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After the Spotlight: Following Post-Election Kenya

1 Apr

On 26 March 2013, The World Policy Institute and Fireside Research presented After the Spotlight: Following Post-Election Kenya, a panel discussion featuring, via skype from Kenya, John Githongo, CEO of Inuka Kenya Ltd. and Kwame Owino, CEO of the Institute of Economic Affairs. The panel discussion was moderated by Eddie Mandhry, Associate Director of NYU Africa House, and hosted by Cleary Gottlieb Steen and Hamilton LLP in New York City.

The panel discussion intended to investigate the challenges arising from the most recent elections in Kenya, particularly in the light of the domestic, regional and global complications of the 2007 elections. With over 1000 people dead, 350,000 people displaced, and the mass violence that erupted in the 2007 elections, this discussion was pertinent to the goals and mission of Global Action to Prevent War, which seeks to address broad themes and issues related to human security in diverse global regions.

On 4 March 2013, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were elected as President and Deputy President Elect of Kenya, respectively. Kenyatta, who is the son of the first Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta, has been accused by the International Criminal Court of committing crimes against humanity in the 2007 elections. President Elect Kenyatta has since been summoned to The Hague for such indictment of war crimes. Furthermore, in 2010, Kenya became party to the Rome Statute.

The panel discussion began with outlining the importance of ethnicity and identity in Kenyan politics. According to Githongo, this election has been the most important election in Kenyan history since its independence as it marks a new constitution based on so-called “Western liberal models.” Moreover, a new voting procedure was put in place. This included a high-tech biometric voter registration system, on which $250 million was spent, and the electoral provinces were expanded from 8 to 47 providing for new positions and constituencies to encourage free and fair elections and greater representativeness. In this same vein, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan founded the Election Management Body Policy, which seeks to address arising problems as well as to prevent election-related violence.

Unfortunately, the digital portion of the election failed. The IEBC, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, the so-called contracted election “watchdog,” claimed that the new biometric voter identification system failed. However, opposition parties claim that this was a conspiracy to rig the elections. The two main opposition parties have since contested the results of the election, and, as a result, the official results are still pending.


  • So far, many governments from the international community have already called President Elect Uhuru Kenyatta to congratulate him on the elections. These governments include China and other African Nations. Given this, if the Kenyan Supreme Court upholds Kenyatta’s election, what are the implications for an indictment against Kenyatta by the ICC? What if Kenyatta fails to present himself to the ICC?
  • If the Supreme Court does not uphold Kenyatta’s election, another election will need to be held within 60 days. Does Kenya have enough money to do so?  Even more so, does the country have the capacity to do so?
  • If Kenyatta is confirmed, do we suspect there to be violence?
  • Are the institutions that were responsible for this election facing court charges for their handling of the elections?
  • What kind of media was used during the Kenyan elections? Was this majority negative or positive?
  • What kind of campaign was conducted before the elections?


In the event that the Supreme Court decides on a run-off, the question of who will run the election will be tantamount. Githongo made it very clear that Kenya does not have the capacity to run another election within 60 days following the results of the Supreme Court decision. He stated that perhaps the international community could step in to run a second election, but likewise warned that Kenyans may see this as imperialist sentimentalism, which is already a sensitive issue in Kenya. Therefore, having the international community intervene in this matter may not be a viable option either. He also noted that the Kenyan people have the will and capacity to carry out the elections if necessary, but that they do not have sufficient technological capacity necessary to do so.

Githongo argued that since politics in Kenya have been organized around ethnic lines, this election has consolidated such ethnic-based attitudes even further. Furthermore, there is an ethnic divide among the Kenyan leadership that includes ethnic supremacy and entitlement. The “losers” of the 2007 and 2013 elections continue to feel exclusion from the leadership system and continue to feel as though there has been insufficient justice in the matter. This obviously also increases the likelihood of violence.

Githongo described the silence of the Kenyan people as powerful and that it speaks to the narratives that were cultivated along ethnic lines during the previous election. According to Githongo, there is a “narrative of exclusion” that constitutes an emphasis on numbers such that if an individual is not a part of the right numbers, then one’s vote does not count.

Githongo also explained that the ICC has played a huge role in the external messages of the elections, which has created a dichotomous relationship based on whether or not one supports the ICC. According to Githongo, these messages have been relayed quite simply as: “If you do not support the ICC, then you are not a nationalist and if you support the ICC, then you are an imperialist.” The campaigns were structured in such a way that communicated to citizens that they were not voting against an individual, but rather against the country or against the Western forces.

Githongo stated that it is important to speak about the role the media has played in the coverage of this election. Since the media was accused in 2007 of fueling the violence that ensued post-elections, it is now over-compensating by being ‘overly-cautious’ not to report, on the even “soft violence,” which is happening across the country. It would seem that the media is censoring itself.

Overall, Githongo stated that this election has caused Kenya to revert backwards in terms of its democratization process. Additionally, there is a worry that in the future, depending on the outcome of the ICC trials and the Supreme Court decision, on whether or not to uphold Kenyatta and Ruto’s victory.

It is expected that the incoming government will have to take Kenya out of what Githingo described as a “hole.” Addressing this “hole” is imperative as Kenya is geopolitically important to the international community and global economy. With the discovery of coal, oil and many other mineral elements, it has been argued that the Kenyan private and financial sector is positioned to take off in terms of capital formation, the quality of education and human capital, and skilled labor within the workforce, particularly with regards to financial services.


****Since this panel discussion, the Kenyan Supreme Court has upheld the election of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto even with the former’s impending summons to The Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity. 


–Shari Smith, Intern GAPW