Kenya's Supreme Court judges attend a hearing regarding petitions challenging the result of the presidential election. Photo: Quartz.

Tension and polarisation after election result upheld

Despite opposition complaints, the Supreme Court of Kenya upheld the result of the presidential election, which was held on 26 October, after the August had been nullified. Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta won a landslide victory, thanks mainly to a boycott led by opposition candidate Raila Odinga. According to NAI researcher Anders Sjögren, the situation is tense and the country deeply divided.

"Odinga didn’t participate because he reckoned fraud would make it impossible for him to win. A boycott was the least bad choice for him”, Sjögren remarks.

The opposition does not recognise Kenyatta as the legitimate president and the country is divided into two camps. However, Odinga seems to be cooling off his supporters, rather than inflaming the mood further.

“But it’s difficult for him to engage in talks to reach agreements with Kenyatta. That would take away his credibility and his own supporters may view him as a sell-out”, Sjögren observes.

Anders Sjögren.

Difficult task
Kenyatta now has the challenging task of unifying Kenya. This requires political reforms and policies to benefit marginalised social groups in particular. Kenyatta did not do anything in that regard during his first term and Sjögren does not think it is likely in his second term either.

Following post-election violence that shook Kenya in 2007–2008, the government made serious attempts to address the nation’s deep problems. The constitution was revised and several independent institutions were created. But the government has not respected the constitution or the institutions.

“On the contrary, the tendency points in the opposite direction, with a president who attacks the judiciary, the Auditor General, and critical voices in civil society and the media. These are the institutions that will guarantee and uphold democracy”, Sjögren notes.

Run-down economy
As if political trouble were not enough, Kenya’s economy is running down. The government has taken new loans to pay off old ones. This strategy only deepens the financial hole, Sjögren remarks.

"Subsequently, counties have received messages from the central authority of cancelled payments. This surely doesn’t help build political trust in Kenyatta’s government. The current economic downturn is very serious for Kenya”, Sjögren concludes.

TEXT: Johan Sävström

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