nearest runner up, Raila Odinga, but the Kenya Supreme Court upheld Kenyatta’s victory. Odinga probably won the previous election in 2007, but the counting was shut down and the incumbent, Mwai Kibaki, encouraged by the US ambassador, made an electoral coup.
Uhuru Kenyatta is under indictment by the Internation Criminal Court for crimes against humanity following Kenya’s 2007 election. Since the election the witnesses against him and his Deputy President William Ruto, a long time associate of former President Moi, have been recanting their testimony and otherwise withdrawing. There are strong rumors of threats and intimidation of the witnesses.
Regarding the 2007 election, b real writes this comment on March 11 2013:
my read of events in 2007 was that kibaki lost fairly but the u.s., alone at first among external handlers, refused to let odinga win — [US ambassador] rannenberger even spoke openly of this –and managed to get odinga to allow himself to concede w/ the shared post and idea that he would be groomed to win in the next eletion, once he had proven his competence at running this anchor nation approvingly. he believed the u.s. But now rannenberger is gone and things are a little different.
There are those that say the US now needs Kenya more than Kenya needs the US.
In addition to a variety of businesses, Uhuru is:
. . . heir to some of the largest land holdings in Kenya. He owns at least 500,000 acres of prime land spread across the country. The land was acquired by his father in the 1960s and 1970s when the British colonial government and the World Bank funded a settlement transfer fund scheme that enabled government officials and wealthy Kenyans to acquire land from the British at very low prices.
Forbes called Uhuru the richest man in Kenya, but that position is probably held by Daniel arap Moi, president of Kenya 1978-2002. However, most of Moi’s holdings and business dealings are not publicly available information. Moi is widely perceived as Uhuru’s mentor.
The immediate concern of ordinary Kenyans will be how the incoming government implements a new Constitution designed to devolve power and money to the counties. The document is seen as the key safeguard against a return to the “winner-takes-all” system of old. But historians warn that when Kenya tried devolved governance before, at independence in 1963, the experiment was swiftly sabotaged by Uhuru’s father, Jomo Kenyatta.
Looking back over recent electoral history:
December 29th, 2002
Moi. Is. Going. There was a time you didn’t dare speak the words.
My father’s voice exults over static from Nairobi to San Francisco.
Kenya’s election results are rolling in. Mwai Kibaki, the presidential candidate fielded by the rainbow coalition of opposition parties, has won 65% of the vote. Titans of single party rule have lost their seats. An unprecedented eleven women have been elected to parliament. The era of Daniel Arap Moi, and the ruling party KANU, who have plundered Kenya at will for 24 years, is over.
For Kenyans, this is the Berlin Wall coming down. This is a Florida recount where the truth prevails. Kenyans were killed for this. People were tortured, exiled, imprisoned, for resisting single-party rule. I never believed I would see it end in my lifetime.
I’m glued to my monitor, shooting jubilant emails to other Kenyans in Boston, London, New York. We are sitting up all night watching results come in. Tears of hope and renewed pride rolling down our faces.
December 27th, 2007
A record eight million Kenyans rise as early as four a.m. to vote. We queue for up to ten hours, in the sun, without food, drink, toilets. I know a woman who gets out of her hospital bed, pulls the drip out of her neck, crosses the city on matatu and foot with bloodstained bandages visible – to vote. The country speaks through the ballot. Against greed. Against corruption. Against neo-colonialism. Against feudalism. It is the largest, best organized non-violent mass protest in our history.
Opposition observer. Says the tally just announced is different from the one he confirmed in the constituency.…..
The anchor is reporting from outside the conference center. There has been a power blackout at Kenyatta International Conference Center. The media have been ejected by paramilitary police who are arriving in trucks…..
Then, all the channels go dead, except for the government mouthpiece KBC.
There are only three tribes in Kenya. The haves. The wanna-haves. The have-them-removed.
Patrick Gathara is a talented artist, cartoonist, and fan of biting political cartoons, see KenyaToons or Scarycature. He also writes a blog that is particularly useful for understanding the recent election in Kenya, Gathara’s World, which also features some of his artwork. He is a keen and profound observer. Here are some of his observations, please visit the links for more information and more context.
We had already normalized the abnormal, making it seem perfectly acceptable to have two ICC-indicted politicians on the ballot. At the first presidential debate, moderator Linus Kaikai had been more concerned with how Uhuru Kenyatta would “govern if elected president and at the same time attend trial as a crimes against humanity subject” and not whether he should be running at all. Any suggestion of consequences for Uhuru’s and William Ruto’s candidature had been rebuffed with allegations of neo-colonialism, interference and an implied racism. People who had spent their adult lives fighting for Kenyans’ justice and human rights were vilified as stooges for the imperialistic West for suggesting that the duo should first clear their names before running for the highest office in the land.
Those who oppose impunity, who take a stand against corruption and electoral malpractice, who demand the freedom to speak their thoughts or dress as they wish – these are today’s enemies.
I can’t help wondering whether we have just struck a grand bargain with our murderous elite. Whether we have not traded in justice for peace and values for prosperity. A laptop for our kids and superhighways, virtual and real –these are today’s struggles. Notions of equality and accountability are so yesterday. The imperialist West with its flaky notions of freedom and human rights and its flailing economies no longer holds any attraction for us. We prefer the hard pragmatists in the East. Our new political model is China. What does it matter if you break a few eggs to bake the national cake? Liberal democracy may sound nice but it won’t put food on the table.
April 5, 2013
National security has always been the excuse of choice for repressive governments seeking to clamp down on dissent. It is such an attractive ploy because the definition of what constitutes national security, let alone a threat to it, is not only extremely vague but very much dependent on what shadowy figures with “intelligence” declare it to be.
In 2007, so we are told, historical grievances, sparked by the refusal to accept a stolen election, led to a spontaneous orgy of killing and destruction. This, I think, is largely a work of fiction. Or at best, it is a selective retelling. It seems pretty much everyone who has looked into it has concluded that most of the violence was premeditated and prearranged. Meetings had been held and targets pre-selected; pre-outraged thugs had been paid, prepped, armed and ferried about. Politicians and radio stations incited, homes and churches were burnt and people died.
Today, it is not the fact of pre-ordained violence that we are constantly reminded of. Rather, it is the refusal to accept the official version of events, what many saw as a plainly fraudulent outcome, that is portrayed as the casus belli. The narrative of our sojourn into hell has been spun as a consequence of defying our betters, of demanding to see the intelligence and make up our own minds.
To extricate ourselves from this pernicious ideology, we need to go back to the beginning. To recognise that we have been gullible and begin to reconstruct narratives that more accurately reflect the truth.
April 3, 2013
The idea of Kenya that had blossomed in 2002 thus proved to be nothing more than a transient phenomenon, a moon flower. Perhaps it was the irrational exuberance of youth that led us to believe that a different Kenya was possible; perhaps it was our sheltered upbringing as privileged members of an aspirational middle class nurtured on a diet of false patriotism, fantastical promises of development, western sitcoms and CNN. Perhaps we wanted to see in ourselves something that wasn’t really there.
For Kenya had not been founded as a community of Kenyans but as a playground for the privileged. The uplifting of the living standards of the majority of the people has never seemed to be the goal of our politics and our politicians. As I have written before, it has always been about the wenyenchi, not the wananchi. Democracy, human rights and all other fashionable slogans have been for them little more than a pathway to power and riches.
Any who thought otherwise were quickly shunted aside. Today we glorify their courage as we trample underfoot everything they stood for.
[Note: Wananchi literally means “people of the nation.” However, it is not to be confused with wenyenchi, for which the closest English translation is “citizens” or “owners of the nation.” Within the political discourse, these two terms are opposites; they suggest class distinction, between the majorities who live and work at local levels, and the elites who control the upper echelons of the nation.]
The richest man in Kenya is now its leader and in his first address has indicated that he is viewing our problems from a distinctly economic and technological angle. Throughout the inauguration ceremony, we heard promises of double digit economic growth, free laptops, free maternity health, a fund for women and youth.
But the events of the last month have exposed have exposed deep rifts in the national psyche that cannot be papered over with money alone.
In a very real sense, if President Uhuru Kenyatta is to live up to his promise of working towards “a rich and abiding peace,” he will have to confront the very system that has put him where he is. He, perhaps even more than the rest of the country, would need to confront and expose painful realities about the conduct of his family and its old friends. He would have to live up to his name and free himself, and thus his countrymen, from the shackles of the past. If he found the courage to do so, he might just be the best thing that ever happened to Kenya. So, Godspeed to him.
But we all know that this is unlikely to happen.
April 9, 2013