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Kenya’s Past as Prologue

 | 
Christian Thibon
, 
Marie-Aude Fouéré
, 
Mildred Ndeda
, 
et al.

Kenyan Elections: When Does History Repeat Itself and Does Not Repeat Itself?

Christian Thibon

Note de l’auteur

This article was originally published in French under the title “Les élections générales de 2013 au Kenya: Les bégaiements de l’histoire politique kényane” DOI: 10.3917/afco.247.0015 (Afrique Contemporaine, n° 247, Élections Kenya, © De Boeck Supérieur s.a., 2013 1re édition, Fond Jean-Pâques 4, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve).

Texte intégral

1With regard to most other African elections seen as liberating moments or crisis resolution and, more often, as periods of conflict or endless crises, the 2013 Kenyan elections appeared exceptional, at least atypical. The scenario retained by the international community and by some Kenyan media was not realised. This scenario was double. On the one hand, a closely contested election race with violent excesses was feared (or a conflagration that some feared), thus following the conflictingelectoral history of the country (1997, 2002, 2007-2008). On the other hand, in view of existing structural social tensions, it was expected that the outgoing Prime Minister Raila Odinga would win in the second round against Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto, who were both de-legitimised internationally due to their indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC). It has become a constant that, in Kenyan elections and since 1997, observers who are bent to perceive Kenyan politics as a pre-written Greek tragedy are frequently mistaken.

2At first glance, two essential ambivalent facts – unforeseen though predictable – marked these recent elections. One the one hand, with these peaceful elections, history was not repeated but it stutters, seeing that beyond a symbolic Kenyatta-Odinga confrontation of the sons of the two Fathers of Independence, the polarisation and ethnic manipulation replayed the Kikuyu/Luo contention that has undergirded Kenya’s history.

3Paradoxically, this scenario raises many unknown issues about the nature of the observed events and expected changes. First, might the peaceful conduct of the elections as a structural and structuring effect herald the future? Or is it just an accident, a short-term “effect of grace”, a combination of factors or circumstances? Unless it is a “turning point” in Kenyan politics, is the end of a political cycle a guarantee of change and a balanced transition? This turning point, partly resulting from the new Constitution, would be based on a de facto two-party system (with a government marked by a strong majority and opposition), the renewal of elites either affiliated to the old one or newly promoted, and the expected constitutional reforms, notably the devolution which, in the background, is imbued with a liberal and developmental consensus shared by almost all political actors. Secondly and beyond appearances, the results and the outcome of elections as well as the unknown issues raised by the electoral data are destabilising. This is due to germs of ethnic tensions and a game of fragile alliances which are maybe more circumstantial than real. This would be the case of the victorious Kikuyu/Kalenjin coalition and their respective parties TNA/ URP, and of a legitimate power that has a deficit in international or internal credibility andcould re-establish past authoritarian practices, unless this new domestic and geopolitical order opens new political perspectives which are reflected by projects under constructionand visions through which a country aims to emerge.

History does not repeat itself: Peaceful elections

  • 1 Reports on elections are numerous. They comprise the official documents of the IEBC, petitions and (...)

4Elections, in their different phases – that is: the official election campaign, a heavy electoral process consisting of six polls in one day (presidential, parliamentary, senatorial, gubernatorial, and for women and county ward representatives), then a long period of announcement of the results with an appeal to the Supreme Court, all shortened to one round – took place peacefully with the exception of two incidences of violence: during the party primaries in Nairobi in the Mathare Valley slum and on the eve of the elections in Mombasa when several police stations were attacked at night. The media, as well as official observers, international, national and local NGOs, and Internet monitoring, attest to the peaceful atmosphere.1

  • 2 Reports by Uchaguzi, an ICT platform that monitors electoral incidents, are very efficient in centr (...)
  • 3 These practices would usefully be put into perspective with the analyses of historians and historic (...)
  • 4 Participation in presidential elections is on the increase: in 1992: 69%; 1997: 65%; 2002: 57%; 200 (...)
  • 5 The registration took less time than previously. Urgency marked the different times of this pre-ele (...)

5There were certainly, during the campaign and on Election Day, technical malfunctions and multiple pressures in form of intimidation and non-compliance with the rules. Such practices were not systemically used, but rather put in place locally.2 The same usual petty corruption practices were also seen, such as dispensation of “presents” like small notes of money. These are practices accepted by all, and manipulated by both the givers, who are from various political parties, and the beneficiaries who take advantage of such practices.3 Yet these issues are incommensurate with the previous pre-election violence that had terrorised and destabilised the populations of Kenya. It explains, among other things, the record electoral turnout of 85.9%4 and the electoral registration of 55.6%.5 Furthermore, inter-ethnic and religious-regionalist violence which repeated in 2012 in the border regions of Somalia – in the North or on the Coast – and which had little to do with pre-election issues as such, or were not manipulated in such a way, did not have any disruptive effect on registration, except in the north-eastern county of Mandera. They reveal the existence of different societies and time-spaces faced with land and pastoral conflicts in under-populated peripheral areas compared to densely populated electoral strongholds. Finally, while militias had a tremendous role in the previous election crisis of 2007-2008, they were not to be seen this time, even though political parties mobilised the youth and students. Universities too had no such political fever.

  • 6 Like “electoral behaviour building” of political practices and electoral culture in the long term.
  • 7 Sunday Nation, February 3, 2013, “Sunday Review”, p. 30.
  • 8 With the “election coverage guidelines” of the MCK (Media Council of Kenya), the IEBC’s “guidelines (...)

6There are many reasons for this peaceful election. First, the significance and efficiency of “soft power”, thus pointing to the growth of an “electoral civilization”6 and the moralisation of public life, as summed by the head of the Anglican Church of Kenya, Eliud Wabukala, saying that “We’ve learnt our lesson”.7 This virtuous environment is explained by the strong peace-making investment of churches and religions, educational institutions and implementation of peace programs through the engagement of civil society in election monitoring, conflict management and the media in a modern and fair media campaign8 – even seen by some as overly consensual – and finally in a dissuasive climate of the security forces, the judiciary and the “management” by these institutions (the Electoral Commission, the Supreme Court). All this was in line with the awareness, if not the maturity or capacity of an increasing educated, even globalised, literate population with access to the media, but also with a society particularly affected and traumatised by the violence of 2007- 2008 that longed for peace above all.

  • 9 Compared to Jomo Kenyatta or Mwai Kibaki’s electoral victories.

7This “self-control” that led to a more “relaxed” national campaign atmosphere was also the result of the moderation and caution of political leaders. Both losers and winners seemed confident in their success without using violence. Was it due to the moral pressure of the ICC? There were few ideological excesses in public while delicate subjects, including the land issue, were not discussed until the end of the campaign. Neither were there festive excesses among the winners but appeals for calm by the defeated, nor excessive mass enthusiasm when Kenyans watched Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidential inauguration on TV.9 Moreover, an anecdotal fact suggests that the piecemeal proclamation of results prepared public opinion to digest announcements that were unfavourable to half of them. In fact, resorting to justice has become a common practice since the first single-party and multi-party elections, thus contributing to the integration of various disputes – numerous on every level – in the institution.

  • 10 A dynamic or associative opinion as opposed to a static, inherited opinion characteristic of ethnic (...)

8These successful elections in their moderate progress could reflect a step in the construction of a public and civil society and the rule of law. At least, this positive analysis, made more by observers than by experts or academics, deserves to be questioned through the lens of the role and power of the key actors who have emerged with democratisation, such as the civil society and churches, the media, institutions and a dynamic public opinion.10

  • 11 In the Braudelian sense of the “longue durée” (long duration), “moyenne durée” (medium duration) an (...)
  • 12 Opinion polls (Ipsos Synovate) show that Uhuru Kenyatta’s electorate was more optimistic about thei (...)

9The electoral appeasement is also explained by structural factors of a “moyenne durée” (medium duration),11 perhaps corresponding to a generational period. Since 2000, with the rebound in economic growth, the rise (and the future) of a bourgeois business and middle class weighs on political life. This elite is increasingly associated with the market and less with administrative and direction positions, in the sense that it is less dependent on political fallout and political corruption – in reference to the 1990s or what is called “the Goldenberg era” named after the main scandal of that decade. Although it is still marked by ethnic resentment, this elite aspires for a moderate transition or succession. As in 2007-2008, any open crisis would have jeopardised its gains, its investments and its property savings in a Kenyan economy dependent on the service and tourism industry. The choice of the election date, during the low tourist season, illustrates this calculation. And well before the results were announced, the Nairobi Stock Exchange and the strength of the national currency in their way praised the event. It is the same for Kenyan society, at least a dominant part of it.12 Although benefits from growth have been unevenly distributed, living conditions have improved and the benefits of an emerging economy and some public redistribution have been anticipated and expected by many, as evident during a campaign in which issues regarding education, public health, security or access to basic services were prominent. This is a request and a claim that social movements (nurses and hospital staff, teachers on strike), or scandals in the health services, had already put in the public space in the second half of 2012. At least this hope, rather than frustration, is true for a part of the Kenyan society.

  • 13 Unlike the central regions where registration is traditionally high, peripheral regions have the lo (...)
  • 14 According to demographic-health survey data, DHS 2008: 43% of the population lives in conditions of (...)

10However there remains, beyond the normal abstention, a significant unregistered population.13 Abstention corresponded to 44% of a voter-age population living in spaces and societies that are peripheral, often pastoral, and to marginalised rural time-spaces where poverty levels are the highest and levels of the human development indicator the lowest.14 A symptomatic fact is that the two realities of low electoral registration and low registration of newborns look alike.

  • 15 There are many elders among families and relations such as councils of elders, of the wise often as (...)
  • 16 The logo of the TNA party, the dove, also evokes the Holy Spirit.

11Finally, the last explanation for the peaceful conduct of the last election is difficult to quantify but was noticeable during the campaign. Kenyan society lives a double trauma. The first trauma, introverted, relates to the HIV/AIDS epidemic from the 1990s; the second, extroversive, has to do with violence, which was highly publicised during the 2007-2008, and with a latent moral crisis partly associated with socio-cultural changes. In these conditions, it resorts to and displays public, societal and familial moralisation supported by churches and religions, educational institutions and moral authorities – the elders.15 This is true in everyday life in the condemnation of drugs, alcohol, tobacco and corruption. It translated during the campaign into a discourse highlighting the value of integrity, the redemptive efforts of candidates, and normative collective behaviours greatly sanctified and dramatised through collective prayers and blessing of the candidates, or highly ritualised performancesat the request of elders and councils of the wise in each community. This peace education was all the more possible because the most violent actors in the light of recent history, i.e. the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin, were united this time in the same political alliance, Jubilee. This alliance served as a pact which the militant protocol of the Jubilee coalition was keen on respecting with a fraternal balance between the two candidates – which the patronymic slogan fusion “Uhuruto” reflects – and the logo of a dove with a strong, subliminal connotation.16

In contrast, history stutters

  • 17 Tribes, to use the English term, are ethnic groups that are distinguished by language, singular and (...)

12Will the Kenya of 2013 find itself facing challenges similar to those of the time of independence, being prisoner of the same exclusive and regressive identity logics, with its “small countries” or “small nations”, if not its internal nationalisms?17 The results of the presidential election and the electoral geography reveal the print of such logics based upon multi-ethnic polarisation in the three-quarters of the country. This draws two Kenyas: the central Kenya made of Mount Kenya and the Rift Valley, supportive of the Uhuru Kenyatta/William Ruto ticket, and the Kenya of the peripheries, with the West and the East, all acquired by the Raila Odinga/Kalonzo Musyoka ticket. They reflect two ethno-political blocs. The city of Nairobi partly escapes this logic even though the politico-ethnic fragmentation makes its mark on this area. Such cleavages are also reflected at the local level in some territories, constituencies, or wards, but in these cases, there are small ethnic groups or clans sufficiently concentrated to influence the results in the western and northern counties like Marsabit and Narok.

13The ethnic vote, which confirms the relevance of rival, strategic multi-ethnic alliances manipulating ethnic advantage, is not new. It is part of a political culture or political grammar maintained for fifty years by different political generations so as to win and to stay in power. It is rooted in implicit mobilisation, through two dimensions: the ethnic “unspoken” which profits from accumulated contentions and frustrations, and moral ethnicity, this sense of honor associated with territorial and cultural identity. But this time, the thresholds of intensity and politico-ethnic membership were high, with worrying electoral agreement of 85% to 95% in the two main candidates’ strongholds, so much so that these non-violent elections were based, for a large part of the electorate, on a “symbolic violence” that locks up the mind.

  • 18 The Jubilee coalition consisted of four parties: TNA, URP, RC, Narc, and small local parties; the C (...)
  • 19 In 2009, the Kikuyu were 17%, the Luo 10%, the Luhya 14%, the Kalenjin 13%, the Kamba 11%, the Kisi (...)

14Partisan strategies and political ambitions have once again used this leverage, especially since the new constitution. This constitution, which is presidential with a President and a Deputy President and a two-round election, justified the creation of multi-ethnic duos which the candidates intended to be “winners” by ensuring maximum demographic weight. This was the case of the Jubilee18 coalition of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto (champions of the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin) and the CORD coalition of Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka (champions of the Luo and the Kamba). These four main ethnic groups19 represent nearly 51% of the population, and slightly more of the electorate – and even more of the electorate registered on the basis of provincial populations, which are not completely homogeneous. The battle of numbers implicitly weighed on political strategies and calculations seeing that the census data or the data of the electoral registration are used to justify the chosen ethnic lines. Thus, the calculation of the ethnic audience following the 2009 census inclined to Jubilee (30%), while CORD could only count on 21%. On the other hand, the central provinces (Kikuyu and Kalenjin) aligned to the Jubilee coalition only brought together 38% of the population and 41% of registered Kenyans while the eastern and western provinces aligned to CORD brought together 53% of the population and 47% of registered Kenyans, though the total of peripheral ethnic groups (Luo/Kisii/Luhya/Kamba/Mijikenda) more favourable to CORD covered many internal divisions as in the case of the Luhya.

  • 20 The matatu is a public service vehicle, often overloaded, which along its journey carries many pass (...)

15However, in a diverse multi-ethnic society and given the new electoral system of two rounds, the winning strategy could not be exclusively ethnic because it was based on two challenges: the ability to maximally harness community voters, and the obligation to win beyond successful binary alliances. Therefore, unlike the previous elections in which the violence used to strengthen ethnic ranks should theoretically have secured a victory with a simple majority, this time – and to the extent that the “rule of numbers” could not mathematically ensure victory of either of the two coalitions – the attraction of undecided electorates coming from small ethnic groups and emanating from all major ethnic groups and of the cosmopolitan urban electorate was necessary in a democratic process. Yet the ethnic reference continued to weigh on the winning momentum of the two main coalitions, giving them some popularity and a reservoir of votes that favourable opinion polls confirmed and reinforced. This in practice brought about the rallying and co-option of allies or of “representatives” from ethnic minorities. Like “matatus” or “horses”,20 the two main partisan alliances or presidential aspirants reaped maximum converts or returnees from minority ethnic groups. In this exercise, Jubilee was more efficient in winning the votes of the Meru and the Embu, formerly associated with the Kikuyu (ex GEMA) and turning Raila Odinga’s leading ex-allies coming from peripheral areas. This ethnic logic was at the expense of “independent” candidates who rejected this rule or those like Musalia Mudavadi who, relying only on the Luhya vote, did not manage to create such a strategy.

  • 21 207 complaints on the primaries were recorded by the IEBC.

16In this context, it is not surprising that the tensest phase of the elections was the primaries21 in December 2012 when the coalitions and the parties they were comprised of decided who would pursue the electoral adventure. This was due to the fact that the ethnic vote – as the polls had already revealed – would act as a bonus to the victory but also as an assurance of an honourable defeat especially because the new constitution had led to a considerable increase in political seats with the new position of senator, governor, women and county ward representatives and nominees.

  • 22 IEBC data in Yash Pal Ghai’s “Ethnicity, nationhood and pluralism”, Katiba Institute, Nairobi, Sept (...)

17The results confirmed this ethnic polarisation. Uhuru Kenyatta and Jubilee narrowly won the presidential election in the first round with 50.07% but with a gap of over 800,000 votes as well as the parliamentary, senatorial, and county elections. Raila Odinga and CORD (43.28% in the presidential elections) accrued seats (20 out of 47 senators, 20 governors of 47, and 132 MPs of 337) in the richest counties (Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu). The campaign and its financial challenges favoured national parties and strong coalitions to the detriment of the independent aspirants. A comparison of the maps of the different polls somewhat qualifies this political dichotomy, but in local elections, the criteria for recognition, popularity or even age played an important role, showing in some counties the combination of favourable votes in the elections for candidates of opposing coalitions. It is the same in elections for the county committees. The composition of county committees reveals the presence of the big national parties (ODM 26.8% of elected members, TNA and GNU 26.3%, URP 15.7%) and the regional presence of their allies (Wiper 6.3%, UDF 3.8%, Ford Kenya 3% and KANU 3%) but independent representatives or small regional parties still account for nearly 18% whilst they have virtually disappeared from the national political arena.22

18This political change – if we can speak of “change” seeing that, since 2008, political compromise on a transition basis has been the rule – gives the impression of a rotation of power. But this embryonic two-party system, built on alliances between parties and especially between ethnic champions or heroes, reveals many shortcomings: a divided political class, anchored on new political territories, though united in the defence of its privileges, individual political strategies steeped in the “big men” tradition. It reveals, above all, an exclusive membership of electorates in the respective strongholds of the two alliances and a partisan geography since the five major parties are concentrated in homogeneous ethnic territories: for Jubilee, TNA and GNU in the Central Kikuyu Province, URP in the Kalenjin Rift Valley, for CORD, ODM in the Western Luo Provinces, Wiper in the Kamba Provinces and UDF, the third alliance, in the Luhya area. This identity voting, which was “emotional” but not passionate, aroused fears fuelled by post-election rumours including a return to authoritarian practices associated with the regime of President Daniel arap Moi who had already presented the Kenyatta/Ruto ticket in the 2002 presidential election, with the risk of seeing the centre/peripheral divide widen – a dialectic difficult to achieve yet indispensable for national construction, Kenyanism.

19However, these historical perspectives situated between, in the “moyenne durée” the confirmation of “state building” and the rule of law and, in the “longue durée” (long term), the fragility of national construction and “nation building”, must be specified if not exceeded. The Kenyan paradox lies in the conduct of peaceful elections along symbolically violent political behaviour, and gives way to binary analyses that underpin the assumptions of an assumed modernity, or on the contrary to ethnic tensions. It conceals a complexity that should be explored by following several steps or by using certain keys. To do so, once must resort to a short time approach and look at both the “election momentum”, to use a term in vogue, and the incidentals of an unofficial campaign, stemming from the 2008 crisis, as well as the new directions arising from the event. Three unknown issues are worth interrogation concerning the limits of the electoral process, the fragility of the electoral scenario and new political and geopolitical orders.

Unknown post-election issues

Imperfections of the electoral process, the fragility of the electoral scene and the risk of a third post-election round?

  • 23 Statement based on a parallel calculation of votes. ELOG is a platform comprising Kenyan NGOs which (...)
  • 24 These cases were identified by the Supreme Court in 22 counties.
  • 25 According to exit polls (see AFRICOG and J.D. Long’s data in “Choosing peace over democracy”, Journ (...)
  • 26 See elections data online on the Mars Group website.

20On 30 March 2013, the day after Good Friday and the eve of Easter (in a religious country, this date is not neutral), the Supreme Court upheld the official results by rejecting the appeal by CORD. The international, regional, national observer missions, after congratulating the people of Kenya and questioning the nature of discrepancies and malfunctions, acknowledged quickly on 9 March, following the ELOG consortium example,23 the compliance of results and, on 4 April, like the Carter Center, that the elections had offered all the guarantees to respect the political will of the Kenyan people. However, using diplomatic and politically correct language, the national and international civil society supported by the press raised a range of problems from cases and representative samples.24 In addition, delays in the publication of results and audits increased doubts that independent statistics could not dispel: parallel computing by ELOG gives a range of 47% to 52% for Uhuru Kenyatta and 41% to 46% for Raila Odinga and opinion polls in the exit polls place the two candidates side by side.25 In August, the audit by Mars group, an NGO rather suspected of obliging the powers, confirmed the results with minimal error for the benefit of both camps.26

21The audit concerned with the official reports of the polling stations (form 34) prior to aggregated data (form 36) and which re-calculated the results gives them as follows for 32,095 out of 34,680 official reports. Of these 32,095 officially checked documents: 2,180 reports i.e. 6.7% reveal discrepancies between the re-calculated and officially reported data (mainly concerning rejected votes), 848 reports i.e. 2.7% difference between votes cast and those reported. These differences, however, are minimal to the benefit and expense of all the candidates. With regard to the audited data, Uhuru Kenyatta’s total is 5,831,000 votes and Raila Odinga garnered 4,887,000 votes. Official data from 2,585 missing or lost reports which is 7.4% of cast votes reflects partisan territorial trends; out of 943,520 “lost” votes, 360,370 votes were attributed to Uhuru Kenyatta and 467,305 to Raila Odinga. The mapping of these lost documents reveals that they are generally few (less than 2%) except in certain counties (10%) which were either acquired through a coalition (Kilifi, Siaya, Homa Bay, Migori, Machakos, Kitui for CORD and Kiambu, Nyeri for Jubilee) or trilateral counties (Vihiga, Bungoma) where a high turnout in electoral participation is observed.

  • 27 The record of election petitions is kept and maintained by the association of Kenyan lawyers.

22But questions remain concerning the record between the original data of November and the final document (due to corrections imposed by the electronic registration method and additions regarding some categories of the population), the consideration or not of rejected votes for calculating the eligibility threshold in the first round and finally, the gap between voters in the first elections (presidential) compared to subsequent ones (parliamentary) of about 26,491 ballots. Moreover, pleas and petitions increased locally for the other elections (parliamentary, senatorial and for counties) in a now classic fashion,27 as in the 103 pleas for a total of 469 elections in the case of the constituency election.

23If political realism and political calculations prevailed to recognise the outcome of the polls and validate a peaceful change in power – indeed, a potential second round would have confirmed the results of the first round – suspicion remained high for two reasons: the incomplete transparency including the lack of access to the final results of the various elections, and the significance of the systemic or accidental malfunctions of the electoral process. Yet the electoral process was presented, similarly to the country, as a global system and a high-tech package. It allowed for an electronic registration and distribution of voter cards and the compilation of electoral lists (file and paper) displaying the voter and their fingerprints, then for identification in the same way during the elections, and last the live transmission of the results that were to appear on the official website of the electoral commission, the IEBC, and television channels. These logistics added to administrative tasks and equally ambitious communication components (services via internet). For increased objectivity, the system was sectioned to independent operators and markets, but put in place late in a hurry. The two main elements, identification and transmission, did not function well for multiple reasons, including the failure of batteries! So much, so that, there was a recourse to the manual method for official reports and calculation of results.

24Furthermore, consolidating six polls in one day, even if this method avoided a long electoral calendar often disturbed by the withdrawal of the losers in the first election, was as much a challenge of delay for voters who braved it stoically and a logistics burden that the independent commission discovered in an emergency. But in a sensitive election period as is the case for all bipolar elections with differences in limited votes for eligibility in the first round, the sum of malfunctions and conflicting interpretations contribute to undermining the political field and to maintaining in an interactive way the tensions between the two camps and post-election disputes.

25However, the risk of this third legal round is not comparable to previous post-election crises with their string of victims, of violence, and of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Moreover, all the actors, be they winners and losers, gave pledges of peace whether in their speech, their political actions and their initial trips in the country, notably the President’s visit to Kisumu, where his father Jomo Kenyatta had been violently challenged during his last presidential visit in 1969, and Mombasa, a region that had voted for his rival.

26Furthermore, the terrorist attack at Westgate mall on 21 September 2013 reunited a divided political class through national emotion and a mature mobilisation, renewed national unity. This event de facto closes the post-election period, which until this tragedy was still marked by disputes on the legitimacy of the results of the last elections, and strengthens the authority of the new government of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy President William Ruto.

The victory of Uhuru Kenyatta and the defeat of Raila Odinga, beyond ethnic burdens? A generational change?

27The mapping of election results in a somewhat simplified way and the narrow victory of Uhuru Kenyatta in the first round mask a significant difference in vote and thenational distribution of electoral support. With regard to the results, the victory of Uhuru Kenyatta/William Ruto was only partly due to massive assurance of their respective community electorates. It resulted also from their ability to win over outsider ethnic groups and populations, composed of the many undecided voters in populous counties who were campaign stakes, from conquering new positions in the north-east, from having almost equal footing with CORD in “cosmopolitan” regions (inter-ethnic cities) including the capital Nairobi and finally from winning comfortable minorities in the regions of their two main competitors in the West and on the coast. The double objective of ensuring utmost result in their community electorates and at least a minority in the rest of the country was “tricky” because trying too hard to maintain their community affiliation chips away their national image; but it was achieved. These gains, beyond their electoral base (a constant trend described by the polls from November 2012 with a domino effect in the last weeks that the opinion polls boosted), came from the undecided votes. These undecided voters (from 12% to 20% in December 2012) were mostly composed of supporters of the tickets of the third way. In December 2012, political circumstances worked in favour of Jubilee. Among such circumstances were the failure of Musalia Mudavadi’s candidature and his missed alliance with Jubilee, the difficulty of independent candidates to present local candidates and the good choices made in local candidates.

  • 28 These measures are available on the “election” site of the Daily Nation with significant variations (...)
  • 29 The new legislation on campaign accounts was postponed and unexamined till the very end of the last (...)

28Following the example of the Western campaigns, the last two months of the campaign were important and beneficial to the Jubilee coalition for the following reasons. They relied on an investment in a mediatised and modern campaign more in line with a young population and a generational society, used better political communication (audiovisual), resorted to political marketing and to a seductive “double-discourse” to many population segments such as pastoralists, Asian and Arab-Swahili populations, and to an Internet battle, at least a battle of reputation, won in January when on social networks quotes by Uhuru Kenyatta outnumbered those of his rival.28 This was supported by logistics that appeared limitless.29

  • 30 From November 2012 to February 2013, according to opinion polls, the (positive) reputation of the I (...)

29Equally key to the campaign was Jubilee’s ability to turn around negative images they were labelled with as ICC suspects, as candidates of the establishment or of the past, even seen as “bad boys”. Rather, their images, through “story telling” built thanks to spin-doctors or simply experienced political flair delivered in a piecemeal way and throughout the unofficial campaign that began in 2011, presented them as victims of the ICC. This was the result of skilled rhetoric that did not openly challenge international engagement but followed a redemptive religious approach asking for forgiveness in each field visit. This position was particularly dramatic as the two candidates represented the two contending ethnic groups in 2008. Moreover, this approach exaggerated public opinion that favours a return of the ICC to Kenya,30 a solution that politicians had previously challenged. Furthermore, the ICC procedure (notably excluding some key officials) as well as the delay of local procedures for victims (IDPs) gave the impression of manipulation of this issue for political purposes only, even interference, while still pursuing the lawsuit of nationalist veterans of the 1950s against the British government.

  • 31 The Amani coalition consists of the UDF of Musalia Mudavadi, New Ford Kenya and KANU, the former ru (...)

30Finally, isolated from power, both Jubilee candidates could appear not only as the young men they are but as “new men”, estranged or otherwise falling out with their political fathers, former Presidents Mwai Kibaki for Uhuru Kenyatta and Daniel arap Moi for William Ruto who had rather inclined to a candidature of the third way.31 At least they were presented and represented as “digital leaders”, popular in light shirts and caps and comfortable with the new populist leaders of popular neighbourhoods. Given the generational anthropological culture in which the senior/junior conflict underlie most Kenyan ethnic groups, the fact that they sometimes appeared as distant with Kikuyu or Kalenjin notables, was a bonus. In addition to a better mobilisation of their community electorate after a powerful electoral registration in November 2012 of the populations in Central and Rift Valley provinces – a level of participation already observed during the 2010 constitutional referendum – the candidates benefitted from these two self-defence actions: firstly an action of national pride, and secondly an action of identification which took the form of a useful vote in the first round at the expense of “independent” candidates whose electoral scores were well below the satisfaction ratings achieved in the polls. From the first round, this shift of the electorate of independent Kikuyu candidates benefitted Uhuru Kenyatta whereas the maintenance of the third alliance led by Musalia Mudavadi weakened Raila Odinga’s score in the Western region.

  • 32 The inability to weaken the Kikuyu bloc despite support from some Kikuyu businessmen and the absenc (...)

31In contrast, Raila Odinga’s campaign, by default expecting the errors of its rivals, and having a more “established” image through its successful candidates, was less incisive in terms of electoral marketing, political communication and program. It was not based on achievements, merited only by the outgoing President, and only tackled at the end of the campaign – but too late – critical socio-economic, land and even ideological issues. Perhaps in anticipation of a second round, it relied on the assurance of a multi-ethnic peripheral vote and on the process of de-legitimisation of Uhuru Kenyatta by the international community supported by the civil society. However, this moral conviction was counterproductive as his image depreciated following media campaigns and criticism of his family control over the political life of the western regions, while his returning support32 only served to reinforce the image of a party of “big men” and notables.

32The last two major moments were the two debates televised in February 2013, a first in the country. It closed a campaign in favour of Uhuru Kenyatta, more adept at this exercise of audio-visual communication at the expense of Raila Odinga, a candidate who appeared worn, while in the opinion polls, the candidates were neck and neck. This novel exercise, which had a significant impact, formalised a generational change and revealed the national dimension of the candidates, who during the debate on the most sensitive issues, used Swahili in preference to English. The campaign, just like the election results, points to the importance to add nuances to the exclusive ethnic analysis of Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory. National identification and a young electorate also mattered while setbacks with the ICC have served and will continue to serve him in the future in this national situation. But the risk of such a withdrawal exists in so far as the political scene remains fragile.

The complexity of behaviour and political strategies? A new political order?

  • 33 The land conflict in the Rift Valley dates back from the colonial period with the displacement of p (...)
  • 34 The welcome, as well as their departure, the day after their hearing was the object of popular prot (...)
  • 35 About the risk or the fear of a new alliance between GEMA and Kamatusa, a Kalenjin alliance, see B. (...)
  • 36 In each election, the managerial staff in ministries, agencies, diplomatic representations change t (...)

33Far more than the imperfections of the electoral process, it is the fragility, or at least the originality of the new and open political scene, that raises questions. Thus, the ruling coalition appears to be a circumstantial agreement which began at the ICC when William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta were tried. This common destiny brings together two men who, despite being allies in 2002 during the presidential elections, opposed violently in 2007-2008 when William Ruto then an ally of Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta of Mwai Kibaki symbolised the historical Kalenjin/Kikuyu dispute.33 This was initially a circumstance, or a line of defence in the face of adversity which has become a plan of a victorious political conquest and can be a political exit, rather than an electoral pact, for a social crisis that plagues the Rift Valley. The popular reception when they returned to Nairobi34 certainly influenced their presidential strategy, which was originally their best defence against a global government of judges that William Ruto recalled on the day of the announcement of the results as “Vox populi, Vox Dei”. The duo worked well during the campaign and in the “moments of grace” that marked a post-campaign victory. In addition, the composition of the winning ticket (the former ticket of the 2002 elections sponsored by President Daniel arap Moi), the reappearance of KANU, the former ruling party35, and of leadership issues in a two-headed state or during the composition of ministerial teams as well as of counties36 brings fears, among some columnists, of a reaction, if not a return to the practices of a hated regime of racketeering.

34But even if the affiliation with the former regime remains symbolic and circumstances influenced the course of events, the context has changed, thus suggesting a new deal. This would be confirmed at different levels, from voters to politicians. Thus, an examination of votes in the various elections does not reveal a blocked vote. Political behaviours appear to be more “rational” at intermediate levels (governors, senators, MPs and county representatives). Many outgoing candidates were not re-elected and local standards or reputation contributing as much as party accreditation. This paradox of an emotional presidential vote and local rational choices is explained differently by the defence of local interests including management which now depends on decentralised authorities, the tiredness of some historical leaders, or “big men”, and the emergence of new territorial or opinion leaders. Moreover, this renewal from the bottom, which was common in every election including under the ruling party, is less dramatic than in the past. On the one hand, the private sector can hire those leaving the political world – a private/public rotation thus seems to be established in the biography of the new elites – while on the other hand, the expansion of the political life benefits the political class. This modernity is reflected in local political strategies: the positions of governors and senators have been at stake while decentralisation will, if it goes as planned, split large ethnic regional entities, maintain internal rivalries with more social or territorial than identity motivations.

35Beyond the generational renewal of the political class, the new institutional rules including devolution, a balanced and divided distribution policy (behind the two coalitions, 3 if not 4 national parties are present in the political national arena confirmed by the news of party financing first with the losing party ODM and the two “government” parties TNA and URP), and de facto an emergent two-party system, shapes the foundations of a new system on which the new government can build, while policy programmes, hardly different, are part of a pragmatic modernisation whose matrix is Vision 2030 and ideological references. Moreover, the democratic impulse is present; media pluralism is enhanced while democratisation is underway as evidenced by the release of the Report of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission in May 2013. However the challenges of land, IDPs, and poverty still remain.

  • 37 In the words of a Kikuyu political leader, J.M. Kariuki, assassinated in 1975, “Kenya is a country (...)
  • 38 See the analysis of A. Awiti, “What does it take to transform Kenya?” The Star, April 4, 2013.

36Does the economic context account for this orientation? The real and expected growth margins, such as financial and monetary stability, offer the capacity for redistribution and regulation with regard to social issues and expectations raised during the campaign. These issues, which remained discreet during the campaign, are significant. Even if the situation has changed considerably, Kenya is still the land of millionaires and millions of poor people.37 While the new classes have urgent aspirations, the long teachers’ strike in the aftermath of the elections reminded them of this. This transfer of power and the social transformation appear as a historic opportunity for the new government that resembles neither Marcos nor Lula! But President Uhuru Kenyatta has the historic opportunity to transform Kenya, and to preside over the transfer of power to citizens.38

The New Geopolitical Deal

37With the ICC pitfall, the international community (UN, AU) and Kenya were trapped in the management of the 2007-2008 crisis by the process of political compromise imposed in 2008 which reclassified all current political actors although disqualified by the 2007-2008 crisis (the ICC defendants and others). In the name of peace, the international justice calendar has been delayed and is now in front of the accused who, at the time of their hearing, were the losers on the path of political marginalisation but who today can lay claim to democratic legitimacy. This situation is awkward for the three parties: the international justice, the countries (including Kenya), which by having signed the Rome Statute support this process, and Kenya whose exemplary policy is tarnished. In the name of realism and mutual interests, strategic and economic geopolitics imposes its rules in a sensitive environment. Indeed, Kenya experiences a post-colonial crisis of low intensity, the first in its history, while independent attitudes of its East African Community (EAC) partners, the Kenyatta-Museveni-Kagame axis, the geopolitical and strategic situation with a competitive advantage for Asian powers arepushing the new authorities to a hardening on an issue tied with memorybecause of the particular circumstances of the fiftieth anniversary of Independence: the son of the Father of the Nation is accused!

Bibliographie

Bibliography

Bourmaud, D. Histoire politique du Kenya: État et pouvoir local. Paris: Karthala, 1988.

Branch, D. Between Hope and Despair, Kenya 2003-2011. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011.

Grignon, F. and G. Prunier (dir). Le Kenya contemporain. Paris: Karthala, 1998.

Hornsby, C. Kenya, A History Since Independence. London, New York: IB Tauris, 2011.

Kanyinga, K. and D. Okello. Tensions and Reversals in Democratic Transitions: The Kenya 2007 General Election. SID, 2010.

Lafargue, J. “Les élections générales de 2007 au Kenya”, Cahiers d’Afrique de l’Est no. 37 (2008).

Maupeu, H., M. Katumanga and W. Mitullah. The Moi Succession: The 2002 elections in Kenya. Nairobi: IFRA-Transafrica Press, 2005.

Ogot, B. Kenyans, Who Are We? Kisumu: Anyange Press 2012.

Rutten, M., A. Mazrui and F. Grignon (eds.), Out for the Count: The 1997 general elections and prospects for democracy in Kenya. Kampala: Fountain Publishers, 2001.

Throup, D. and C. Hornsby. Multi-Party Politics in Kenya: The Kenyatta & Moi states & the triumph of the system in the 1992 election. Oxford: James Currey, 1998.

Notes

1 Reports on elections are numerous. They comprise the official documents of the IEBC, petitions and decisions of the Supreme Court, reports and press documents of international organisations and NGOs, as well as, among others, those of the EEC (European Economic Community), the AU (African Union), the Carter Center, the NCCK (National Council of Churches of Kenya), AGLI (African Great Lakes Initiative), ICG (International Crisis Group), ELOG (Elections Observation Group, a civil society consortium for election observation), and finally monitoring sites including Usalama Forum, platforms such as Uchaguzi, and blogs on the Internet.

2 Reports by Uchaguzi, an ICT platform that monitors electoral incidents, are very efficient in central and urban places but less efficient in peripheral areas.

3 These practices would usefully be put into perspective with the analyses of historians and historical sociology of politics on the entry of rural societies into politics in the 19th century in Europe.

4 Participation in presidential elections is on the increase: in 1992: 69%; 1997: 65%; 2002: 57%; 2007: 69%; 2010 (referendum) 72%, but relative to the population of voting age, it is only 63%, and the percentage of invalid votes remains constant: in 1997 0.7%; 2002 1.9%; 2007 0.9% and 2013 0.88%.

5 The registration took less time than previously. Urgency marked the different times of this pre-election period.

6 Like “electoral behaviour building” of political practices and electoral culture in the long term.

7 Sunday Nation, February 3, 2013, “Sunday Review”, p. 30.

8 With the “election coverage guidelines” of the MCK (Media Council of Kenya), the IEBC’s “guidelines for media monitoring” and a high level of vigilance against hate speech in regional media and social media with an alert system (via SMS).

9 Compared to Jomo Kenyatta or Mwai Kibaki’s electoral victories.

10 A dynamic or associative opinion as opposed to a static, inherited opinion characteristic of ethnic burdens.

11 In the Braudelian sense of the “longue durée” (long duration), “moyenne durée” (medium duration) and “courte durée” (short duration).

12 Opinion polls (Ipsos Synovate) show that Uhuru Kenyatta’s electorate was more optimistic about their economic future than Raila Odinga’s.

13 Unlike the central regions where registration is traditionally high, peripheral regions have the lowest rates for several reasons: short-term (duration, schedule, instability of the registration period), technical (the far distances and the number of registration centers), structural (mobility, drought) and cultural (low participation of women).

14 According to demographic-health survey data, DHS 2008: 43% of the population lives in conditions of extreme poverty and a majority is found in these areas.

15 There are many elders among families and relations such as councils of elders, of the wise often asked to handle some affairs.

16 The logo of the TNA party, the dove, also evokes the Holy Spirit.

17 Tribes, to use the English term, are ethnic groups that are distinguished by language, singular and sometimes common cultural traits, a territory, a memory and a collective identity without having a clear-cut institutional historywhich are characteristic of chiefdom or royalty. These identities have been manipulated by politicians, sometimes in ways that can be likened to nationalism, while an uneven regional development differentiated them socio-economically. National construction and modernization have superimposed “high culture”, new identities and common languages (English and Swahili), but has not done away with the cultural attachment to this diversity, described as “moral ethnicity”, between a “small country” attached to a territory and a “small nation” attached to a population or a diaspora.

18 The Jubilee coalition consisted of four parties: TNA, URP, RC, Narc, and small local parties; the CORD coalition consisted of the ODM, Wiper DP, Ford Kenya parties and allies; the third coalition, Amani, consisted of the UDF, New FORD-Kenya and KANU.

19 In 2009, the Kikuyu were 17%, the Luo 10%, the Luhya 14%, the Kalenjin 13%, the Kamba 11%, the Kisii 6%, the Mijikenda 5%, the Meru 4%, the Somali 2%, the Turkana 2%, the Maasai 1% and other ethnic groups 14% (national census).

20 The matatu is a public service vehicle, often overloaded, which along its journey carries many passengers to multiple destinations. Competition leads to dangerous driving. These images have been reflected by cartoonists.

21 207 complaints on the primaries were recorded by the IEBC.

22 IEBC data in Yash Pal Ghai’s “Ethnicity, nationhood and pluralism”, Katiba Institute, Nairobi, September 2013.

23 Statement based on a parallel calculation of votes. ELOG is a platform comprising Kenyan NGOs which deployed 7,000 observers and 1,000 observers involved in parallel computing.

24 These cases were identified by the Supreme Court in 22 counties.

25 According to exit polls (see AFRICOG and J.D. Long’s data in “Choosing peace over democracy”, Journal of democracy, XXIV, 3 July 2013, pp. 140- 155) which only covered 2,983 and 6,258 people with high rates of non-responses; this cannot replace estimations by lack of a representative sample of reference stations.

26 See elections data online on the Mars Group website.

27 The record of election petitions is kept and maintained by the association of Kenyan lawyers.

28 These measures are available on the “election” site of the Daily Nation with significant variations depending on Facebook and Twitter.

29 The new legislation on campaign accounts was postponed and unexamined till the very end of the last Parliament.

30 From November 2012 to February 2013, according to opinion polls, the (positive) reputation of the ICC went from 66% to 56%, while the majority of Kenyans, including figures in the CORD alliance, was for the return of the ICC to the Kenyan courts.

31 The Amani coalition consists of the UDF of Musalia Mudavadi, New Ford Kenya and KANU, the former ruling party of President Moi.

32 The inability to weaken the Kikuyu bloc despite support from some Kikuyu businessmen and the absence of George Saitoti, who died in a helicopter crash, who represented a part of the Kikuyu and Maasai electorate, influenced this political game. In addition, a biography on Raila Odinga, which came out in two stages, in the summer of 2012 then in January 2013, by one of his former assistants, Miguna Miguna, weakened his respectable image. The “big men” represent notables who controlled regions in the Jomo Kenyatta and Moi era, a time now past; some of these iconic figures supported Raila Odinga.

33 The land conflict in the Rift Valley dates back from the colonial period with the displacement of people due to the allocation of land to settlers. Since then, the redistribution of land has fanned disputes, also fuelled by structural demographic and economic trends as the anthropological Kikuyu model pushes juniors to emigrate and clear out beyond their community space while the latifundary system limits small family property and creates a rural proletariat.

34 The welcome, as well as their departure, the day after their hearing was the object of popular protests and the starting point of the KKK alliance project, Kikuyu/Kalenjin/Kamba of Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto and Kalonzo Musyoka who later became a CORD running mate.

35 About the risk or the fear of a new alliance between GEMA and Kamatusa, a Kalenjin alliance, see B. Ogot (2012).

36 In each election, the managerial staff in ministries, agencies, diplomatic representations change to which are added new members of county teams.

37 In the words of a Kikuyu political leader, J.M. Kariuki, assassinated in 1975, “Kenya is a country of 10 millionaires and 10 million beggars”. This remains, in part, true.

38 See the analysis of A. Awiti, “What does it take to transform Kenya?” The Star, April 4, 2013.

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