Let’s maintain the peace witnessed during voting

What you need to know:

  • One thing that cannot be disputed is that the returning officer discharged his mandate in accordance with the Constitution of Kenya and the enabling legislation. 
  • Those aggrieved with the presidential election outcome have recourse to the Supreme Court of Kenya
  • Even under this cloud of uncertainty, it’s important for everyone to maintain peace as the country embarks on the transition to a new dispensation. 

The declaration yesterday that William Samoei Ruto is duly elected fifth President of the Republic of Kenya should have put to rest a long-winding electoral process, stilled anxieties and afforded Kenyans the time and space to get back to work.

However, it might seem like a tainted mandate as four members of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) disowned the results before they were announced by their chairman, who is also the returning officer for the presidential election.

That unprecedented development no doubt casts a pall over what should have been a joyous occasion, a celebration of what is no doubt about the most robust democracy in Africa.

One thing that cannot be disputed is that the returning officer discharged his mandate in accordance with the Constitution of Kenya and the enabling legislation. 

The four commissioners—the majority—who dissented on grounds that the final phase leading to the declaration of the winner was “opaque”, will in the fullness of time have an opportunity to offer more information on what they think went wrong.

The campaign of the President-elect’s main rival, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, had also, before the announcement, made its reservations clear. They deserve to be heard.

The place to make a case and object to the outcome of an election in Kenya is outlined in the Constitution, the Elections Act and the Election Offences Act.

Those aggrieved with the presidential election outcome have recourse to the Supreme Court of Kenya—an institution that, just five years ago, entered the annals with a landmark decision nullifying the results of the 2017 polls and ordering a repeat. That is the way to go. 

The law provides for election results to be petitioned in the courts under structured mechanisms, where all sides will be heard, their submissions carefully considered and fair determination made. That is not to say the aggrieved party cannot express themselves elsewhere. 

Freedom of expression and of assembly are among the inalienable rights guaranteed by the Constitution. However, communication is always more effective when delivered in a peaceful and orderly manner.

Just a day before the announcement, top contenders Ruto and Odinga separately made calls for peace.

This is the time to reiterate that patriotic messaging: It’s time each of them restrained his respective supporters so that those in a celebratory mood do so peacefully and refrain from mocking and insulting their opponents in ways that could be inciting, and that those disappointed by the outcome express themselves in a civil and peaceful manner.

Maintain the peace

Even under this cloud of uncertainty, it’s important for everyone to maintain peace as the country embarks on the transition to a new dispensation. 

Elections are a process that will always come and go. Leaders, too, will come and go. But Kenya will remain here today, tomorrow and for generations to come.

A peaceful, stable, strong, united and prosperous country is far much more important than the fate or fortunes of any individual who happens to be temporarily entrusted with its leadership.

Kenya has just gone through what might seem like the longest campaign in history, given that there has been no respite since the 2017 General Election. 

Remarkably, however, the extended electioneering also witnessed just about the most peaceful campaigns for many since the return of the multi-party system.

All the citizens deserve plaudits for keeping the peace in the midst of often bitter and acrimonious campaigns and will trust that they will maintain the same patriotic mien and civil responsibility in the days, weeks and months to come. 

What we must bear in mind is that this was a very close election in which the two main contenders were separated by a relatively small number of votes. From such a close result, it might be an easy thing to say that Kenya is divided down the middle. 

It might be more accurate, however, to say that there are no victors or losers because, by sheer numbers alone, each side packs a powerful voice that cannot be ignored.

There cannot be room for chest-thumping; neither should there be room for anger and despair. Kenya is the winner.

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