Friday, August 6, 2010



By Jerry Okungu

Nairobi, Kenya

August 5, 2010

At last, Kenyans have decided that the old order must be history. The era of the imperial presidency and parliamentary dictatorship must be put behind us now. It is a feeling one gets after having had a good but grueling fight.

With seven out of eight provinces voting for the new constitution, no sensible individual can fault Kenyans for demanding the necessary reforms that are contained in the new constitution.

After the votes were tallied, the Greens had a clear win by garnering more than 3 million votes above the Reds. At 70% vote win, the Reds cannot in their wildest dreams claim unfairness in this exercise. And with international observers everywhere monitoring every step from the polling stations to the electronic relay centers and finally to the National Tallying Center at the historic Bomas of Kenya, this win is as convincing as any democratic process can be.

As at 2.15 pm, the Yes votes had reached 5,482, 698 and still counting against the Green side’s 2,418,153 votes.

As a campaigner and a voter for the new constitution, I have nothing except joy for my country. I feel good because we as Kenyans decided through this referendum to change our fortunes drastically. We learnt a bitter lesson after the 2007-2008 elections when, due the recklessness of our leaders and election referees, we subjected our people to unnecessary pain and conflict. And if there is one thing that this new constitution will be able to do, it will deal a deadly blow to the culture of impunity that has brought our country to its knees in the eyes of the international community.

As Kenyans, we can stand tall again and claim our place of pride among a community of nations. We have proved that we can reclaim our lost glory as a proud and democratic country capable of making our own decisions without prodding from the international community. This pride should be share with all our member states of the East African Community and the rest of Africa at large.

The fact that nine million Kenyans woke up at dawn to line up and vote in the chilly weather all over the republic and did so peacefully without cutting each other with pangas is a testimony that we have learnt something from our ugly recent past.

The 2007 elections were largely messed up by the political power elite that thought it unthinkable to have a peaceful regime change. The nature of our culture of impunity where the political leadership exploited and oppressed the masses made it impossible for a clean political contest to take place. In the end, we had organized militias in the payrolls of political warlords take over our lives. We had all our highways blocked by hired goons and millions of shillings lost in burnt homes and property. A fresh ugly face of impunity gained currency causing the deaths of 1500 innocent Kenyans while causing thousands more homeless in our country.

Despite spirited and acrimonious campaigns in the run up to this year’s referendum, the tones of our political leaders changed drastically to that of reconciliation urging Kenyans to vote peacefully and maintain peace even after the polls. And the fact that ordinary Kenyans chose to heed the peaceful calls from President Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila, former President Daniel arap Moi and the Reds leader William Ruto, it was a clear demonstration that it is the politicians that always incite voters to go to the streets. This time round, they called on them to remain calm despite the outcome which they obediently did.

As I wrote this article, something else happened in our election process that was not there in 2007. The Reds leader called a press conference and conceded defeat 18 hours after the polls closed. This early conceding of defeat even before the final votes were tallied indicated that politically we were coming of age. The last time we had this kind of gesture was in 2002 when Uhuru Kenyatta conceded defeat when he campaigned against Kibaki.

However, in this early analysis of our referendum results, credit must go to the Interim Independent Electoral Commission led by young Isaack Hassan for their uncompromising stand in running the polls as professionally as they could ever do. The mere fact that the Commission went electronic in relaying provisional results right from the polling stations to the National Tallying Center in Nairobi despite opposition from the Reds in itself told volumes. The mere fact that these provisional results were also availed to all media networks was a plus in the process. This decision made Kenyans and the rest of the world follow the proceedings in detail and this implied transparency and accountability made it impossible for anybody to even think of rigging the polls.

There is one incident that happened in Western Kenya that served as a lesson to would be election riggers. A poll supervisor who announced the wrong results was immediately arrested by a presiding officer who instantly appeared in court this morning. It is this kind of act that can clean Kenya’s politics.

If this Kenyan experience cannot be a good lesson to the rest of Africa, then it is difficult to know what can be called good best practice for the rest of the continent to emulate.