Mukalo Kwayera @Kwayeram
So much can happen in a year. Literally, Kenya is the proverbial phoenix. Exactly 12 months since it held a divisive General Election, is rising from the ashes.
Last year yesterday, Kenyans went to the polling booths intent on electing leaders of their choice in a six-tier poll against the backdrop of blood, deaths, despondency, incitement, fear and general uncertainty.
Incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta of Jubilee Party was declared the winner of the controversial, hotly contested presidential race with 8.2 million votes against 6.7 million of Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who was the candidate for the National Super Alliance (Nasa).
Five other competitors got less than 1,000 votes each while Uhuru’s party won majority seats countrywide at National Assembly, gubernatorial and Senatorial levels.
Raila disputed the outcome of the presidential race and moved to the Supreme Court to challenge Uhuru’s victory. The court agreed with his legal team’s arguments and, on September 1, citing “illegalities and irregularities” by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) invalidated the results of the August 8 presidential election.
IEBC set the repeat poll for October 26. However, the Nasa team withdrew, arguing that IEBC was ill-equipped to conduct another exercise and went ahead to float a raft of demands it dubbed “Irreducible Minimums” before its flag-bearer could take part in it.
Uhuru emerged victorious again, this time with a 98 per cent rating though with a very low voter turnout of 37 per cent. In four counties; Siaya, Migori, Kisumu and Homa elections did not take place.
Before and after the October 26 repeat poll, Nasa followers staged a series of mass protests, most of which ended in violent confrontations with the police, leading to the loss of tens of lives across the country even as the Nasa supremo triggered calls for his swearing-in as the people’s president, a pledge that he dramatically fulfilled on January 30 at Uhuru Park.
It has since emerged that Raila had secretly taken another oath at his Karen home two days earlier. Raila’s Uhuru Park theatrics ushered in a new epoch.
To the shock of his followers and nemesis, he emerged on the steps of Harambee House, where the Office of the President is located, in the company of Uhuru. They shook hands and announced a political truce and a two-man working relationship known as the Building Bridges Initiative.
People Daily has since learned that by the time the now famous Handshake took place, key Western powers led by the European Union, United Kingdom and the United States were on the verge of cancelling Raila’s visas and declaring him a pariah in the respective countries.
To the amazement of the entire nation, it was established that both Uhuru and Raila had been holding behind-the-scenes parleys to formulate a rapprochement through which they hoped to hold the country together and restore economic, social and political stability.
The Handshake has — to a considerable degree— managed to cool political temperatures across the country and stabilised the business environment. It has, on the hand, rattled both Jubilee and Nasa outfits where discord and disharmony are publicly evident.
Lately though, Kalonzo Musyoka of the Wiper Democratic Movement (WDM) has declared support for Uhuru whereas Musalia Mudavadi of Amani National Congress (ANC) maintains that he supports the unity bid but would not be incorporated into the current administration.
On his part, Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula who heads Ford Kenya party has been thrown under the bus after Raila’s Orange Democratic Movement engineered his ouster as the Opposition Leader of Minority in the Senate where Siaya Senator James Orengo replaced him.
But beneath the camaraderie that has accompanied the Handshake lies what analysts still consider as the elephant in the room; IEBC, easily the genesis of the election-related cycle of violence that has continually gripped Kenya each voting year.
IEBC has been left to operate as a shell, with Chief Executive Ezra Chiloba being sent on compulsory leave over alleged malpractices while three of its commissioners have resigned, leaving only three others.
On the positive side, the government has engaged on a serious purge on corruption that has seen a number of suspects hauled in courts to face graft-related charges.