2017 Kenya General Elections are upon us. Uganda and other EA countries must watch closely!

2017 Kenya General Elections are upon us. Uganda and other EA countries must watch closely!

Nicholas Kalungi.

During a political interview on Citizen TV Extra some weeks ago, a respected Kenyan political analyst also publishing editor Barrack Muluka, noted that what Kenya was going to hold on 8th August 2017 were not general elections per se but rather general auctions in which self-proclaimed regional kingpins would auction their region’s voters to the highest bidder. The other panelists on the show agreed with him!

Barrack Muluka repeated the same in one of his columns in The Standard Newspaper in June 2017 when he said “Where other nations have general elections, Kenyans have general auctions.”  Unfortunately, his observation holds water but that is a story for another day.

Come 8th August 2017, Kenya will hold its general elections for 6 elective seats. From president to county governors, county senators, members of parliament, women representatives and members of the county assembly (MCAs).

While at all levels, there is strong rivalry and competition, the most hotly contested seat is that of the president. To become the president of the republic of Kenya, one must garner 50 per cent plus-one vote of the total votes cast and also secure at least 25 per cent of the votes cast in half of the counties.

In 2013, President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared president after garnering 50 per cent plus 8000 votes. His score was about 50.03 per cent of the total votes cast.

Dep President William Ruto and Hon Kalonzo Musyoka shakes hands as President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga look on. Uhuru and Ruto won Raila and Kalonzo in 2013 Kenya Presidential Elections. The two camps have a rematch come 8th August 2017.

Just like in 2013, the 2017 competition is between incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee Party and ODM’s Raila Odinga, who is currently flying the National Super Alliance (NASA) flag. The other candidates running for the top office this year are Cyrus Jirongo of the United Democratic Party (UDP), Ekuru Aukot of Thirdway Alliance, Abduba Dida of the Alliance for Real Change (ARC), and Independent candidates Joseph Nyagah, Michael Wainaina and Japheth Kavinga.

With just 3 weeks to go, it is too close to call.  The three most recent opinion polls (Ipsos, Infotrak and Radio Africa Group) all show that none of the two top candidates will be able to surpass the 50 percent threshold if elections were held now. In these opinion polls, Uhuru scores an average figure of 48 per cent while Raila has an average of 41.65 per cent. Having noted that, chances are high that one of Uhuru or Odinga will attain the threshold required to be declared president. There will be no run-off!

As the campaigns reach peak level, tensions are becoming high throughout Kenya. Pockets of violence in the form of supporters heckling presidential candidates, disrupting rallies and throwing stones have been growing since the start of July 2017. Just last week, Deputy President William Ruto was heckled by supporters in Raila Odinga’s backyard of Kisumu county. William Ruto was together with President Uhuru Kenyatta at the same rally. On the same day, as a form of retaliation, supporters in Kabarnet town, a Jubilee strong-hold heckled and disrupted a NASA rally attended by Raila Odinga, Musalia Mudavadi and Isaac Ruto. Just a day after, the NASA brigade was heckled and stopped from campaigning in Kiambu County (Githurai, and Thika) and Kenol trading centre in Murang’a County; both Jubilee strongholds. Media reports indicate that Police and bodyguards of some of the leaders shot in the air to disperse the rowdy youth who were throwing stones in different areas.

When Kenya sneezes, East Africa catches a cold!

This violence reminds Kenyans of the dark 2007/8 post-election violence in which over 1000 people were killed, about 350,000 people displaced and properties worth billions destroyed.

Part of the Kenya-Uganda Railway uprooted by rioting supporters during the 2007/8 Kenya post election violence.

But importantly, violence in Kenya doesn’t only disrupt Kenya but the entire region. Clearly, when Kenya sneezes, East Africa gets a cold. We are so reliant on Kenya as most of the goods consumed in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and several parts of DR Congo are imported through Kenya’s Mombasa port and pass on Kenya transport infrastructure.

During the 2007/8 Kenya post elections violence, protesters uprooted parts of the old Kenya-Uganda railway and also put roadblocks along the main highways between Kenya and neighboring countries thus curtailing and disrupting trade and manufacturing in the entire  region.

While briefing the United Nations (UN) Security Council in February 2008, the UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, John Homes highlighted that “the East and Central Africa impact of Kenya’s crisis had been particularly significant because of the country’s long-standing role as the region’s main trade and transportation hub.”

“More than 80 per cent of Uganda’s imports pass through the port of Mombasa, as do almost all of Rwanda’s exports. Commercial trade and humanitarian assistance to Burundi, the eastern DRC, parts of northern Tanzania and southern Sudan also rely on the port. These countries are therefore at risk of being significantly affected by violence and disruption in Kenya,” Mr. Holmes said.

That was 2008. It is 2017 and this association continues to blossom. Uganda and Kenya do so much trade together. As such, the Ugandan government ought to closely monitor developments in Kenya. Importantly, our government ought to have an alternative trade and transportation plan to safeguard against any importation shortages and trade shortfalls. Tanzania’s Dar el Salam port is the alternative though the road infrastructure connection to Uganda leaves a lot to be desired.

To the Uganda citizenry, we ought to wish for a credible and peaceful election for Kenya. The prayerful can hold the rosaries. We all risk a bad cold if our neighbor sneezes.

Uhuru, Raila, Wetangula and Ruto walk in the corridors of the Kenya state house.