Kenya: The Challenge Of External Interventions



By Osuolale Alalade

It was expected that Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Muiga Kenyatta, 51, of the Jubilee Coalition would win Kenya’s March 2013 presidential elections. He polled 50.07% to beat rival Prime Minister Raila Amolio Odinga, 68, candidate of the Coalition for Reform and Democracy (otherwise known as the CORD Alliance), who garnered 43.31%. This eight point advantage was consistent with the many polls that were conducted in the lead-up to the elections. The surveys gave the Jubilee Coalition of the Deputy Prime Minister, a Kikuyu, and his running mate, William Ruto, a Kalenjin, the sharper momentum as the campaign wound down. The final poll prediction was a 7 point advantage in favour of the Jubilee ticket.  So, the question, if any, in the minds of the most independent observers, remained by what margin the Jubilee team was going to triumph. It was not whether Odinga was going to defy the predictions. If this happened, the main issue was whether the very expensive, (some accounts put the cost at over $1.5 billion United States) and tense presidential campaign would translate into a run-off election that may prove disastrous for social cohesion in Kenya.

The scenario of a sharp electoral confrontation between the two main rivals for political leadership had the prospect of further polarizing the country. In the background was local concern to stave off any possibility of the repeat of the carnage experienced in 2007-2008. The carnage was sparked by controversy around the presidential elections. The crisis resulted from Odinga’s challenge of the victory of Mwai Kibaki over him in the presidential elections. The ensuing mobilization of Kenyans along ethnic lines resulted in more than 1,000 Kenyans killed and 600,000 forced to leave their homes. Odinga has regretted that in 2007/2008 there was no legal mechanism to redress what he perceives as electoral fraud. This is not the case today. Odinga has refused to accept the outcome of the March 2013 elections and is alleging collusion between the president-elect and the electoral commission. Although he has urged all Kenyans to respect the rule of law and warned against any violence in the country, apprehensions have heightened. The Kenya Red Cross noted that the violence that killed more than 200 people and displaced nearly 120,000 across Kenya late last year had political overtones. It is, therefore, yet to be seen if Kenya has scaled the prospect of a repeat scenario of 2007-2008. Kenyans would be on tenterhooks for two weeks within which the Supreme Court must decide whether to uphold the electoral victory of Kenyatta as president or declare to have a runoff. The omen would remain good if Kenyans remain level-headed and refuse the subtle instigations of western meddlers in their internal affairs.

Analysts observed the anxiety of Western European and the United States as the chances of Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory became more realistic. The United States had earlier warned Kenyans that a victory of Uhuru Kenyatta at the polls would certainly have consequences. The response of Euro-America to Kenyatta’s victory has become a critical factor in how events in Kenya would finally shape up. So far, the reaction has been unnerving. The peace that has so far surrounded Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory over the Western backed Prime Minister has expressed an increasing consciousness of African societies of their responsibilities to themselves and their nations. However, the new consciousness of Kenya’s electorate expressed in Uhuru Kenyatta’s triumph over a blatantly Western candidate is a significant indicator of the emerging pulse of Africa. Also important are the paradoxes and the implications of Odinga’s loss in the elections. They reflect the starkness of Africa’s challenges in facing the threat of the use of democracy to advance Western interests in Africa. By this, the very Euro-American evangelists of democracy are undermining, if not the integrity of democracy, at least the credibility of their own interventions for selfish ends that are often packaged as motivated by global and altruistic concerns.

Meanwhile, for Raila Odinga, 68, this third loss at the poll for Kenya’s presidency has the ring of tragic paradoxes. His recent political manoeuvres to achieve his lifelong presidential ambitions and the failure of this strategy have important lessons for African politicians. Odinga had before now been a remarkable nationalist until the lure of Western influence in African affairs got the better of him. With his transformation into a candidate of the West, he has played up that role in the recent past to earn and consolidate his adoption as a Western proxy in Kenya. Observers note that the pursuit of his presidential objectives may have become a desperate enterprise as he has aged. At 68, this may have instigated his robust intervention in the Ivorian crisis in 2011, where he unabashedly championed Western interests in the Ivorian crisis. It would appear that he had his 2013 elections in sight and was making the required choices to endear himself to the West. But ironically, as Johnnie Carson, the State Department’s top diplomat for Africa, sternly warned Kenyans in relation to picking their leaders, “choices have consequences.” Odinga’s choice to count on the West played well with his western political benefactors. But these same choices have had ruinous consequences for his unrelenting desire to occupy the Kenyan presidency. Odinga’s choice is not without precedent. It is actually legion. Take the case of Obasanjo. Despite the hubris and the public masks of indifference, Obasanjo’s infamous and humiliating visit to George Bush in Washington and his sudden decision of hand over Charles Taylor to the International Court on Sierra Leone, some believe, had more to do with offering a political quid pro quo to the United States to court a nod of indifference from the American establishment on his third term project. That is how much African leadership can go to placate the west.

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Given this background, the West was and clearly remains nervous about the prospects of victory for Uhuru Kenyatta. Such a victory would be tantamount to defiance of the West and a poignant statement of Kenyans on what they thought of the indictment of Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate, William Ruro, by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Many note that against the indictment of the two by the ICC of incitements that led to killings following the 2007 elections, the presidential elections campaign also revolved around the court’s engagement in Kenya’s post-election crisis. The Jubilee ticket somehow managed to focus the attention of Kenyans on the need to protect Kenya’s sovereignty against unwarranted Western activism in African affairs through the instrumentality of largely political international mechanisms. In this instance, the ICC had been fingered as a tool to advance Western interests in Kenya. Jubilee’s appropriation of the guardianship of national sovereignty would appear to have resonated with many of Kenyatta’s compatriots.  The outcome of Kenya’s elections has thus expressed the scant legitimacy or irrelevance or outright nuisance value of the ICC in the management of the historic challenges confronting Africa. In fact, some have speculated that the ICC indictment was a decisive factor in tipping many voters in favour of the Uhuru/Ruro ticket.

The Kenyans had taken a common stand not to be manipulated into suicidal enterprises by the deleterious western conflict consortium in Africa that claims to be promoting democracy in Africa. The Nairobi Bar Association has shown uncommon sophistication in navigating this slippery terrain. They advised the politicians to take any grievances to the court and at the same time expressed confidence in the national judiciary. This avoided the temptation to delegitimize the Supreme Court to forestall any Western denunciation of a possible unfavourable decision to their candidate, as was the case in Abidjan. Meanwhile, even though local and international observers, whatever the worth of the latter, had given the electoral process a clean bill of health,  the performance of the Kenyan Independent  Elections and Border Commission (IEBC) is being unfairly vilified in Western accounts. In this context, it is notable that the ethnic structure and balance in the elections favoured the Jubilee ticket. Odinga’s ethnic constituency was divided between loyalty to him or a third candidate Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi.

Meanwhile, as Uhuru coasted home to his 50% plus one threshold to win the elections, apprehensions of Western players were palpable. Alarming headlines in the Western media exaggerated observed technological glitches during the elections. This was with a view to creating controversies around the integrity of the process. The ongoing Western reportage in the print and electronic media during and after the elections and in managing the potentially explosive post-election situation has been deliberately skewed to favor Odinga. The Western media have, therefore, focused largely on the indictments of the victorious Jubilee ticket rather than show concern for the strenuous challenge to save Kenyans from a potential election-induced national trauma. The encouraging signs are that Kenyans seem to appreciate better than the self-imposed western do-gooders in Africa the dire circumstances of their country. So far, they have refused to bite the bait of the West to instigate another murderous crisis.  The Kenyan media have decisively maintained a responsible self-imposed censorship in the interest of national harmony. The Kenyans are seeing through the antics of the Western conflict consortium in Africa and its local allies seeking to foment another crisis under the self serving role that they have imposed on themselves. More importantly, they rejected the threats of consequences against Kenyans issued by the Obama administration, France and the United Kingdom. They voted whom they believed would best serve the interests of Kenya. And those who so thought of Uhuru Kenyatta as best placed to lead Kenyans at this time have triumphed with at least an eight point advantage over the overwhelming choice of the West- the Odinga ticket, although, as noted earlier, the results also reflect a decisive impact of the superior ethnic factor. In voting Kenyatta, Kenyans issued an unambiguous red card and expressed a lack of faith in the ICC or in undue interventions by international forces. This suggests a creeping lack of confidence in intentions of the international meddlers.

It is against this background that the now revitalised African Union has asked the world not to meddle in Kenya’s politics and to let Kenyans elect their president without interference. This is a reassuring proactive statement from the organization. The failure of the AU two years ago in managing the post elections crisis in Cote d’Ivoire made it complicit in the unjust indictment and current incarceration of the Ivorian nationalist leader, President Laurent Gbagbo. The challenge before Africa is to help Kenya to avoid a repeat of 2007/2008. Africans must find a way to put in check the disastrous imperious external interventions in its affairs.  Primary among these is the dangerous polarization that international mediation and engagements, that are insensitive to local political realities and sentiments, can wreak on African countries. Kenya’s triumph in managing these challenges, whatever the outcome of Odinga’s challenge of the results of the March 2013 elections at the Supreme Court would be a historic victory for Africa.