Kenya teeters very close to the brink

The current levels of tension ahead of the re run of the presidential election is dangerous

The  build up to the re-run of Kenya’s presidential election is proving to be a maelstrom that has its citizens and observers worried for the future of East Africa’s biggest economy.

The run up to the now annulled August 8 election was tense but had a healthy dose of issue based debates between the leading parties,Jubilee and NASA as their leaders canvassed for votes across the 47 counties of Kenya.

The re-run campaign has been all but that with both parties adopting hard line stances since the Supreme Court ruling that cancelled Uhuru Kenyatta's victory. There has been a resort to almost scorched earth tactics by both sides with very little progress or compromise in the date or details of the new election.

Raila Odinga’s NASA party has resorted to political bullying of the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC),the body mandated by law to run the election by announcing two demonstrations per week across the country to force changes in personnel  at the Commission it holds responsible for the “alleged rigging” of the August polls and has shown no intention of slowing down or changing its tactics.

The governing Jubilee party’s strategy has been to use the legislature where it holds sway to push through changes in the electoral law of the country in a bid to ensure “ there is no ambiguity in the electoral process”.

These changes include prioritising a manual count over electrical transmission of results in the event of a dispute among others. Suffice to say the opposition is not enthused and has refused to take part in the process of amendment.

There has been a noticeable change in the tone of discourse between the two parties with the level now at full scale invectives at rallies and news conferences.

Uhuru Kenyatta,has been labelled a “drug user and alcoholic” by several elements of the opposition while Raila Odinga has also suffered his fair share of name calling over the past month.

The build up of daily invectives,accusations and threats instead of campaigning by both parties has seeped down to the streets with daily clashes between riot police and demonstrators getting deadlier by the day.

The indefinite closure of the  country’s leading university,the University of Nairobi ,after a weekend where riot police were called in to halt protests by sections  of students against the perceived state sponsored persecution of Embakasi East member  of parliament ,Paul Ongili,popularly called Babu Owino, has worsened an already precarious security situation.

The economy has also struggled to recover .The government has been hit with several strikes from university lecturers and nurses as well. According to the Standard newspaper, counties in the country are also struggling to pay salaries and projects  after delays in the release of disbursements from the central government . Investors have adopted a wait and see attitude with several sectors at a slow down.

Victor Chesang, Human Resource manager at Sovereign Group Ltd said that in the last few months business, especially real estate, has been the major casualty due to the highly polarised political environment.

"The real estate is on its knees and if this political situation persists, it will be on its belly as investors are watching and waiting to perform post-election postmortem," Mr Chesang told the Nation newspaper.

Some are hopeful of a quick return to form once the tension abates,like  the CEO of the the country’s Capital Markets Authority ,Paul  Mathura who told  the Standard  newspaper ,“the uncertainty on the election date which shifted may have played a role but generally we have been recovering. Investors look at long-term trends and once the uncertainties clear out, after the election is over, they will take up positions.”

The country and the rest of Africa can only look on and hope.


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