Achieving real freedom just got harder for opposition activists

Maina Kiai by Maina Kiai
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It is often said that Kenya can be frustrating and complicated, but it is never boring. And as we end the year, this saying has proven accurate. For we take one step forward and then two steps back, coming to the brink of real change that we deserve as Kenyans, but never quite getting there.

Jubilee Party may feel victorious after this year, but we have not resolved the issues that drag us down as a country, and threaten our stability if not our existence as a nation. In fact, we can say without fear of contradiction that the divisions in our country, the anger and frustrations have only increased. 

No matter the decisions of the Supreme Court — and each time they are unanimous you know something is weird — what we have learnt should worry us all. As long as the electoral system remains as is; as long as we have an IEBC that is compromised — by their own admission — then we know that elections as a peaceful way to resolve leadership questions, project policy directions, and implement pro-people change is not viable.


What we now know as a country is that the votes of the people do not count and the election goes how IEBC and the state decide. In other words, 2017 has taught a large majority that presidential elections are predetermined.

Paradoxically, the predetermination of the elections damages the credibility and legitimacy of the person declared winner, which perhaps explains the silly and legally illiterate definition of treason that the Attorney General is tossing around.

The predictability of the election is cold comfort to Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, the US, UK and German Embassies, and other Jubilee supporters, such as the Church and KEPSA, even if they think that otherwise.


Why? Because the absence of hope and trust in elections inevitably means instability, and perhaps chaos, as the disenfranchised seek alternative means to be heard, to be included and to see a new Kenya that is not just two tribes in power. It signals our decline in democratic standards and values and confirms us as a fragile state for the foreseeable future.

It also confirms that despite the blood, sweat and tears that got us a new Constitution in 2010 (which those in power actively opposed), we are still not out of the Moism that almost brought us to our knees — economically and figuratively — in 24 years.

Those who believe in uthamaki should note that this also means that 2022 is already decided, barring an “act of God” or other events that can change the current trajectory. 

Numbers will count for zilch in 2022; what will matter is who counts the “votes” and how. So they better start preparing for a repeat of the Moi days, because their wealth and power will surely need to be cut down to size — just as in the 1980s.


The opposition leaders should learn the lessons of 2017, even as bribes and offers are thrown their way. Without serious electoral justice and accountability, they have no chance of winning the presidency. 

The only way would be to take over Jubilee, but that already has its owners and they can only get crumbs from the table, with a huge dose of humiliation.

For them, the next years should not be about the presidency or succession within Nasa. This struggle has not been about them: not about Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka or Musalia Mudavadi. 

This has been a struggle about fulfilling the promises of the Constitution, and remaking Kenya in a way that gives dignity to the excluded majority.


They need to keep their eyes on that prize. Or they will be swept away in ways they could not have imagined.

It is for this reason that so many Kenyans are unhappy with the constant postponements of the “swearing in.” This is not about legality. It is not about Mr Odinga. It simply symbolises — with other actions and events — that the struggle has been joined and that there is unfinished business to achieve the 3rd liberation. Not doing it, especially when it makes Jubilee that nervous, will inevitable begin the search of new leaders to lead the charge forward.

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