News / Africa

    Kenya's Next Presidential Race in Full Swing

    Michael Onyiego

    Part 3 of 5-part series: Kenya:  The Pace of Reforms
    See Parts 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

     

    February 28 marks the third anniversary of Kenya’s coalition government, formed in after violence surrounding the country’s disputed presidential poll. Though much work remains in Kenya’s reform and reconciliation agenda, the race is already heating up for elections in 2012.

    It is just more than three years since a disputed presidential election between President Mwai Kibaki and current Prime Minister Raila Odinga nearly tore Kenya apart.  After nearly two months of ethnic violence swept across the country, a deal was reached between the two to form a government and move the country forward.

    The election rivals have spent the better part of the past three years trying to enact reforms to prevent a repeat of that brutal episode.

    The power-sharing experiment born out of that chaos has been, at times, contentious and progress has been slow.  But Kenya’s politicians are looking ahead to Kenya’s next poll in 2012.

    With President Kibaki due to complete his final term next year, Prime Minister Odinga was pegged by many as a strong favorite to become Kenya’s next president.  Mr. Odinga is wildly popular in many parts of the country and was applauded by both international and local observers for working with the president to deliver the country’s new constitution.

    But the Prime Minister is under attack from all sides, as longtime rivals and former allies seek to establish their bids.  And as the fight intensifies, no aspect of Kenya’s politics is out of bounds.  Opposition politicians - such as Parliament Member Jamleck Kamau - have recently accused Mr. Odinga of using the International Criminal Court to secure his candidacy.

    “The whole ICC process has been politicized and has become a tool for some people to ascend to power,” he said.

    Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and former Higher Education Minister William Ruto were among the six named by Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo suspected of organizing and funding Kenya’s post-election chaos.  Both Kenyatta and Ruto are seen as Mr. Odinga’s main competition in 2012.

    But the challenge from Ruto is perhaps most damaging.  He is the dominant political figure in Kenya’s populous and volatile Rift Valley Region and served as a key ally during Mr. Odinga’s 2007 campaign.

    But relations between the two were strained in 2010 after Ruto broke ranks with the Orange Democratic Movement Party and campaigned against the new constitution. After Ruto was demoted to the Ministry of Higher Education from the prestigious Agriculture post, links between the two were severed completely.  Ruto has since become a key ally of President Kibaki.

    “ODM is a national party and will continue to remain a national party.  Individuals will come and go from a political party,” Odinga said.

    He has downplayed the significance of Ruto’s shift.  But his exit may have triggered more worrying trend.

    In recent months, a political storm has raged around the alleged alliance formed by ICC targets Kenyatta and Ruto, as well as Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka.  The group, which can be seen campaigning together across the country, has been dubbed the “Kikuyu, Kalenjin, Kamba Alliance,” in reference to ethnicity of each member.

    Some analysts fear such a group could re-ignite the violence seen in 2007.   Parliament Member Martha Karua, also seen as a viable candidate in 2012, has similarly denounced the alliance.

    “The days, therefore, of urging people to belong to one party are over.  May I ask my brother Uhuru and his colleagues to a new democratic Kenya, where competition is the order of the day,” Karua said.

    Controversial former-president Daniel Moi, himself a Kalenjin, has also denounced the alliance, arguing it excludes much of Kenya’s other ethnic groups.  The members of the so-called KKK alliance have vehemently denied that their agenda revolves around ethnicity.

    The Head of Programs for the Nairobi-based International Center for Policy and Conflict, Paul Mwaura, agrees.  Mwaura says the election in 2012 has much higher stakes than tribal rivalries.

    “The fight is for continuation of impunity in Kenya, for that infrastructure not to be broken,” he said.

    In its nearly 50 year history, Kenya has struggled with massive corruption throughout its public sector.  Politicians have been at the center of nearly every major scandal and an estimated one-third of the country’s budget is lost through graft.

    The analyst said the 2012 poll could mark a turning point in Kenya’s reform efforts.
    But Mwaura also tipped the new constitution as a tool in the fight against ethnic politics.  Kenya’s new laws call for the decentralization of powers through the creation of a senate as well as regional governments.  The laws also limit presidential powers, by requiring parliamentary approval for Cabinet appointments.

    Mwaura believes this could focus political matters on local issues, instead of ethnic alliances and power. “It makes the presidency unattractive.  It is not something that you must die for.  Because you cannot give goodies the way you want as per the old order,” he said.

    More than 1,300 people were killed and 300,000 driven from their homes during the violence in 2007 and 2008.  Kenya’s new constitution has been heralded as a critical step towards national healing, but many other items of the peace process remain unfinished.  There is still a long way to go before Kenya’s next presidential poll and many hope Kenya’s coalition government can prevent the ethnic clashes of the previous election from re-igniting in 2012.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora