Friends, we have received regular and insightful reports from a well known Friend living in Kenya. Here you can read them all in one place. As these are quite forthright and blunt, I have done some editing out of concern for our friends' safety. Note that this pre-election posting was quite prescient.
Report on Kenya Elections, December 2007 (circulated prior to national election)
Every five years, Kenya has an election for president, members of parliament (PM), and county councils. December 27 is Election Day here. Elections in Kenya used to be completely rigged with the one-party government of Jomo Kenyatta, followed by Daniel Arap Moi, nominating whomever they wanted. For PM and county council there might be more than one candidate, and unlike the US where incumbency almost guarantees re-election, incumbency here is a great liability as the electorate frequently voted even powerful people out of office. There is talk in the country of throwing out 90% of the current PM’s and this might even happen! In 1992 multi-partyism was re-introduced, but President Moi was able to keep the opposition fragmented and won the 1992 and 1997 elections. However, in 2002 everyone united against him and he was defeated by Kibaki.
Mwai Kibaki, 76, is the current President and he is running for a second and last term on the PNU, Party of National Unity, which was formed only a few months ago as his election vehicle. His main challenger is Raila Odinga, 62, the son of one of the major early figures in Kenyan post-independence—Moi put him in jail for eight years. Raila’s party is ODM, Orange Democratic Movement, which was formed in 2005 to successfully defeat a new Constitution promoted by the Government. The last is Musyoka Kalonzo, of the ODM-Kenya party, Orange Democratic Movement—Kenya, who was also involved in the defeat of the Constitution. Kibaki is Kikuyu, the largest, most dominate tribe in the country based around Mount Kenya; Raila is Luo, the second largest tribe from around Kisumu; and Musyoka is Kamba, from Eastern Province. There are many polls and they have indicated that Raila is ahead of Kibaki from 1% to 8% and Musyoka is trailing badly at 15%, almost all his votes coming from the Kamba tribe. If you would like to know the level of discourse here, the Luo are the only major tribe in Kenya who do not perform male circumcision. People are told not to vote for Raila because he is not circumcised.
Kenya has some weird laws which were put in to place to keep the old political guard in power. One is that the President has to win his own parliamentary seat. This could be very significant because Raila’s constituency is in Nairobi and I have heard that there will be a lot of rigging and corruption in his district so that he loses. If he loses his seat and wins the popular vote, I predict significant violence in the country. Yet Kibaki is not off the hook as another rule says that a presidential candidate must have at least 25% of the vote in 5 of the 8 provinces. He is definitely not getting 25% in Nyanza Province where Raila comes from and it is possible that he will not get 25% in Western, Coast, and Northeastern Province. Then what?
With this background, I want to focus on Lugari District, which is a very volatile one. This district is in Western Province where the vast majority of the population is Luhya. Lugari District was part of the White highlands reserved for British settlers until independence in 1963. It was then divided up into plots and sold at a discount to people from Western Province. Yet tribalism never stops. The Luhya are divided into 14 sub-tribes. The biggest is Maragoli from the south and many of them have moved to Lugari because Vihiga District is very crowded. Another large group in Lugari comes from the Bugusu sub-tribe from nearby Mount Elgon.
For the first time ever, the political parties held primaries—they were chaotic. In Lugari, where whoever gets the nod from ODM is most likely to win, the ODM primary was to be on Friday. But there were no ballots for the 8 candidates: people milled around in town for most of the day, and nothing happened. Then on Saturday the ballots showed up and folks went to the local PAG church (Pentecostal Assemblies of God) to vote. A voter went and was told that even though this voting place was a block from our house, she had to go to another one about a mile away. She didn’t go. Things seemed to be going orderly at that time.
Why are there so many candidates—the general election has over 2,000 candidates for 212 seats or more than 10 per seat? This means that you can win with a rather small percentage of the votes. The reason is that PM’s are paid $190,000 per year in salary and benefits (one of the highest in the world) in a country where the official per capita income is $600 and my estimate is $3,000. The only qualification outside of being a Kenyan citizen is to be fluent in Swahili and English.
Sunday (Dec. 23) when I was returning from Church I passed by the ODM office. There were many people standing outside and horrendous shouting from within the building. The outgoing MP had lost the election and he assaulted the Returning Officer and later had a case filed against him. In many of the primaries the candidates favored by the political establishment lost – including many MP’s, ministers, and assistant ministers. These losers quickly jumped to become a candidate of one of the other 140 or so registered parties—there was one party that advertised in the paper that if you paid a certain amount you could be a candidate on their party ticket. In this case, the ODM hierarchy offered the outgoing MP a try on the NARC party ticket which is allied with ODM. I think he has little chance of winning.
So let us turn to Wycliffe Mudavadi. For us, an important fact is that he is a Quaker who frequently comes to church in Nairobi (and perhaps upcountry). More important for most Luhya he is a Maragoli. In 2002 Mudavali was made vice-president by Moi, in the hope of getting Luhya votes. This did not happen and Mudavadi lost his parliamentary seat. He quickly saw his error and during the ODM campaign in 2005 he joined the anti-government coalition. He is now the point man for ODM in Western Province and the vice-president designate if ODM wins.
But then Lugari District is home to a former PM, named Jirongo, who is the leader of his own party, KADDU (Kenya African Development D? Union) which has 97 candidates running for MP across the country. He is putting up a spirited campaign. Kibaki’s party, PNU, has a candidate but I don’t think he is a factor at all in this district. There are a total of eight candidates. I predict that Musungu, the ODM candidate, will win here, but this may be because he is a Maragoli and I hear mostly from other Maragoli. Our electrician is the ODM youth leader for Lugari District. Needless to say our electricity which needs attention has not received it. My sons printed up a shirt in the US which is orange (the color of the Orange Democratic Movement) saying, “Piga Chura, Chagua 2008, Barack Obama”—meaning “Vote, Choose in 2008, Barack Obama.” The electrician begged me for it so I gave it to him and he was wearing it every day.
There has been much more violence in this district. One defeated ODM candidate, a woman, was assassinated on her way home from an ODM meeting in Nairobi. Just last Saturday we learned that two women, who were given funds to bribe other women, were attacked by the youth of an opposing candidate: the money was stolen; their dresses were ripped apart so that they were naked. Bribing, which is supposed to be illegal—the laws in Kenya are actually very good on the whole, but the problem here is that no one thinks they need to abide by the law – prevails everywhere. In Vihiga, women were going to a certain house to get a half-kilo of sugar. On the national level, when Lucy Kibaki, the wife of the president, gave a speech to women in the Coast Province, each one was give a 1000/- note ($15.87) in reward for listening to her. This was reported in the newspaper but is considered nothing out of the ordinary.
To-date twenty-five people have been killed due to the elections. An assistant minister’s Government vehicle was stopped with traditional weapons—machetes, clubs, etc.--and he denied any involvement. Again the law states that anyone using violence will be disbarred. Three candidates have been fined 100,000/- ($1587) for inciting violence, but they remain in the election. There are very few women candidates, around 10%, and even less will win. Women, in addition to men, have been beaten up by rivals including one female candidate who was hospitalized. Every candidate from the President on down had to visit her in the hospital to condemn violence against women. One of the top ODM officials, slated to be the Prime Minister when a new constitution is developed, was attacked in the Kisii area as he got out of his helicopter and had to be hospitalized. Two minutes before the attack a senior minister in the Kibaki Government had been shown on TV talking to the leader of the attackers who had a bow and arrow. He was not even reprimanded.
Because in the past the polls have consistently shown the Government side to be higher than the actual results, I predict that Raila is going to win the election by about 8% or 9%. ODM will also have a majority in the parliament. If Kibaki wins and ODM has a majority in the parliament, then Kibaki will start bribing the ODM supporters to join his side—there are a lot of ministerial and assistant ministerial positions to hand out. If there is any kind of deadlock as I outlined above, then there could be real trouble here in Kenya.
So I have signed up to be an election monitor here. I have to be at the polling place by 5:30 a.m. and probably will not leave until 11:00 o’clock p.m.; after the ballots have all been counted. Quaker Peace Network-Africa has 49 Kenyan and 29 international monitors. AGLI is helping to support the Kenyan monitors. Hezron Masitsa in Nairobi and Rose Imbega for Kitale are the QPN organizers. The election monitors here in Western Kenya include many of the top leaders of the Friends Church in Kenya—this is a very good sign for arousing more interest in Quaker peacemaking in Western Kenya. We went to the training meeting yesterday and the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) surely has done a fine job of outlining what everyone should do. My job is just to watch for and notice any one of a number of infractions. Many of the international observers will be folks from Burundi, Rwanda, and Congo well known to AGLI. We were given a T-shirt with QPN-Africa on the front and “Quaker Peace Network, Friends Church, Kenya, 2007, Election Observers Team” on the back.
QPN got interested in Election Monitoring when at the QPN meeting in Kibuye, Rwanda, in October 2003, a Kenyan came and spoke to us for a day about how the churches, mosques, temples, and synagogues in Kenya united to keep the election from being stolen (again) by Moi. He was soundly defeated with 31% of the vote to Kibaki’s 68% and the election observers were able to announce the results before the Electoral Commission itself.
We all realized after this presentation that Election Monitoring is a critical component of peacemaking in Africa and the Quaker Peace Network has taken on this international task. QPN has had teams previously for 3 elections in Burundi, 3 in Congo, and the Constitutional voting in Kenya in 2005.
One of the requirements is that the ballots are counted immediately at the end of the voting at 5:00 PM with everyone watching the count. The results then must be posted on the outside of the voting station — I will write down the totals to make sure they match what is officially presented by the ECK. It is going to be a very loooooooooooong day. I will report again as soon as I have recovered!!!