Kenya Votes

Kenya Votes (2017)

This year ushers Kenya into a new era of political diversity. As political parties sharpen their campaign strategies, Kenya sets herself on the frontline of the international community that has recently assumed the policing role on African states. Suffice to say that voters also expect to actively partake of their political rights confirmed by the country’s constitution.

Internationally, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is a legally binding treaty on member states. It addresses criminal trials and how they are to be conducted; but mostly, for this years’ last article, the issues touching on civil and political rights of citizens of a given state.

Among the first East African Community member states, Kenya ratified the ICCPR on 1st May, 1972, Uganda on 21st June, 1995 and Tanzania on 11th June, 1976. These three countries presently experience multi-party politics and several avenues of political interest and activism. Of the three, Uganda and Tanzania concluded their presidential and parliamentary elections for the season.

In 2017, Kenya will hold the same.

Though not a legally binding instrument, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights influences the interpretation of numerous international human rights and regulations, setting international standards on human rights during political election yet to happen in Kenya. These standards will apply during the evaluation of the 2017 electoral process in Kenya.

Brief background on Kenya’s election history

  • In 1963, Kenya gained her independence from the British colonial government. Jomo Kenyatta [KANU party leader] became first president. He held this position until his death in 1978. At the time, Kenya enjoyed a de facto single party political system.
  • Former president Daniel Arap Moi succeeded Jomo Kenyatta until 2002 when former president Mwai Kibaki took over. Presently, it is President Uhuru Kenyatta, after a peculiar form of governance introduced an equally powerful deputy president multi-party coalition system, so to say. President Uhuru is expected to run for another term in office.
  • From 1992, Kenya experienced multi-party electoral processes to date.

When there is a multi-party system, certain unexpected precedents occur. This is evident when in 2007, the disputed electoral results birthed a Coalition government where Mwai Kibaki’s opponent, Raila Odinga was made Prime Minister in a joint governing system. That confusion still gives many African leaders headache as its precedent set a new era many refer to as the process of ‘rewarding election losers’.

Unlike her neighbor Uganda, Kenya’s presidential list is succinct. However, both countries’ political systems have similar notions present in their multi-party leadership settings and constitutional frameworks.

Constitutionality of elections in Kenya

Under chapter 2 of the Constitution, it is provided that all sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya [1.1]; and should be exercised either directly or through their democratically elected representatives [1.2]. Given the multi-party systems, Kenya faces the challenges of multi-partism and their effects in a political system as fragile as Africa’s. However, one can argue that political parties enable citizens to exercise their individual choice and carry the responsibility of the outcome of any results. Because of this, Kenyans will bear the results in 2017. Political parties and their respective legislation is provided for under part 3 of chapter 7 of the constitution.

Chapter 7 provides for representation of the people. It touches on compliance to certain principles which among others include;

  • [Art.81 (a)] ‘freedom of citizens to exercise their political rights under Art.38 (freedom of citizens to exercise political choice); and
  • Free and fair elections by secret ballot, conducted in peace, transparency, neutrality and accountability by an independent body [Art.81.e]

Elections, 2017 and IEBC

As a form of ‘dirty vulgar identity’, many elections in Africa, especially on the eastern bloc tend to hinge on tribal differences. Sadly, this medieval outlook distorts peaceful electoral processes which otherwise would have been democratic in nature. Politics ought to be on ideology of governance, NOT on tribal grounds. Although differences exist on ethnic grounds, tribes only matter on cultural identity and national diversity. These two depict a state of inclusive development. Using them as basis for leadership, especially in heterogeneous states is dangerous.

In anticipation of free and fair elections in Kenya, numerous political rallies have been staged throughout the country for years since the last major elections.

Kenya does not need another ‘Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission’. Known as the fastest growing economy in East Africa, Kenya has the ability to hold peaceful, free and fair elections to challenge her population to even more economic growth.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, now that it is newly composed, is encouraged to uphold its mandate under part 2 of chapter 7 of the Constitution; and next year will be a year to reckon and evaluate how much the Commission’s performance has improved.

To the IEBC, you hold an important key to ensuring Kenya’s political stability. You owe Kenyans a duty to uphold the tenets of the August 4th, 2007 Constitution. The world is watching.


This article appears in our weekly digital law magazine, The Deuteronomy Vol 9, Issue 5 of December 31st 2016

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