Kenyans went to the polls yesterday, for the second time in under three months, for a repeat exercise to elect their president. The election was a watershed moment for the nation as it provided an opportunity to express their choice after the August presidential poll result was invalidated by the Supreme Court, citing irregularities and illegalities.
The run up to yesterday’s exercise was a massive challenge to Kenyans given that the nullification had fanned political and ethnic distrust and dredged uncertainty to a level that was rapidly straining social relationships and more worryingly, undermining the economy.
It was also tarring our reputation as regional heavyweight with critical geo-strategic and diplomatic leverage. Political players took sharply divergent and unfortunately polarising positions prompting calls for Jubilee Party and the National Super Alliance leaders to meet and chart out a path that would move us away from the edge.
The options were holding repeat poll as directed by the Supreme Court and in accordance with the law yesterday or postponing it, which would have heightened anxiety, tension and contravened the Constitution.
It’s against this backdrop that Kenyans went to the poll yesterday. In many respects, it was a far from perfect exercise. Like is characteristic with repeat polls, the turnout was less than expected but kudos to those who, in exercise of their right to choose, defied the unfavourable weather to cast their vote.
This was the case in large swathes of Kenya though as was widely expected, other regions mainly pro-Nasa, opted out, and while at it, belligerently too, raising political voltage. With yesterday’s exercise behind us, it is time the nation eased away from a cycle where every poll casts fear, a sense of trepidation and inflames negative passions.
Most Kenyans respected each other’s choices to vote or boycott. That is the stuff of democracy. However, as a largely needless altercation between Jubilee and Nasa legislators last evening showed, the country urgently needs a roadmap to healing evident divisions. It is time for leaders to put Kenya first. The fresh election was a legal and constitutional imperative.
It’s now time for leaders to address the political impasse which, in truth, is the elephant in the room. The issues raised by multi-sectoral platform comprising non-political stakeholders in recent weeks to close the chasm between Jubilee and Nasa leaders deserve attention.
Leaders have no choice but to summon patriotism, selflessness and conviction, and lower the barriers obstructing honest conversation that could ultimately herald a way forward where everybody is a winner. Kenyans deserve no less.