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Elections in Kenya

Written on: Monday March 11th, 2013

A journal entry from: Clea's Kenya

As all of you are no doubt aware, Kenyans voted on March 4. Kenyan elections are not really like Canadians ones. To start with, people here actually seem to care about the process. My theory actually is that they care way too much. Part of the reason for that is that Kenya has had problems, to put it mildly, with past elections.

 

After disputed elections in December 2007, widespread violence broke out. Over 1000 people were killed, thousands were assaulted, and over half a million fled their homes. Many have received no compensation, and some are still living in camps for internally displaced people. Visitors to Kenya would rarely notice these camps, but the reality is that they are all over the country including the Rift Valley. The violence led to people (currently three) being charged by the International Criminal Court with crimes against humanity.

 

Because of the violence, people were unsurprisingly more than a little nervous about how this year's elections would unfold. The group in charge of running the elections, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), put in place a number of new measures to make sure that the election results would be credible. For example, they required people to register in an electronic system long before the elections. Of course, none of these processes happened terribly smoothly.

 

On election day, I was an independent observer. This meant that I (along with my colleague Elsy, Amita, and one of her colleagues) got to go to four different polling stations in my neighbourhood and make sure that nothing suspicious was going on.

 

Certain aspects of the voting were very different from what happens in Canada. To start with, the dedication of the voters was absolutely amazing. When Elsy and I showed up for the opening of the polls at 6 am, there was already a huge line-up stretching down the street. Most people waited at least three hours to vote, and someone I talked to waited ten! Can you imagine anyone in Canada bothering?

 

Then of course there was the complexity of the whole election. Not only were Kenyans voting for a president, they were also voting for a member of Parliament, a Senator, a women's representative, a governor, and a County representative. All within a new system run by IEBC employees who had never conducted an election like this before.

 

There were inevitable problems. Some stations hadn't received the proper paperwork, a lot of the electronic voter registration computers didn't work (often for stupid reasons like computers need to be powered and not all polling stations had enough electrical outlets), and, when it was time to transmit the results, the entire online system crashed. However, there was very little violence, and the people I saw voting seemed to be not only calm but also very proud of being able to do their civic duty.

 

Then of course there was the aftermath. Counting the votes stretched on for the entire week, with the results for the presidential election being announced at about 2:35 am on Friday. The main contender has claimed massive irregularities, but in a welcome change from the last elections he has launched a court case rather than incited his followers to take to the streets. And, of course, the man who won the presidency (with 50.07 percent of the vote), Uhuru Kenyatta, has his own court case beginning later this year at the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes committed after the 2007 elections. As has is vice-president. All of which will make not only the next few weeks but also the next few years very interesting for followers of Kenyan politics! Or really really depressing, depending on who you talk to.

 

On a personal level, the elections did end up being dangerous for me, although not for a reason I would ever have associated with observing an election in a tropical country. I developed this wicked cold and had to miss two days of work last week! Since work was cancelled the other two days because of fears about possible violence, I ended up having a very relaxing week.

 

From Murray on Mar 13th, 2013

chistoutFollowing Kenyo due to your presence and my investment with AOI where Kieth Hill just moved from North Van to Nairobi. Could be career opportunies with AOI http://www.africaoilcorp.com/s/Management.asp