Elections in Kenya 2017: September update

Posted by on Sep 17, 2017 in News, Stannard | No Comments

This is a brief update on the political situation in Kenya. It is not a detailed analysis of what is happening in the country, but rather an outline to enable Pamoja supporters to pray. We do not get involved in party politics, but we pray for the election of politicians who are not corrupt, and who are fair to all, who care for the poor and who seek to follow the example of the Lord Jesus in not looking to their own interests but rather to the interests of others. Many Kenyan politicians claim to be Christian: please pray that they live out their faith in their daily lives.

General elections were held in Kenya on 8 August 2017 to elect the President, members of Parliament and devolved governments in regional areas. Many Kenyans fear elections, remembering the terrible violence that erupted after the 2007 election when over 1000 people were killed and many more displaced. One of the workers at our Care Centre in Nairobi was an innocent victim of that violence, losing her home and all her possessions, and witnessing horrific scenes. Elections are held against a background of tribalism, with the Kikuyus (Kenyatta’s tribe), who are largest tribe and their allies, facing the Luos (Odinga’s tribe), who are the second largest tribe and their allies. Nairobi contains a complex mix of tribes, though the poorer areas tend to favour Odinga. The area around the Magina School and Care Centre, near Kisumu, is a Luo stronghold.

The 8th August elections were reported to have passed off relatively peacefully, though there were reports of around 30 deaths and some violent demonstrations, including around 25 kiosks being burned in Ahero, the nearest town to our Magina work. Though we are shocked by this level of violence, and it is tragic that people should lose their lives and businesses, Kenyans were generally thankful that things were not worse.

The reported results indicated that incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta was re-elected with just over 54% of the vote. His main rival, Raila Odinga (the only other candidate with a realistic chance of being elected), gained just under 45%. International observers said that the poll was generally free and fair. However, Odinga immediately challenged the result, claiming that there had been fraud in the way the votes were counted. Following a few days when he called for national strikes, he instead took his grievances to the Supreme Court, which he is entitled to do. The strikes did not materialise, as the ordinary people of Kenya simply needed to go back to work to earn money so they could eat!

To everyone’s surprise, on 1st September the Supreme Court declared the result of the presidential election null and void, though two of the six judges did not agree with this verdict. The majority of judges stated that the IEBC (Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission) had not run the election according to the constitution, though as of 14th September, they have still to report their detailed findings. This detailed ruling is due to be released by 22nd September. The court said that the election had to be re-run within 60 days: the new date has now been announced as Tuesday 17th October – a day for your prayers, please.

Odinga was jubilant: Kenyatta said that although he disagreed with the verdict, he would respect it (though he has subsequently spoken about ‘fixing’ the Supreme Court if he is re-elected). However, the situation at present is far from clear. The basic problem is that the IEBC were blamed for the problems with the election, but they are still the people who are charged with running the new election. Odinga is wants some of the commissioners to be sacked, alleging that they are partisan, and he is pushing for access to IEBC’s electronic voting and result transmission system. Unless changes are made, he is threatening to boycott the 17th October election. It is hard to see a way forward that will satisfy everyone.

There is much more detail on the BBC African news pages of their website, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/c4b75bba-56ca-4db4-80c8-7ef25a77ec64/kenya-general-election-2017 and on Kenyan news pages such as www.nation.co.ke

Please pray:
• For a peaceful and just outcome to the present crisis
• For a new government that will govern for all the people of Kenya
• For politicians of all parties and tribes to come together as servants of the
• For Christians to have a real influence in national life

And finally, more personally, we have booked flights to Kenya for 11th October. We did this a while ago, thinking that the outcome of the election would be settled by then. Our plan is to spend only a short time in Nairobi, then travel to Magina before the elections: a rural area should be safer, and it should still be possible to do some useful work. If the situation escalates before we go (and certainly if the Foreign Office is advising against travel) we will postpone our trip, but at present we feel it is right to go ahead. Please pray for wisdom in all respects.

Sue & Richard Stannard