10 years ago, the Kenyan presidential election in 2007 was considered a political, economic and humanitarian crisis when the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was re-elected leading to more than 1,600 deaths and 600,000 others displaced as a result. Raila Odinga, also the opposition leader and runner-up for president at the time, was perceived to win in most pre-election polls. Within minutes of the announcement of Kibaki’s victory, protests in the street alleging Kibaki had “stolen” the election turned violent.
This year in 2017, fear of a potential post-election violence raised tensions all across the country and the East African region. Will history repeat itself?
Just a week ago, 8th August 2017, a peaceful Kenyan presidential election went by. With the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission head of technology Msando found dead just a week before the election, suspense was in the air and all Kenyans were holding their breaths for any post-election violence. Whilst the election process was slower than expected – one Kenyan mother even gave birth to a baby during her wait in queue to cast her vote! The counting of more than 15 million votes was completed in the next few days. President Kenyatta was on Friday night declared the winner of the 2017 presidential election at a ceremony held at the national tallying centre, having won more than 54% of the vote’s castes.
An estimated 180,000 police officers and members of other security forces have been deployed around Kenya to ensure order during this election period. Opposition leader Raila Odinga alleged that the results had been tampered with by hackers, raising great tension in the country. However, he offered no evidence to justify his claim. The EU delegation and their election observers further commented that no signs of manipulation of the result was found at central or local level and urged all sides to accept the result.
Nonetheless, small-scale protests and violence broke out after Kenyatta was declared the winner. Most of the demonstrators were supporters of Odinga from the Kisumu region, with violence also breaking out in Nairobi’s slum of Mathare. A Kenyan human rights group reported that 24 people had been shot dead by police since election day. Odinga has since further requested his supporters for a work strike on Monday. Yet, majority of business has resumed as normal after almost a week of disruption, many Kenyans commented that “no work, no food” was more important than their political standpoint.
There is perhaps a sign of relief that Kenya, the economic hub of East Africa, will return to peace after a week of election nervousness. Peace in the nation was emphasised continuously during the election, maybe as a nation Kenya has moved forward in learning the potential severe consequence of a post-election violence from 10 years ago…