The kenyan 2002 elections - lessons learnedby Macharia Munene
Among the warning lessons are the following:
WARNING LESSONSLesson 1: Avoid Making Bad-faith Laws or Constitutional Amendments
Bad-faith laws and constitutional amendments are often made to protect and benefit special interests or to victimize others. Such misuse of office has detrimental long-term effects on those who abuse office and their actions sometimes boomerang. An excursion into Kenya's post-colonial past will show that one political party, the Kenya African National Union (KANU) dominated the political landscape and that this dominance became synonymous with the activities of the president. This was particularly the case with Daniel arap Moi: the laws and the amendments that he imposed returned to haunt him because they restricted him.
This practice started after the general election in May 1963 that was supervised by the British Colonial officials. KANU won the election overwhelmingly against its main rival, the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU), a party that seemingly had colonial endorsement and against the African People's Party or APP that had closely allied itself to KADU. Prominent KADU leaders included Ronald Ngala, Daniel arap Moi, and Masinde Muliro. These men reportedly represented the interests of the Mijikenda, the Kalenjin, and the Luhya, respectively. The APP was a creation of Paul Ngei, a jail-mate of Jomo Kenyatta during the Mau Mau War; it attracted substantial support from the Akamba. Within a year of independence, however, KADU and APP disbanded and left KANU unchallenged as a political party.
The disbanding of KADU and APP was in part because there was no serious ideological dispute between the effective leaders of KANU and the leaders of KADU and APP. The only dispute was the one generated by the departing colonial officials. They orchestrated a hate campaign against the Kikuyu and the Luo in the build up to the elections in the hope of ensuring that Jomo Kenyatta, Mbiyu Koinange, Oginga Odinga, and Tom Mboya would not inherit the colonial state because these people had been in the forefront of forcing the British out of Kenya.
After the first Lancaster House Conference, in which it was made clear that the white settlers would not rule Kenya in perpetuity, they transformed themselves into a small white tribe and then looked around for other small tribes to join them against the Kikuyu and the Luo. They created KADU and were fortunate to have Ngala, Muliro, and Moi join them on a platform called Majimbo (regional autonomy). Majimbo was actually a latter day development once the KADU people realized there was no stopping the KANU bandwagon. It was aimed at instilling so much fear of the Kikuyu and the Luo in the electorate that the voters would vote KADU. The tactic failed miserably as voters across the board put their stamp of approval on KANU's nationalistic agenda and rejected KADU's divisive politics of fear. With the voters having put their confidence in KANU, KADU and APP leaders decided to cut their losses and join KANU.
The dismantling of KADU and APP set KANU on a path of roughly forty years of political dominance. During this time there were numerous challenges, some minor and others serious, to KANU's political monopoly. The earliest minor challenge was ideological and had been simmering within the KANU camp. It took the form of a dispute between those who wanted Kenya to adopt a socialist path, and those who placed trust in capitalism. The former were led by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Bildad Kaggia, the latter by Kenyatta and Mboya. The Oginga-Kaggia camp lost in that struggle and so they bolted KANU and created a short-lived Kenya Peoples' Union (KPU). Although KPU was never a serious political threat to KANU, its life was terminated in 1969 following the fracas in Kisumu (the aftermath of the assassination of Tom Mboya).
Odinga went into political oblivion, only to emerge in 1982 with a scathing attack on single party regimes in Africa. He ganged up with George Anyona in attempting to form a socialist party. Though this party never saw the light of day, it was Odinga's threat to form a new party that led KANU-this time under Moi's control-to impose an amendment to the Kenya constitution. It became better known as Section 2A and declared Kenya to be a single party state, KANU becoming the single political party. There then followed, in August 1982, an attempted coup mounted by junior officers of the Kenya Air-force. This coup attempt was subsequently used to justify intensified political repression in the country.
The most serious challenge to KANU's political monopoly, however, was in the form of agitation for a return to multi-party politics. It had two driving forces.
The first driving force was domestic. Different people and institutions gathered enough courage to start questioning wrong government activities. This momentum for boldness in demanding a new political dispensation picked up following the mlolongo (queue voting) electoral fiasco. The government lost credibility as its officers proclaimed that candidates with short lines were winners over candidates with long lines.
The arrogance of government officers was exemplified by Shariff Nassir's wapende wasipende (whether they like it or not) declaration on the imposition of the mlolongo voting system. Such arrogance alienated many people and made it possible for government critics to intensify agitation for political change. The intensified agitation culminated in the Saba Saba1 phenomenon in July 1990 in which the public confronted government forces for three days of civil riots. The confrontations showed that the public had lost fear of official intimidation and that the initiative for action in the public arena had shifted from the government to the public. This shifting of the initiative for action enabled political leaders who had been sidelined by the KANU hierarchy to form a lobby group in 1991, the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy in Kenya (FORD). It was due to pressure from FORD that the KANU government relented, and in December 1991 ended its monopoly of politics in Kenya.
Global trends constitute accounted for the second driving force that ensured political change in Kenya. These trends were rooted in the Cold War disillusionment, experienced particularly by the United States following its defeat in Vietnam and its humiliation in Iran. The United States was forced to re-evaluate its relations with tyrannical states that professed anti-communism. Since the American defeat and humiliation was due to its support for unpopular regimes, it sought to rectify the situation for the future by advocating political democracy and economic liberalism. American-controlled institutions such as the World Bank then started linking economic failures to political mismanagement. A belief developed that to fix the politics was to fix the economy and so to protect foreign investments. With the United States in the lead, external forces pressured the Moi regime to be democratic, and in December 1991, the KANU-controlled parliament ended KANU's monopoly of political power by repealing Section 2A of the Kenya constitution.
Thus, a combination of domestic and foreign forces enabled Kenya to once again have competitive politics. Although KANU was forced to relinquish its political monopoly and thereby allowed numerous political parties to exist, it continued to control the machinery of state and had no intention of playing fair. Moi made this point very clear when he asserted that politics was not football to require a level playing field. In his view, anyone holding the instruments of state power would be a fool to play fair in politics since such attempted fairness would mean certain defeat. Having no desire to lose, Moi ensured that the political field in Kenya was not level. It was in that context that he was declared the winner in 1993 and 1998 and it is probable that he would have been declared the winner in 2002 if he had been a candidate. What stopped Moi from being a candidate and therefore being declared the winner in 2002 elections was something that he had done in 1992.
Moi was a politically haunted man in 2002 since he could not continue in office, in part, because he had ruled himself out through a constitutional amendment in 1992 aimed at other persons. In that year, the KANU controlled parliament had amended the constitution to impose a presidential two-term limit for anyone in the future. Given that his brother president, Kenneth Kaunda, had lost in Zambia, it appeared at the time as if Moi would certainly lose the expected election. The two- term limit, therefore, was meant for future presidents, not for Moi, so that no one else would be allowed to serve as long as Moi had served. After being declared the winner twice, there were concerted efforts to remove the limit but such efforts failed and Moi was forced out. He then turned to the idea of ruling through a proxy in the name of Uhuru Kenyatta, better known as "The Project". But this, too, backfired. Despite the fact that Moi and KANU controlled the political field and ensured that it was not level, KANU and "the Project" were so decisively defeated that there was no doubt as to what the choice of the voters was. To Moi's chagrin, it was the opposition and Mwai Kibaki that won; the possibility of Moi continuing to rule through a proxy disappeared. Had he not imposed a two-term limit in 1992 aimed at other people, he probably would have been declared president in 2002. It was a case of a bad-faith constitutional amendment that backfired on its maker.
Lesson 2: Members of the Political Class are ChieflyConcerned with Political Survival: They Rarely Act on Principle;
What made it appear as though KANU was going to win was the intensifying cooperation between KANU and Raila Odinga´s National Development Party (NDP), coupled with Moi´s concerted effort to woe the Kiambu Kikuyu through Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta. With the sons of the two leading anti-colonial activists rooting for Moi, the assumption was that believers in Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga would want to support the party that accommodated the two. A few were opposed to the growing cooperation between the two parties, or to the notion of raising Kenyatta´s son to ´greater things´ for, should these developments be realized, it would make them sacrificial lambs within KANU. The key victims of such developments were Vice-President George Saitoti and KANU Secretary General John Joseph Kamotho. As the heat on Saitoti and Kamotho intensified, the stars of both Raila and Uhuru seemed to be on the rise. Politicians therefore started shifting alliances so as to be identified with either Raila or Uhuru, or both, in giving total support to Moi's wishes.
Moi's wish was that, if he if he had to relinquish power, it had to be in favour of a younger person. The purpose of this was to lock out Mwai Kibaki, Moi´s greatest political rival, who was over seventy. When Moi decided to parade his supposed heirs, it appeared as if the die was cast against Kibaki. The "youth" started hurling insults at Kibaki, telling him to forget the presidency. And so a group of opposition politicians joined KANU in all but name and made it clear that they did not support the opposition leader.
Among them was Dickson Kihika Kimani, famous for his anti-Moi tirades in 1976, who became a Moi supporter despite being in the opposition. And there was David Murathe of Gatanga who was elected to Parliament on an the Social Democratic Party (SDP) ticket in 1997 but thereafter attracted attention when he reportedly wrote a letter to resign from Parliament, only to change his mind and claim that the letter was a forgery. The Speaker, Francis Ole Kaparo, considered the letter authentic but decided not to declare the seat vacant and to let Murathe worry about his own conscience. This was the Murathe who ditched the opposition to join the KANU bandwagon. And there was Stephen Ndichu of Juja who promised Moi he would force Kibaki into the KANU bandwagon on a wheelbarrow. And most importantly, there was Njenga Karume, the patron of the Democratic Party of Kenya (DP) who had twice supported Kibaki´s candidacy. He ditched the party he had helped to found; he became Moi´s cheerleader in Central Province, on the assumption that he was so influential that he could convince GEMA2 voters to abandon Kibaki and join KANU.
Kimani, Murathe, Ndichu and Karume ditched Kibaki and the opposition in the hope that their favourite candidate who had been anointed by Moi´s fimbo (stick) was sure to win the presidency. However, their hopes were misplaced because they did not take into account the volatility of that other political ally of Moi, Raila Odinga. As long as Moi was president, Raila had been willing to help him maintain power on the assumption that his own political power would increase proportionately. He willingly disbanded his party (NDP) and replaced Kamotho as KANU´s Secretary General in the political marriage of March 18, 2003. He had worked hard to discredit Saitoti, Kamotho, and most importantly, the opposition leader Kibaki. Raila had been willing to become a journeyman for Moi but he became disappointed when, instead of getting the appropriate reward, he watched the president flirt with Uhuru politically. This flirting was painful to Raila, given Moi´s reference to the value of the political girl being over once she gets into the man's house. Moi made it clear that he preferred Uhuru to Raila and this was one reason why Kimani, Murathe, Ndichu and Karume abandoned Kibaki. It was also the reason that Raila, feeling jilted politically, led a rebellion within KANU or what James Orengo called an implosion.
The Raila implosion was unexpected because the political girl had refused to stay in the house and-to make matters worse-her rebellion infected other members of the KANU household. As expected, former members of NDP followed their leader into the rebellion. But what attracted most attention were the new recruits into the Raila camp of rebellion. Among those unexpectedly infected by Raila´s rebellious disease were the aspiring ´youth´ that, along with Uhuru Kenyatta, had been elevated to the rank of KANU vice-chairmen in the political marriage performed at Kasarani on March 18, 2003. These were Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi, and Noah Katana Ngala. Mudavadi and Ngala quickly chickened out of the rebellion and earned for themselves a reputation of cowardice. The rebellious disease also inflicted other members of the KANU household including Vice President Saitoti, Joseph Kamotho, William Ole Ntimama, Fred Gumo, George Khaniri, and Moody Awori. The refusal to waver by these KANU rebels, popularized by the unbwogable3 label that came to be attached to them, changed the political dynamics in Kenya and so politicians started to shift allegiances.
Always willing to bend with the wind, politicians abandoned KANU in order to survive. This was the reason given by Cabinet Minister Joseph Nyaga who confessed that he could not win with KANU in Gachoka and he wanted to win. High-ranking Moi operatives in different parastatals resigned their positions and instead of remaining in KANU, decided to associate with the NARC team. These included Archbishop Stephen Ondieki of the Legio Maria, Joseph Khamisi, and Philip Okundi. Abandoning KANU became the political in-thing for members of the political class who wanted to continue being in the political limelight.
Lesson 3.The Public Is Not as Gullible as Leaders May Think
Failure to sing to Moi´s tune was detrimental to the physical and mental health of those, particularly at the universities, who continued to believe they could think. It was to deal with such people that Moi had adopted what amounted to a fimbo doctrine, based on his well-polished stick, with which symbolically to clobber those who thought non-nyayo thoughts. The clobbering was in the form of arrests and detention of critics and an assortment of dissidents. Legal niceties were ignored when dealing with dissidents; evening and night courts became routine practice as where torture chambers where the dissidents were forced to confess their supposed guilt. Torturing people, Moi had admitted in 1989, was a way of getting information from those bent on overthrowing his government. The courts essentially agreed with him: they went through the motions of finding the accused guilty without proper hearings.
That the courts did not operate in a political vacuum was evident again when Kibaki challenged Moi's 1997 election. The courts did not reject the supposed evidence of fraud presented by Kibaki; it simply claimed it could not listen to the case because Kibaki had not personally served Moi with petition papers.
Having successfully manipulated the public and the elections several times, Moi and his team in KANU expected to continue making Kenyans do their bidding. The bidding this time was for Kenyans to accept Moi´s `Project Uhuru´ simply because Moi said it. Unfortunately for him, Kenyans had wisened up to his tricks and tactics and took steps to thwart such orchestration. The public rejected Moi´s choice for a number of reasons. For one, they considered it an insult that he should purport to tell them who ought to be their president. Even worse than that, his choice was a person unqualified to hold office, having failed to win a parliamentary seat specifically created for him in the 1997 election. In addition, Uhuru had no record of having worked anywhere or having successfully accomplished anything, yet Kenyans were expected to accept him because Moi said it. In this, Uhuru appeared to be nothing but an extension of Moi´s failed rule, a puppet, and Kenyans did not want a puppet for a president. In the 1980s, Kenyans might have gone along out of fear of being seen not to be true nyayo followers but in 2002 few Kenyans wanted to be identified with anything labelled nyayo because the term had become synonymous with failure. The Uhuru Project fitted into that pattern.
ADVISORY LESSONSLesson 1.The Need for Team Work and Qualitative Consultations
The election showed the value of quality consultations and teamwork in a focused direction against a clearly defined political enemy. The KANU campaign had deteriorated into a one-man show: Moi trying to impose his will on the country through a puppet. The puppet or "the project", Uhuru Kenyatta's only redeeming value was that he was the son of Jomo Kenyatta, the founding father of the nation. . Besides having a famous name and the full endorsement of a "discredited" president, Uhuru had a lot of money to spend in the campaign. When the money for the campaign did not come from his pocket, it came from the seemingly unlimited amount found in the family coffers under the supervision of the matriarchal Mama Ngina. The family, with Moi's help, wanted to get back to the State House and live as it had in the 1960s and 1970s where Uhuru and his relatives were raised and where Ngina was the first lady. The difference would be that Uhuru would be president and Ngina would be "president mother" or "first mother." This kind of campaign sent voters away instead of attracting them.
In contrast to the Uhuru campaign that appeared like a family affair with a lot of money to spare, the Kibaki campaign was a matter of public involvement in which the people needed no financial prodding in order to offer their help. It was full of volunteers who believed in the need to remove Moi from office. Some groups were well known, such as DEMO 2000, which continued to promote the course of the Democratic Party by organising seminars, arranging for a secretariat, and organizing political debates for mayoral candidates. Others like Kivutha Kibwana's CLARION were not officially affiliated to any party, yet their civic education programs tended to point to the shortcomings of the KANU government.
There were also many religiously affiliated "Justice and Peace" programs that offered information on how to participate effectively in ensuring good governance throughout the country. And since the KANU government was not known for good governance, participants were left to draw their own conclusions. More importantly, for at least two years, less well-known small groups of professionals or likeminded people had been meeting in different venues. They created networks as they tried to think of the best way to ensure that KANU did not rig elections or that democratic changes were truly effected. All these groups were ready to volunteer their different types of services. Through various avenues, members of such groupings had inputs into the strategies adopted by NARC.
Kibaki's advantage, therefore, was that he had a team to work with, a team that included professionals as well as political heavyweights, each capable of pulling a crowd. He was, as Raila put it, simply the captain in a football team that was capable of carrying on with the game even if the captain was injured. Raila, the coalition mastermind, was good at creating analogies. When Moi said he wanted Uhuru, Raila told the story of a boy who could not be admitted in a school in the normal way. The boy's mother then talked to the headmaster who admitted the boy into the school irregularly. Within a short time, the irregular student was promoted to being a class monitor, then a prefect, then head boy. And when it was time for the headmaster to retire, he decided to turn the irregularly admitted boy into the new headmaster. Raila had also come up with the football analogy that he first used to promote the Rainbow and then the NARC. Raila also liked to sing but he was not as good as Mukhisa Kituyi who had a knack for turning popular folk songs of the 1960s into campaign chants. In one of those songs, he claimed to have asked Uhuru who his friends were only to receive what amounted to a list of shame led by Moi: Sunkuli, Biwott, and Kihika Kimani.
Kibaki's football team also had tough women who had defeated prominent men in order to be elected to parliament. Among them was Charity Kaluki Ngilu, affectionately renamed Mama Rainbow by her fans; she had created excitement in the 1997 general elections by running for the presidency. There was also Beth Mugo of Dagoretti, a woman who agonized over whether to support her cousin, Uhuru, for the presidency or go with her conscience and do what was right for the country. Knowing what KANU stood for in the public eye, she chose to identify with NARC and Mwai Kibaki. And there was Martha Karua of Gichugu, one of the original multiparty advocates, who had gone on to crush a former head of civil service in the name of Geoffrey Kariithi in 1992 on a DP ticket. She established her political dominance in Gichugu in 1997 by being reelected with a wide margin. Later on, she twice embarrassed Daniel Moi by walking out of his rallies clenching her DP fist in the air. In the NARC rallies, she was heard to shout that she was unbwogable. Kibaki's team, therefore, was a strong one, so strong that even when the "captain" was injured in a road accident, breaking his hand and leg, the unbwogable team continued to play.
Lesson 2.The Power of the Electronic Media
The public hostility towards Mungiki and the project translated into goodwill towards NARC and Kibaki who had developed the image of being a "feel good" candidate in whom people could place their trust. One medium in particular distinguished itself in giving live and extensive coverage to NARC activities and the "feel good" candidate and was therefore able to ride on the public goodwill that had turned against KBC. This medium was Citizen Radio and Television owned by S.K. Macharia who over time had distinguished himself in his conflicts with Moi. Citizen Radio was there when Kibaki, following his road accident, returned from the hospital in London to an emotional hero's welcome as people walked from the airport to Uhuru Park just to listen to Kibaki speak for about five minutes while sitting on a wheel chair. Those not able to be at the airport or at Uhuru Park closely followed Kibaki's arrival on Citizen Radio. The accident had made Kibaki appear closer to the ordinary people who identified with his physical plight and political tribulations that could be blamed on Moi and his project. The media coverage helped in creating that image so much that even little children without votes became Kibaki supporters. Thinking of Kibaki made people "feel good" and with him voters came to believe yote yawezekana (all is possible). And Citizen Radio and Television were there to ensure yote yawezekana.
The power of the media and probably the finest hour for Citizen Radio and Television was evident on the voting days and the days that followed. There was fear that despite the overwhelming goodwill and support, KANU and the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) could render the voting exercise a nullity by announcing the wrong results. It was in safeguarding the correct election outcome that steps had to be taken to counter known government tricks and Citizen Radio became crucial in this. Public pressure had led to an agreement that votes would be counted at the individual polling stations rather than being transported to a central counting hall. After the counting, the results were to be released immediately to the voters. Citizen Radio and Television were on standby to announce the results of every polling station as they were declared. This was a method of letting every citizen be involved in the actual tabulation of votes as they came in, making it difficult for officials to come up with different figures. The method was so efficient that even the ECK officials ended up relying on Citizen Radio in order to know what the electoral trend was. In this way, the Kenyan voters and the rest of the world knew what the real results of the elections were before the ECK could announce them. Credit for this feat went to Citizen Radio.
Lesson 3.Need for a Talent-hunting Strategy by Potential Winners in a Presidential Election
NARC seemingly had two or three groupings that supposedly dealt with policy matters and could potentially identify key people. There was the Task Resource Centre (TRC) that was belatedly put together as part of the summit togetherness. It was some kind of a closed club in which were to be found all types of intellectuals, professionals, and para-professionals representing mostly the interests of particular summit members. Because the interests of the individual summit members were the paramount concerns of those in the TRC, there was a lot of territorial infighting among them. What was more, when not dealing with internal squabbles, the TRC spent a lot of time trying to fend off attacks from KANU while the politicians were busy doing their own things. Therefore, it had little time to scout the country and identify potential recruits who would be ready to help implement the NARC policies.
There was also the Council of Elders that had supposedly been suggested by Mwai Kibaki. This was more of a Democratic Party (DP) outfit than a NARC body. Its members were economic movers and shakers who had stuck with Kibaki through thick and thin; they were people he could relax or play golf with. They tended to act as Kibaki's private advisory group and seemingly expected to play a key role in deciding who was to be or not to be in Kibaki's new government. The problem was that even this self-assured Council of Elders did not anticipate the need to prepare for a proper take over of the government. It had not done enough work to identify and sensitize credible functionaries whom the new government could entrust with the responsibility of implementing its policies. It is also not clear whether the potential president had enough trust in the Council of Elders to entrust it with such a task.
This brings up the question of who exactly was close or next to the potential president in terms of trust to be given such a task. There were people operating at Mwenge House (NARC's headquarters), which became a kind of political clearinghouse for political aspirants on NARC tickets. Mwenge House, however, tended to be in conflict with Summit members on whom to clear or not to clear. Its performance cast doubts on NARC credibility but not enough to swing the votes away from NARC since the problem appeared to be at Mwenge House rather than at NARC. Kibaki might have entrusted David Mwiraria, his Makerere colleague, but Mwiraria was a political candidate who first had to win an election and whose scope was limited to the treasury. Essentially then, Kibaki did not have anyone he could entrust with the task of scouting the country for potential people who supported his policies and were qualified to do the work. Failure to identify such a team before taking office may have accounted for the prolonged dependence of the NARC government on KANU functionaries and policymakers.
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