The Kenyan Verdict: Both Odinga And Ruto Don’t Have Mandates

The ideal outcome would be for Odinga and Ruto to have a way to share power—regardless of who is confirmed as the winner.

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On August 9, 2022 Kenya held general elections including for president. On August 15 the Chairman of the country’s Independent Election and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Wafula Chebukati announced results awarding victory to candidate William Ruto, the country’s deputy president, with 50.5% of the vote to candidate and former prime minister Raila Odinga’s 48.9%.

Odinga has rejected the outcome and noted that four out of seven IEBC commissioners have also disavowed the results announced by Chebukati. The rebel commissioners claim they were not consulted by Chebukati or allowed to review the final tallies. They also claim that when the votes attributed to minor candidates in the election are added to Ruto’s and Odinga’s the total exceeds 100%, raising questions about the reliability of the data.

The good news is that Odinga has called on his supporters to refrain from any acts of violence and to allow the courts to sort out and rule on his challenge. This is a far cry from the violent aftermaths of past elections such as the 2007 vote. It’s widely believed that Odinga beat the incumbent Mwai Kibaki on that occasion. The carnage that followed that disputed election claimed the lives of more than 1,500 Kenyans and displaced more than 600,000 from their homes.

Odinga reached an accommodation with Kibaki, under intense international pressure. He took a newly-created position of prime minister. Later, two prominent politicians, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, were indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for their alleged role in election violence.

Kenyatta and Ruto when on to win the 2012 election, with Kenyatta becoming president and Ruto deputy president. They had to make court appearances at the Hague when their trial started. Ultimately, due to witness intimidation the ICC dropped the charges against Kenyatta in 2014 and Ruto in 2016.

The 2017 vote was against contentious, when Kenyatta and Ruto ran for re-election. Again, Odinga was believed to have won even though Kenyatta was declared the victor. The courts nullified the election and ordered a new vote. Odinga pulled out.

The political climate in Kenya became very explosive and many people feared a repeat of the 2007 mayhem. Odinga and Kenyatta surprised Kenyans by concluding a so-called “handshake” agreement to work together. Essentially Kenyatta agreed to dump Ruto and support Odinga’s future bid.

Kenyatta did campaign for Odinga in the recently concluded vote and Kenya has arrived at this moment.

Before the vote, polls had Odinga and Ruto in a dead heat. So it’s conceivable that Ruto did win; it’s also conceivable that a a review could show that Odinga won or that neither candidate climbed above the required 50% threshold to avoid a runoff.

However here is the most critical and glaring point. Neither candidate has a mandate as the polls have shown.

This is mostly because none of them is proposing any radical departure from the neoliberal policies that prevail in most African countries. Each candidate argues that he would be a better manager of the state and its politics and economics.

The ideal outcome would be for Odinga and Ruto to have a way to share power—regardless of who is confirmed as the winner. Sadly, this is unlikely to happen.

This is truly the Achilles heel of African politics, the disastrous consequences of adopting zero-sum Europeanized political systems in the post-colonial era. where winner takes all. This is the politics that breeds enmity, hostility, marginalization of large segments of African communities, and ultimately triggering and promoting violence.

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