Kenya 2017 election: Lessons for Nigeria -By Jide Ojo

Filed under: Global Issues |

 

On Tuesday, August 8, 2017, Kenya held its sixth general elections since the return to multi-party democracy in 1991. Declaring the result of the presidential election last Friday in its Nairobi headquarters, the chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundary Commission of Kenya, the country’s electoral management body, Wafula W. Chebukati, said the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee Party had a total of 8,215,963 votes representing 54.2 per cent to defeat his arch-rival Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance/ODM who polled 6,815,971 votes representing 44.9 per cent. Total voters turnout was 79.4 per cent. The controversies surrounding the election are still unfolding with the claim by Odinga that the IEBC rigged the election in support of President Kenyatta. Scores of lives have reportedly been lost to post-election conflict with the international community appealing for calm and calling for caution.

I have been privileged to discuss the recent political events in Kenya on different media platforms in the last one week. I have featured on Global Update and news analysis on three different Nigerian Television Authority stations, African Independent Television and Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria. The more I read about the election in the East African country, the more I understand certain similarities and marked differences between Nigeria and Kenya.

Like Nigeria, Kenya is a multi-ethnic, plural society. Another similarity with Nigeria is that it is a former British colonised territory. It gained independence from Britain in 1963 while we got ours three years earlier. Kenya was a one party state from 1982 to 1991 but has since become a multi-party state. The country is not new to electoral conflict. Since 1992, all elections held in Kenya have led to bloodletting with the exception of those conducted in 2002 and 2013. In fact, the worst electoral violence took place in Kenya in 2007 when an estimated 1,300 lives were lost and over 600,000 persons internally displaced. In the lead-up to the 2017 election, on July 27, Christopher Msando, the head of ICT Unit of IEBC of Kenya, was tortured and murdered by unknown assailants. In Nigeria, electoral violence is a common phenomenon with several hundreds of lives lost. It will be recalled that in 2011, close to a thousand lives were lost to pre and post-election crises.

Kenya, like Nigeria has a bi-cameral legislature at the centre and a uni-cameral legislature at the state/county level. Both countries have also been adapting electoral technology to enhance credibility of their elections. In Kenya, technology is deployed in the areas of voter identification, candidate registration, result transmission and presentation as well as biometric voter registration.

Similar to what obtains in Nigeria, Kenya is plagued by endemic corruption, high unemployment and poverty rate. According to the Washington Post of Friday, August 11, 2017, “One of the reasons analysts say that Kenya’s elections are so hotly contested is that the central government has been an enormously profitable political machine, awarding contracts across a large patronage network. A report from Kenya’s auditor-general last year said that about $200m meant for the National Youth Service had been paid to fraudulent companies, including some with connections to politicians. The United States earlier this year suspended $21m in health funding due to corruption allegations.” According to the 2016 Corruption Perception Index by the Transparency International, Kenya is ranked 145 out of a total of 176 nations profiled while Nigeria is ranked 136. In sub-Saharan Africa, while Kenya is ranked 26, Nigeria is ranked 28. Unemployment rate in Kenya is officially put at 22.2 per cent.

Politically, out of the four past presidents of Kenya, three of were from Kikuyu tribe while one is Kalanjin. No Luo has ever been president in the over 50 years of the country’s nationhood. This is similar to the situation in Nigeria where out of the three major ethnic groups, the Igbo have yet to produce a president of Nigeria. This has continually generated political tensions and is one of the bases for the strident call for restructuring of Nigeria at present.

As there are several similarities between Nigeria’s and Kenya’s political systems, so are there legion of differences. For instance, the Kenyan Constitution requires there to be a general election on the second Tuesday in August in every fifth year. That is why the election was held last Tuesday. In Nigeria, we not only have our general election every four years, there is latitude of five months within which our election management body i.e. Independent National Electoral Commission could fix an election. The constitution says elections into the office of the president, governors, National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) and state Houses of Assembly are to be held not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days to the expiration of the tenure of the incumbent.

In Kenya, unlike Nigeria, all elections are held in one day. Thus, on the eighth of this month, six separate elections – president, National Assembly, female representatives, governors, Senate and county assemblies – were held simultaneously. No wonder there was huge voter turnout. In Kenya, there is provision for independent candidacy. Indeed, out of the eight presidential candidates that participated in the country’s 2017 election, three of them ran as independents. In Nigeria, for executive positions such as President, Governor and Chairman of Local Government and Area Council, a candidate has to score 25 per cent of votes cast in two-thirds of his or her constituency as well as a majority of valid votes cast while for legislative positions, a winner emerges by a simple majority. However, in Kenya, a presidential candidate need 50 per cent plus one vote as well as 25 per cent of votes cast in 24 out of the 47 counties for first-round victory. Otherwise, there will be a run-off.

In Kenya, unlike Nigeria, there is affirmative action for the marginalised groups. Out of the 349 Members of Parliament, 290 of them are directly elected while 47 seats are reserved for women to be contested for while six Youths and six Persons with Disabilities are nominated into the parliament. In the country’s 67 member Senate, 47 of them are directly elected while 20 are nominated. Out of the 20 nominees, 16 are women, two are youths and two are PwDs. History was made last week during the country’s election. Three Kenyan women were elected governors after beating some of the seasoned male politicians. Joyce Laboso, Anne Waiguru and Charity Ngilu made political history by becoming the first women to be elected as governors in Kenya. Previously, all 47 counties were governed by males.

The IEBC of Kenya has a chairman and vice-chairman. While the chairman, Mr. Wafula W. Chebukati, is a man, the deputy, Ms. Consolata Nkatha Bucha Maina, is a lady. This is called twining in political circles. Out of the eight members of the Commission, three of them are women. Also, Kipng’etich Kones, the son of a late cabinet minister, Kipkalya Kones, who ran in the Kenyan parliamentary election, lost to his mother, Beatrice Kones. Unlike Nigeria that has 36 states, Kenya has 47 counties which is their equivalent of our states.

Follow me on Twitter: @jideojong

 

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