Kenyans, businesses and indeed stakeholder nations and agencies have a strong interest in seeing Kenya go through peaceful and conclusive elections.
This interest is advised by Kenya’s history of allowing elections to disrupt socio-economic activities.
Rising back to normality after such disruptions always consumed inordinate amount of time and resources, and left national cohesion weakened.
Specifically businesses suffered, tourism collapsed, GDPs plummeted, while the national brand and esteem were tainted.
However, this time around, there are strong indications that the elections will be peaceful and that any potential electoral disagreements can and will be resolved constitutionally and peacefully. It is, therefore, to everybody’s shared interest that we realise this outcome.
My confidence is guided by a number of observations, key among them being the progress achieved so far in the development of stronger governance and oversight systems and institutions since the coming of the current Constitution.
These systems have expanded the scope for transparent checks and balances, and significantly reduced opportunities for foul play and conflicts during elections.
In respect of the IEBC, I believe the body is making the best possible endeavour to create capacity and preparedness for fair and credible elections.
The commission appears focused on delivering on their mandate despite the obvious hurdles they have had to vie with. And so far the commission has demonstrated that they will significantly reduce opportunities for errors.
One would be living in a fantasy world to expect the electoral body to achieve 100 per cent perfection and assurance which I doubt any nation in the world ever achieves. I believe the IEBC should be positively supported by all parties to deliver the best possible electoral process that is fair and equitable to all parties. The more distractions we put in their way, the more we reduce their capacity (and time) to deliver the desired process.
There is strong evidence that the top political contenders in Jubilee and NASA are committed to peaceful electioneering, and this will most definitely trickle down to their supporters. So far, they have conducted their rallies fairly responsibly, with decorum and tolerance, and without obvious incitement.
Reckless behaviour and utterances by politicians are now being confronted quickly, firmly and decisively and this has made a big difference.
However, the same cannot be said of the ongoing disinformation and abuse in the socio media. Yes, the ongoing campaigns demonstrate that the stakes are high, but there is evident restraint and responsibility demonstrated by the key players.
Unlike in the past where stronghold areas were defined as “no-go-zones” for opponents, we now see candidates move and campaign freely in every corner of Kenya with crowds that are apparently peaceful and respectful.
Cases of heckling have been minimal. It is this composure by the electorate that gives me confidence that the political arena in Kenya has changed for better, and that this will be replicated during elections.
Structurally, the coming of county governments and the devolution of economic resources and opportunities has essentially diluted the historical “do-or-die” obsession with national politics which previously motivated widespread electoral violence. During these elections the electorate is increasingly pre-occupied with governor and MCA candidates as these impact their localised economic expectations.
Last weekend at my local town of Karatina, I asked a friend why it was so unusually quiet unlike during past election seasons. I was told that politicians unwittingly spent most of their budgets during party nominations and have now gone “door-to-door.” With reduced handouts, the population is busy with their daily chores of earning a living, waiting to vote on 8th August.
I was also informed that the emergence of many independent candidates has dispersed political activity and tension at the grassroots.
I have voted in every Kenyan election since the 1969 elections (with exception of the shameful 1988 mlolongo (queueing elections) and this time I feel more confident that Kenyans shall embrace whatever outcome and verdict the majority of voters decide.
Elections are events that come and go, but Kenya is a country in perpetuity for all of us to preserve, nurture and thrive in. That is why we should all vote wisely and maintain peace before, during and after elections.