Friday, January 6, 2012



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
January 4, 2012

With the reality of our 2012 elections becoming clearer with each passing day, memories of the messed up 2007 elections are a grim reminder that Kenyans cannot afford to play costly games with this year’s elections. Because of the mistakes that were made then, the consequences- loss of human life, property and human displacement have continued to haunt the country to this day. It destroyed our growing economy. We had to start all over again. We lost more than life and property. We threw away our sovereignty when we allowed the international community to intervene and literally tell us what to do for the next five years. Most of all, we lost face with the rest of the world. The most hopeful and optimistic nation in 2002 because hopelessly desperate and hopeless. We had lost our direction and rightful place among a community of civilized nations.

This year’s Kenyan vote will be keenly watched and monitored by the United Nations, the European Union, the AU and most strategically the United States of America. The reasons are obvious.  Kenya hosts vital UN installations in its capital. It is the springboard of humanitarian operations in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes Region. War torn states like Somalia, South Sudan can hardly survive without aid agency operations based in Nairobi.

Right now Kenyan armed forces are battling the Al Shabaab militants, an extension of the international terrorist group called the Al Qaida. This lawless outfit that has ravaged Somalia for decades is also responsible for criminal activities on the Indian Ocean executing piracy, kidnapping and bombings in Kenya, Uganda and Somalia. Its presence in Somalia has made it expensive for ships plying the gulf coastline with pirates hijacking several commercial ships every year. Kenya’s attack on Al Qaida in their bases inside Somalia has been seen by many countries as a positive step in ending this lawlessness.

On the local scene, East African Community member states can only pray for a peaceful transfer of power in Kenya as the alternative can be costly in more ways than one. Kenya being the biggest economy in the community means that if its social and economic life is disrupted, the whole region catches flu. With the port of Mombasa serving Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Northern Tanzania and the DRC, any civil strife disrupting human and commercial traffic can literally strangle the rest of the region.

Here at home, memories of extreme violence, burning churches and massacre of innocent civilians on account of their ethnicity is still painful to remember. As I write this article, we have yet to arrest and try all those criminals who exploited the chaotic riots to loot, rape, maim, kill and displace innocent Kenyans. Some internally displaced Kenyans are yet to return to their homes let alone our 5000 refugees still languishing in refugee camps in Uganda.

Following the Kenyan crisis of 2007and 2008, Kenyans lost property and their livelihoods. The economy sunk to its lowest resulting in loss of jobs on a large scale. School patterns were disrupted with interethnic animosity reaching new levels. The nation was polarized like never before. We had to start rebuilding our state afresh with help from the international community. Without intervention from world leaders that included EAC presidents, the AU, EU, UN and the United States, Kenya would today be another failed state like Somalia. The disputed election results brought the worst out of us.

As a result of that debacle, Kenyans are likely to see six of their politicians tried in an international court for crimes against humanity. Whether the ICC commits them to full trial or not, the act of naming suspects alone is an indication that the world community will not sit on its laurels as we approach the elections. Vigil among the international community will be the password.

More significantly, if the ICC clears the Ocampo Six of all the charges as it has done with the Rwanda war criminals, the presidential campaign will be more vicious considering that two of the six accused have declared their interest in the presidency.

The one question all stakeholders must ask themselves is whether Kenyan politicians have learnt anything from the chaos of 2007 elections. Will they comfortably stroke the embers of ethnic animosity for political gains at the expense of our nationhood? Will the hatred for one another drive them to burn everything we have built and nurtured in the last fifty years?

Right now we have a new constitution, a devolved government and an independent and more powerful Election Commission. Will it live up to the task and reign in on belligerent politicians so that we can have a peaceful, fair and transparent election? Will the Public Officers Ethics Act be applied to the letter so that rapists, murderers, looters, thieves, tribalists, hate mongers and land grabbers are barred from elective office?

With the Attorney General stop behaving like a latter day political sycophant and allow the constitutional office of the Constitution Implementation Commission flawlessly oversee the implementation of the new constitution?

This year’s general elections will indeed be the most complex and expensive affair in Kenya’s history. It will be the litmus test to prove that like the phoenix, we can rise from the ashes to reclaim our place in the community of civilized nations.

The whole world is watching. Kenyans and the whole of Africa are watching.