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Kenya's "Lessons Learned" Help Make 2022 More Successful

Journalists cover a press conference by the head of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Wafula Chebukati in Nairobi, Kenya, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022.

ANALYSIS - Casualties in the aftermath of the 2007/2017 Kenya elections have been a guiding force for the nation during this year's balloting, analysts said, noting that increased confidence in Kenya's judicial system and voter maturity have helped to make the 2022 round peaceful - so far.

Javas Bigambo, at Nairobi-based Interthoughts Consulting, told VOA that ''It is impressive that this time round, there's little cause to worry or fear that once results are announced, possible mayhem may ensue.''

Bigambo noted that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has undertaken good faith in ensuring transparency in terms of vote counting and collation, a move they said have erased heightened tensions experienced in previous elections.

He said that by enabling access to the IEBC's portal and primary forms that are filled at the polling stations, after results are counted in the presence of all political party agents, the tallying of results are now being done by all media houses, stakeholders and election observers.

He said this will make it very difficult for an election dispute to arise.

He says his confidence comes because "The more Kenyans have great trust in the judiciary, it means that there's [a perception of] an impartial arbitrator in case of any election dispute.''

''We're going to see a more independent and strong judiciary by the implementation of the judiciary fund in Kenya. So far, no one has disputed the election management and this year there's welcome, quiet and calm both within the camps of the two leading candidates (Raila Odinga, William Ruto) and across the country," Bigambo stated, adding "There's no report about build-up of tensions in the 47 counties or attempted mobilization of youths with the intent to cause mayhem."

Bigambo, however, regretted ''an avalanche of misinformation and disinformation by supporters of the two leading candidates trying to demonstrate that their candidate is supposed to win.''

By law, the IEBC is the only body mandated to declare presidential election results, although media houses can make their projections per individual tallies. The IEBC has 7 days after polls close to declare the winner, but analyst Bigambo said he thinks the commission can declare the winner even before next Tuesday.

A candidate must get 50% of the vote plus one to win, and so far provisional results show a tight race between Odinga and Ruto. If no candidate reaches that level, however, the law says a runoff must be held, which so far has never happened.

Lawyer Alutalala Mukhwana, a governance and political risk analyst based in Nairobi, told VOA that low voter turnout at the polls is thanks in part to failed promises by the outgoing president Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto. The IEBC reported 65% voter turn out of the 22.1 million registered voters compared to almost 80% in 2017.

''In 2013, they (Kenyatta and Ruto) made exciting promises to Kenyans. For the youth, they promised to build 16 international stadia across country, for school children, they promised (to provide) laptops," he said. "They promised a resounding economy and good healthcare, but that was not delivered."

He added that ''In 2017, they assured the population that they would do better, but as we speak now, Kenya is sinking in a national debt. Some of these debts are shrouded in secrecy. The contracts that have been entered between the Kenyan government and China for example remain secretive till date.''

As for this year's lower turnout at the polls, he asserted ''The price of a staple food is 230 Kenyan Shillings ($1.93) for 2 kilogram packet. Some voters simply said they were too hungry to line up to vote.''

Lawyer Mukhwana added that whoever emerges victorious has the arduous task to ensure the reduction of commodity and fuel prices so consumers can enjoy interim reprieve.

He also suggested an engagement with the International Monetary Fund, China and other global lenders for concessionary repayment rates to help ease pressure on the local currency, and the economy.