Election day in Kenya #KenyaDecides

Posted by Sappho on March 4th, 2013 filed in Africa news and blogwatch

As you may have heard, today is election day in Kenya. It’s the first election since the one in 2007 that was so marred by violence, and it’s heavily watched. Many things have happened since the last elections, some bad but much of it good. Here’ a quick summary.

On the negative side:

  1. Drought in the Horn of Africa in 2011, which affected Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya.
  2. A swelling of the world’s largest refugee camp, surrounding the small town of Dadaab, Kenya, as decades of civil war, and more recent drought, led people to flee Somalia.
  3. War between Kenya and al Shabaab, which has involved both Kenya sending troops to Somalia and grenade attacks within Kenya that Kenya attributes to al Shabaab.
  4. A government directive in January, 2013 ordering Somali refugees either back to the camps or back to Somalia.

On the positive side:

  1. Ushahidi, the computer platform developed to allow reporting of violence in the wake of the last election, has proved so successful that it has been widely used around the world, to monitor both violence and problems in the wake of natural disaster.
  2. Kenyan voters approved a new constitution.
  3. The judiciary has been reformed.
  4. There’s a fresh election commission.

President Mwai Kibaki is barred by law from seeking a third five-year term, so the two leading candidates are Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, with Deputy Prime Minister Musali Mudavadi in third place. Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto are still under indictment by the International Criminal Court in connection with the election violence in 2007 (in which they and their tribes were rivals), but maintain their innocence and have joined forces this time around.

I’ve rounded up some links to give you further information on today’s elections:

From Reuters: Factbox: Kenya’s election and the main candidates.

From Al Jazeera: Long queues lead to vote extension in Kenya, and also The Kenyan election and political double talk.

From the Star: Low turnout mars mock election last week (evidently, given the report in Al Jazeera about long lines, the low turnout didn’t extend to the real thing).

The post-election violence in 2007 was resolved by a power sharing agreement. There has been some debate as to whether power sharing should be an ongoing feature of the Kenyan political system.

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), a government agency set up to address inter-ethnic conflict, and a section of Kenyan civil society have called for this East African nation to adopt negotiated democracy as a way to stem the deep-seated differences between various ethnic groups here.

But Wamwere told IPS that a sharing of power could threaten the country’s young, multiparty democracy.

Ushahidi is on the case again, taking text message reports of what’s happening at polling places in Kenya. Here’s their web site and their Twitter feed. You can also follow the #KenyaDecides hash tag on Twitter.

The International Crisis Group’s report and recommendations in advance of the elections. And here’s the page for all their reports on Kenya.

A Kenyan woman blogs about choosing not to vote … my take.

An AfriCommons blogger relates some first impressions of a polling center in Nairobi.

Loose general impressions in comparison with 2007: pre-opening lines seemed even bigger than 2007; large numbers of people got out to que in the pre-dawn; actual voting quite slow as should be expected with new and complicated process and six ballots versus three. There was some stream of periodic boisterousness from people waiting and concerned by bottlenecks–things were quiter in 2007.

News from the Quakers in Western Kenya.

I have been remiss in reporting on the peacekeeping efforts of the Quakers in western Kenya, so here is the full text of a new release from them this afternoon. The old Western Province is especially important to national politicians in this election because it contains most of the supporters of Deputy Prime Minister Mudavadi and his Amani coalition, which is the only major vote block associated with a “third party” campaign. Amani polls around 5% of the national vote total, whereas the CORD and Jubilee coalitions consistently poll in the mid-40s. Thus Amani supporters could be key in determining the winner of the expected runoff–alternatively, they are the one identifiable group that could move the first round to one of the two “horses” if they moved in lockstep.

Mudavadi is himself a Quaker….

and the post continues with a press release about Quaker efforts to mobilize for nonviolence in advance of the election.

Based on Quaker-initiatied programs called Turning the Tide, Alternatives to Violence, Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities, and Transformative Mediation, this initiative does not avoid conflict but rather challenges the causes of violence and helps Kenyans to build a just and peaceful future from the grassroots.

This community-driven program is supported by Quaker Peace & Social Witness (QPSW) in partnership with three Kenya based organizations, Change Agents for Peace International (CAPI), Friends Church Peace Teams, and the African Great Lakes Initiative. Over 20,000 people in the country have received training in a massive “Know Your Rights’ campaign. At least 1,200 have become citizen reporters, raising the alarm when early warning signs of violence appear. Another 660 will serve as domestic election observers. A larger number has received voter education….

The Kenya Unlimited blog aggregator.

The Kenya Governance page at AllAfrica.com has many election stories.

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