Analysis by Sam Jumbwike.
The East African nation of Kenya will be heading for polls in August 2017 where the incumbent President, Uhuru Kenyatta, and his ally, William Ruto, will be engage in a vigorous battle against a formidable opposition coalition, the National Super Alliance. The latter is comprised of perennial contenders, such as, Raila Odinga, Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka, Nick Salat and Moses Wetangula.
Since gaining independence from Britain in 1962, Kenya has faced a series of ethnic conflicts and violence during elections. The violence that followed the 2007 election was the most appalling, as it claimed close to 1,500 lives, 3000 incidents of sexual violence and up to 500,000 people internally displaced. Lastly, Kofi Annan had to mediate and reach a political compromise between the re-elected Mwai Kibaaki and his main opponent, Raila Odinga, after efforts by the African Union had utterly failed. The International Criminal Court charged the current President Kenyatta and his Deputy, William Ruto, with crimes against humanity but charges were dropped after the duo ascended to power.
Whereas the subsequent 2013 elections were relatively peaceful, events in the past three years indicate a possible resurgence of ethnic induced grievances, and it is feared that they could ignite a new round of violence. Many Kenyans feel they have been excluded by Uhuru Kenyatta’s policies; unemployment rate among the urban youth is alarming, the rural folks are grappling with poverty and many feel the current government has failed to tackle terrorism and the extra judicial killings. The historically marginalized tribes like the Luo and Luhya feel it is time to wrestle power from the privileged Kikuyu and Kalenjin tribes that have ruled Kenya since its independence.
Kenya’s worrying situation is aggravated by the dictatorial tendencies of Uhuru Kenyatta’s power hungry allies the neighboring countries. Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Pierre Nkrunzinza of Burundi and Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo have all amended their national constitutions to rule for life. Uhuru Kenyatta might follow suit and refuse to hand over power even after losing the elections.
Why Kenya is everyone’s interest
Kenya’s strategic location on the coast makes its Port of Mombasa a vital sea point for all the neighboring countries like Uganda, Rwanda, DRC, Burundi and South Sudan. Any insurgency in Kenya means that countries dependent on the Port of Mombasa will have to use the far off alternative Tanzanian ports of Dar-es-Salaam and Tanga, which would immensely raise the cost of transporting the good.
Kenya is also a vital ally of the United States and other countries engaged in the efforts to combat terrorism, more specifically the fight against Al-Shabaab. Kenya is among the pillars of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development that is taking the lead to improve on security and peace in South Sudan. Until the impasse between President Salvar Kiir and the rebels is sorted, no one wishes to see a destabilized Kenya.
Most international organizations operating in East Africa have their headquarters in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. Any form of insecurity in Kenya would affect the operations of all the sub offices of these transnational entities. Generally speaking, Kenya is East Africa’s economic hub and any instability in Kenya has a huge bearing on all the economies in the entire East Africa. It is therefore crucial to the stability of the region, how the outcome of the 2017 elections in Kenya will be handled. If violence erupts on a scale similar to as 2007, it can have wide scale consequences for the region, in particular the security of civilians.
With a BA in Community Development, Sam is now covering the political situation in East Africa closely. He previously handled the anti corruption Caravan Reports in Eastern Uganda and Western Uganda between 2014 and 2015, and is now a reporter on Oil & Gas for Earthfinds Uganda.