Why Raila should know numbers don’t lie and Uhuru’s victory was legitimate

Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto displaying their reelection certificate.

Peter Kagwanja

Kenyans may now prepare to unbuckle after the gruelling October 26 repeat presidential election— the country is approaching the end of a rough 60-day patch.

However, the long winter of political uncertainty shaped by the August 8 general election and the October 26 repeat presidential election carries one enduring lesson: certainty in politics is everything! Predictability is at the heart of civilisation, development and prosperity.

Looking East, on October 18, 2017, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) convened in Beijing for its 19th Party Congress — hailed as the most important in recent memory — where 2,200 delegates agreed on the path to take China for the next five years.

China’s hybrid system combining ‘democratic centralism’ and a robust market economy has guaranteed the requisite certainty the Third World’s only superpower needed to pull over 600 million of its poor citizens from poverty in less than a generation.

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Kenya’s political uncertainty reflects the turbulent cycles of elections o the African continent, which have gradually morphed into mighty hurricanes—more vicious than Katrina, Irma or Harvey— that destroy the gains made in development.

Africa’s tragic ‘develop-and-destroy’ cycles are inescapably tied to its frightful experiments with Anglo-Saxon models of liberal democracy largely observed, rated and ranked by externally supervisors.

Kenya has come under an intense media blitz that the October 26 election produced an illiberal democracy.  In large measures, the illiberal tag is part of the lingering cultural colonialism orchestrated through media channels in the former colonial empire and peddled by Anglo-Saxon Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and donor-funded local lobbies.

The October 30 issue of the British investigative journal, Africa Confidential, highlighted “A Question of Legitimacy” in the election.  Untypically, after the October 26 election, the London-based Economist magazine—which in 2007 disparaged Mwai Kibaki’s victory as “twilight robbery”—has dedicated two articles to pillorying President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta’s landslide victory.

“Kenya’s fresh election is preposterously flawed”, it blared out in its October 28, 2017 edition.  Its second article, outrageously titled ‘the dangers of a flawed poll’, tries to brand the government as “strong-man redux.”

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In the Jubilee corridors of power and on social media, the media blitz is not new. It is a throwback to March 2013’s externally driven regime change campaign.

Here, the project to delegitimise Kenya’s democracy is tracked down to the Open Society network of Hungarian-American billionaire business magnate George Soros, which funded International Criminal Court (ICC) cases against President Kenyatta and five others. It has since bankrolled civil society anti-government campaigns.

But the spider weaving the international media blitz is one Salim Lone who is a former spokesman for Raila Odinga as Prime Minister and former Director of the United Nations News and Media Division under Kofi Annan.

Kenya’s democracy is legitimate—that is if a legitimate government is one that conforms to the law and rules or can be ably defended with logic or justification.  Rather than calling out his supporters to the streets to reclaim his victory from a ‘rogue’ court, President Kenyatta called for peace and respect for the Supreme Court after it controversially annulled his August 8 victory.

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In his victory speech on Monday, October 30, Kenyatta asserted the legitimacy of his re-election and hailed the resilience of Kenya’s democracy. Instructively, the President-elect also alerted his supporters that his re-election was likely to be “subjected to yet another court battle”.

Painfully, Kenyatta is making history. In a country with a two-term limit, he is three times ‘president-elect’, has made three acceptance speeches, and is set to be incumbent thrice.

But he also took a shot at what he dubbed the “politics of darkness” which the ‘adjudicators’ of legitimacy have missed.

“Figures don’t lie, but liars figure”said Mark Twain. Although parodied as “the lowest turnout in Kenya’s history” (Africa Confidential, 30/10/17), Kenyatta’s 98% victory on a 39% turnout confirms the legitimacy of his 54% triumph in the August poll on a 79% turnout.

The opposition used a three-pronged strategy to precipitate a ‘flawed election.’ One is the low voter turnout game to delegitimize election. The logic of the turnout game is to prevent Kenyatta from “using our large voter turnout and large voter base” to claim legitimacy by isolating the 8.2 million votes (41% turnout) in August.

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Citing the resultant ‘low turnout’ as smoking-gun proof of flawed election, the opposition eminence grises have fallaciously claimed massive victory of its boycott and launched a media blitz on the illegitimacy of the election.

However, a close analysis by East African Index, indicates that Kenyatta won both the August and October polls.  Only 30% (5,874,020 voters) of Kenya’s 19,611,423 registered voters voluntarily heeded NASA’s boycott call.  Nearly 39% (7,616,217 voters) voted and 21% (4,085,222) of registered others abstained. To be sure, this is nearly the same figure that did not vote in the August poll, pushing down the voter turnout to 79%!

The remaining 10% (2,035,964) of Kenyan voters reveals militia unleashed violence as the second opposition plank in delegitimizing Uhuru Kenyatta’s democratic election. Because of violent obstruction by marauding youths and goons aligned and sponsored by the opposition, no voting took place in 25 out of 290 constituencies—the new zones of opposition authoritarianism.

Paradoxically, the next step is for the opposition to fish in the water it troubled by challenging the validity of the election on the basis of a “bad precedence” where “some tribes” can hold elections on “flimsy grounds like violence, banditry or terrorism”.

The third strategy was a campaign of vilification and delegitimizing the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Denis Tull and Andreas Mehler (2005) coherently argued that as its “hidden costs”, power sharing rewards losers with undeserved power, in the long run breeding insurgence.

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After the October election, Kenya is paying for courting power sharing as a quick-fix solution to its politics especially after the 2007-2008 post-election crisis. On October 25, NASA launched a “resistant movement” arguably to force power-sharing. The reproduction of insurgent violence is paying off.

On October 31, 2017, the NCCK called for ‘peace talks’ between Uhuru and Raila “to reduce ethnic tensions”. They want the law changed to create positions for the office of the official Opposition Leader, a prime minister and two deputies to promote “inclusivity and ownership of the government.”

Kenya must return to reason: Only the rule of law—not elite horse trading under whatever garb and guise—can guarantee true legitimacy and lasting peace.

Professor Peter Kagwanja is the Chief Executive of Africa Policy Institute and former Government Adviser.