Kenya’s peculiar democracy on show

Poster, poster on the wall, who is the nastiest of them all? That aptly describes Kenya’s peculiar democracy, which for the next few weeks will be showcased in all its gory. Yes, the party abominations (sorry) nominations have kicked off in earnest.

Busia county has had the singular horror of staging the opening act. And it did not disappoint. The battle for ODM ticket for the governor’s seat between incumbent Sospeter Ojaamong’ and Paul Otuoma had all the ingredients of a typical Kenyan election.

First, it started with fake news. No, that term was not invented by Donald Trump or the internet. Fake news is as old as Kenyan democracy. The best way to trip your opponent on election day is ensure voters wake up to leaflets claiming the opponent has defected to the “enemy” party or has withdrawn from the contest altogether.

On Thursday morning, Otuoma’s supporters woke up to a screaming “newspaper headline” announcing the Funyula MP’s defection to Jubilee. The county now has the dubious honour of being the first in the world to take fake news offline.

The “defection” notwithstanding, Otuoma still participated in the ODM nominations. And as sure as the sun rises in the morning, the results were contested. And in Kenya’s time honoured style, the contesting happened, not in the courts, but in the streets with chants, insults, brawls and bonfires.

The complaints? Stuffed ballot boxes, stolen ballot boxes, voter turnout bursting voters’ register… Luckily for Otuoma and his supporters, the party listened and promised a re-match on April 25. There are no guarantees that the re-match will depart from the script.

Busia was a curtain raiser. For the next 12 days, there will be similar drama particularly in areas where getting one’s hands on the dominant party ticket is as good as winning the General Election.It’s time to get that certificate by hook or by crook. It’s do or die.
­—Kipkoech Komugor

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