Lessons from Kenya

The presidential election in Kenya has come and gone but the ripples are still reverberating. After the initial proclamation of results by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission IEBC, Raila Odinga, representing a coalition of satellite parties took exception to its verdict and seized the Supreme Court, predicating his action on alleged impropriety in the procedure of collating results. Of course, the principal accused was the IEBC.

The legal tussle lasted for as long as it was necessary for the Supreme Court judges to sail through the weighty evidence tendered by the Odinga camp. From the outset there was seemingly very high chances of the Supreme Court overturning the IEBC decision. The plaintiff relied on the overt division that prevailed among the Commission members, in which the vice Chairperson and four other members posed as dissenting voices. In the end, William Ruto, erstwhile Vice President, who had lost the favour of his boss, Uhuru Kenyatta, was proclaimed President-elect. This has put paid to an unrewarding odyssey for the Odinga family, that has lingered from father to son, for more than four decades.

Kenyan politics is not very different from what obtains in Cameroon, given that two main ethnic groups Kukuyu and Luo have dominated its political arena just like the Muslim dominated Northern Cameroon and the Betis have monopolised governance in Cameroon. This political rivalry began surfacing as far back as the advent of independence when Oginga Odinga, a Luo and father of Raila Odinga, pitched camp against Jomo Kenyatta, a Kikuyu, widely acclaimed as the father of Kenyan independence and father of Uhuru Kenyatta.

Unfortunately, for the Odinga dynasty, the patriarch died without realising his ambition of becoming Keya’s head of state. After Kenyatta, ArapMoi, a Luo emerged and after him Mwai Kibaki, another Kikuyu, succeeded him as president, before the emergence of Uhuru after a hotly contested election against Raila Odinga. The same misfortune befell the Odinga dynasty when Raila lost against Uhuru in the latter’s second term quest. In all, it has been a game of ping-pong between the Kikuyus and the Luos.

Interestingly, Ruto, the president-elect, is another Kikuyu, who has emerged victorious, in spite of the surprising rapprochement between the outgoing president and his erstwhile arch-rival. The internecine squabble between Uhuru and Ruto, draws heavily on inflated egos that eventually deteriorated into deliberate machination to bar the Vice President from becoming head of state. Unfortunately for Kenyatta, the Kikuyu have a formidable political base rooted in their natural inclination to business, and by extension, control of the economy. This circumstance, coupled with the fact that Ruto, is a grass-to-grace mythical success story, attracted the sympathy of other politicians who aligned with him to form a formidable force against Odinga.

Of course, the Kikuyus would not have sat back and watched one of theirs being deprived of a glaring opportunity to be at the helm of state affairs. Hence, Ruto’s resounding victory in Kikuyu land. All the support Uhuru Kenyatta brought to bear on Raila Odinga’s campaign, failed to yield the expected political dividends as victory, went to someone who did not rely on a known name in Kenyan politics. As a successful self-made businessman, the president-elect had already endeared himself to many who see in him the incarnation of equal opportunities for all. His successful bid for the presidency translates into immeasurable possibilities that abound for the ordinary Kenyan on a level playing ground, provided on a platter of gold by their Supreme Court.

The parallel to be drawn from this with our instant case in Cameroon is that there is every possibility of uprooting the current CPDM political gangrene that has clung on the polity like a bloodsucker, in the last 40 years. The opposition against Doctor William Ruto, the president elect in Kenya, was formidable, if not insurmountable. He had, ab initio, fallen out with his erstwhile mentor and political boss, Uhuru Kenyatta, whom he assisted as Vice President. This, was regardless of the fact that they are both Kikuyus. He rallied forces behind him and beat Raila Odinga, who had the support of the incumbent President.

In our case, barring the successful attempt by the Union for Change in 1992 presidential election, there has been no concerted effort to throw the CPDM out of power. Issues emergent from bloated egos, tribalism, nepotism and pettiness undergirded by inordinate ambition and greed, have always barred attempts to work towards a consensus candidate for the opposition. Even those who are clearly not fit to be called leaders because of overt lack of followership, still insist on running as presidential candidates, in the hope that crumbs from the master’s table, represented in ministerial appointments and other perks, would be at their disposal in the aftermath of elections.

Another lesson worth emulation from the Kenyan election is the expeditiousness of the proclamation of the results. Within a space of one week, the results were announced by the IEBC paving the way for contentious issues to be addressed and redressed. The same promptness came on board as soon as the Supreme Court was put on notice by Raila Odinga, who discountenanced the handling of results collation by the IEBC. Despite the volume of evidence and the number of legal minds appearing for the plaintiff and the defence, the judges, speedily divested themselves of the assignment, by leaning on the weighty evidence brought before them by both parties. This is a direct aberration of what is customary in Cameroon wherein the Supreme Court and its successor, the Constitutional Council, turn simple legal assignments into rocket science that requires invocation of arcane procedures and jurisprudence to unravel. Such delays, even if for irreproachable reasons, dilute and even diminish the confidence that would ordinary reside in such an institution. Moreover, the astuteness of the sitting judges in the case of Kenya, leaves no one in doubt that whatever the verdict that eventually emerges from perusal of the evidence in front of them, will be acceptable to all and sundry.

Unfortunately, in our case, the selection of judges for such a sovereign assignment by the head of state, would already reek of latent inclination to reward loyalty in the stead of competence. This explains Justice Alexis Dipanda Muelle, President of the Supreme Court’s verdict in 1992, to the effect that the presidential election was flawed but his hands were tied by the fact that he was expected to make known the results as presented and not to scrutinise the returning sheets. This, alone, was enough to inflame the losers, and by the same token, engender breach of public peace. Fortunately, for Cameroon, that did not turn out to be the case. Nevertheless, we seem not to be learning from other climes where high premium is placed on an unimpeachable judiciary.

Nepotism and corruption still underpin appointments to such highly strategic positions.

All of this is because such assignments that in normal circumstance require the best minds as their decisions affect the whole nation, are left in the hands of cronies. This is done in complete disregard of the fact that whoever is eventually declared victor, has the whole nation to contend with. Errors of omission or commission would have nation-wide repercussions. However, since the guiding principle is tribal interest, we prefer to run the country as a private estate in which fellow citizens are labourers while a chosen few who eat crumbs from the master’s table do the job of overseers and managers.

In this conspiracy of the rich against the poor, we can hardly have the kind of scenario that has just panned out in the aftermath of the Kenyan elections. Figures, in our clime, must be doctored on returning sheets to favour the ruling party. This way, there is assurance that the incumbent stays in power so that his coterie of corrupt and insensitive hangers-on continues to deprive those who elected them from enjoying the fruits of humane governance.

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