Monday, October 30, 2017

On our own

I watched the junior senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake, announce that he would not be seeking re-election when his term came to an end in 2018. While he agrees with Donald Trump's policy agenda, Mr Flake cannot stand the debasement of the US political process that is underway because of Mr Trump's tone, style and temperament. Mr Flake and Bob Corker, another senator who will not seek re-election in 2018, believe that Mr Trump is temperamentally unfit to be the leader of their party or of the country. In this age of everyone getting theirs no matter what, it is strange that there are politicians willing to stand on principle, something that Kenyans have been denied by the belligerent politicians who have driven our country of constitutional cliffs without realising that what they do in the pursuit of political power ripples in every sphere of our lives.

When we voted on the 8th August, we did so in the full knowledge that neither the political actors or the electoral commission had the nation's best interests at heart. Since the last disputed presidential election in 2013, it was increasingly certain that the ruling alliance was attempting to use the post-1969 play book to win the presidential election at all costs, especially by packing the electoral commission with its people and doing everything in its power to limit the Opposition's room for maneuvering. Laws were amended to give the ruling alliance every possible advantage. These underhanded tactics were exposed when a majority of the Supreme Court invalidated the presidential election and ordered a fresh one in sixty days, which was held on the 26th October.

Neither the ruling alliance, which now enjoys a very large majority in Parliament, nor the electoral commission took to heart the scathing observations of the Supreme Court in setting the stage for the fresh presidential election. Laws were once again amended without the hint of a reference to the concerns of the Opposition, and the commissioners and the commission's staff were bullied into toeing the ruling alliance's line.

When the commission's man in charge of information and communication technology for the commission was murdered, we should have realised that there were men and women who had concluded that the presidential election was too important to be left in the hands of the voters. The murder has not been solved. The Supreme Court agreed that the commission and its officers had committed illegalities and irregularities and it is hard not to conclude that part of the reason why these illegalities and irregularities occurred was because of this unsolved murder that may have allowed the electronic electoral system to be manipulated from the inside as well as by outsiders.

For this reason we mustn't take the panicked flight by a commissioner's brother and his family from Kenya on account of death threats easily. Indeed, a week before the fresh presidential election, the commissioner fled the country and refused to participate in the management of the election. She had also faced intimidated by agents of the ruling alliance when she had, after the Supreme Court ruling, been briefly detained at the airport while on her way out of the country. The members of the Supreme Court who had voted to invalidate the presidential election had also faced increasing acts of bullying and intimidation, name-calling and threats from members of the ruling alliance including from the riling alliance's senior-most members. The signal that an attack on the Deputy Chief Justice's driver sent to the rest of the country must have emboldened the Opposition to boycott the fresh election.

Between the invalidation of the presidential election and the fresh election, parliamentarians were faced with decisions that political events required them to take. Those in the ruling alliance chose to lay supine as constitutional norms were laid to waste. Those in the Opposition, taking hardline stances, chose to misinterpret and misapply the law, including the rulings of the Supreme Court. The effect was a stalemate that has not been resolved even now that the fresh election has been held, the ruling alliance has announced victory, the commission has elected to believe its own hype and the rest of the country that isn't occupied by armed police or marauding Mungiki gangs, has heaved a sigh of relief, shrugged its shoulders and gone back to its hustle. What we haven't seen are parliamentarians taking a firm stand against the constitutional and political impasse without paying obeisance to their political godfathers. Kenya is yet to witness a Jeff Flake or a Bob Corker. Kenya is yet to witness a principled stand against chicanery. Kenyans are on their own.

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