Since the end of Daniel arap Moi's regime, Kenya has been touted for its "democratic maturity". But will the general elections on August 9 keep their promises?
Kenya is the 13th African democracy, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). This country “is an example for the rest of the world”, estimated in 2017, at the time of the invalidation of the re-election of President Kenyatta at the head of the country, Amnesty International. The International Crisis Group saw in it, for its part, the fact that “Kenya, one of the most open societies in Africa, is gaining in democratic maturity”. The political game is, in reality, much more complex.
With the approach of the general elections on August 9th, public opinion is following the political maneuvers of President Uhuru Kenyatta with attention. After the results of the 2017 elections were annulled, following a complaint by opposition leader Raila Odinga, Kenyatta was re-elected without force. Today, the Head of State and his Jubilee political formation support… Odinga, against Vice-President William Ruto, Kenyatta's former ally.
William Ruto, a former ally of dictator Daniel arap Moi, has just formed a hybrid coalition, which brings together left and right parties, seeking to strengthen his position. But with the current president singing the praises of the triple loser of the last elections, Raila Odinga, the political game is now taking a strange turn. Despite the famous "democratic maturity" demonstrated by Kenya, politics is no longer of interest: barely 12% of young Kenyans who have reached voting age since 2017 have registered to go to the polls next August.
High risk elections
In reality, if Kenya is today praised for its multi-party system, many observers believe that the political situation in the country is far from being as mature as one would like to believe. Many see it as the legacy of former dictator Daniel arap Moi. For Kenyan journalist and activist, John Githongo, irregularities in the polls persist, recalling that the "dynamic duo" - the nickname given by Kenyans to the "couple" William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta - did not hesitate to buy each other votes in 2013 and then in 2017. A worthy legacy of the dictatorship?
“Before these two elections, there were already political forces clearly made by Moi (the former dictator, editor's note), a mixture of political opposition, civil society, media, religious and tribal leaders. In 2022, the latter are in disarray, and only the duo (Ruto and Kenyatta) will have a say,” laments the journalist in exile, who has investigated four decades of political corruption in Kenya.
And the activist to continue: “The truth is that we are going to the elections believing in nothing. At best, we seek. All political formations were born from each other, and from many compromises. Those who have made money from politics will clash, and the others will bury their noses in the ground”.
Despite the flowers thrown by the Western media, Kenya is therefore not necessarily as stable as we think. From next August, the populations fear the return of post-election violence, as was already the case in 2013. At the time, William Ruto was the subject of an initial investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC).