If Thursday’s repeat presidential election allowed Kenya to jump over one hurdle of the political impasse, it also illustrated just how deeply the country is divided.
From a cursory assessment, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s strongholds turned up to vote while opposition leader Raila Odinga’s support base made every effort to frustrate the polls.
It is widely expected that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will declare Mr Kenyatta the winner of the polls that his archrival Mr Odinga made good his threat to boycott.
In short, Mr Kenyatta has only raised his claim to the country’s leadership in an election that his opponent regards as a sham.
That being the case, it would be foolhardy to expect normalcy to return just because the IEBC has declared Mr Kenyatta the winner. In other words, we can only expect the political stalemate to persist as long as the two protagonists continue to pull in different directions.
Experience from Thursday’s elections must be used to rally the nation together. It is not realistic to run a country where nearly one half feel they are excluded.
And because he enjoys incumbency, Mr Kenyatta must take the initiative to reach out to the opposition for dialogue. That is what true leadership demands.
It is encouraging that the President alluded to doing just that yesterday as he cast his vote at Mutomo Primary School in Gatundu South Constituency.
Mr Kenyatta said he would reach out to Mr Odinga’s team to help reduce the high political temperatures. We can only hope for a genuine dialogue that puts the country above every other personal and political calculations.
This is because Kenyans do not need an intransigent government or an opposition that puts the country in perpetual state of political agitation. It is time to put to rest the heightened political activity which began ahead of the August 8 polls, and has continued to date.
The standoff is not helpful. The private sector, the economic engine which generates most of the nation’s wealth and employs majority of the citizens, has reported losses running into billions of shillings.
The government has been forced to put most of its 2017/18 development programmes on hold. And half the financial year is gone.