Kenya Decides: Will It Be Calm Before The Storm?
Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, is quiet on the eve of an election, now tagged an election like no other. The city of 3.2 million people is a ghost of itself as residents have mostly moved to their counties of origin to vote. Those who have the means and the access have left the country to watch what happens tomorrow from outside.
Speaking to SaharaReporters, Juanita Kamuya, a Dallas-based Kenyan on her way back to the United States on the eve of the election, said that she would be watching the outcome from afar.
“I hope it is peaceful,” she said. She expressed skepticism that whoever wins would bring about any change.
“The problem with politicians that we have in this country is that it is all about talks. They never do any thing. We don’t have any hope. It is really bad now, can it get worse?”
On their part, the candidates of the ruling Jubilee Party and the opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) concluded their campaigns on Saturday. Both President Uhuru Kenyatta and his challenger, Raila Odinga, have expressed confidence that they would triumph.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (L) and his deputy, William Ruto (R), appear before a rally ahead of the 2017 election
“What you are seeing is calm before the storm,” said Ms. Njeri, a political observer in Nairobi who declined to give her last name for fear of political repercussions. Njeri said she was in Nairobi in 2007 when violence broke out after that year’s polls.
“It started like this – calm. All it takes is for one of the candidates to dispute the results.”
On their part, the candidates spent Sunday attending church services. They have all appealed for a peaceful election and each of them have vowed to accept the outcome of the election.
But the polls before the election are showing a very tight race. Famed cartoonist for the Standard newspaper, Godfrey Mwampembwa, popularly known as Gado, agreed.
“It is difficult to say who will win. I think it is going to be a tight race,” he told SaharaReporters at Buni TV’s office in Nairobi. His political satire focuses on the election centers on having a free and fair election, the issues of corruption and integrity of the candidates, the surge of populism around the world and how the Kenyan election compares with other elections in Africa.
“I’ve compared this election with many African elections and where we can avoid pitfalls experienced by other African nations,” he said.
Anxiety is high as amongst the populace as they wait for what tomorrow will bring. The Tallying Center of Independent Election and Boundary Commission (IEBC), the agency that is running the election has become a security fortress closed to all but just a few with special access. Over 300 international journalists are in the country to cover the election. As security concerns increase, the government has deployed over 150, 000 police officers.
Former US Secretary of State, John Kerry, yesterday praised the preparedness of IEBC. Mr. Kerry is in Kenya as the leader of the Carter Center Observation delegation. As ballot materials arrive at different counties, hundreds of registered voters were seen flocking Hoduma centers to collect their ID cards in readiness for tomorrow.
But whatever happens, the election will bring to an end the political career of some of the oldest names in Kenyan politics. Raila Odinga, a four-time presidential candidate and the son of Kenya’s first Vice President will not be running for another election if he loses. It is the same with Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of the first president, Jomo Kenyatta.
“In the end, for Kenyans sake, I hope that everything will point to a free and fair election and if they will be complaints and dissatisfied people it shouldn’t be problematic,” Godfrey Mwampembwa said. “In other words, I really hope it is a free and fair and credible election.”
Raila Odinga, running on the National Super Alliance ticket, is running for president of Kenya for the fourth time
Sahara Reporters, New York