Tag Archives: Peace

Ethiopia: Hailemariam must do more to build trust

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

About mid-January, hitherto incarcerated opposition leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), Merera Gudina, was released by the Ethiopian authorities. More than five hundred dissidents involved in unrests in 2015 and 2016 have also been earmarked for release. The imprisoned ones could be said to be the lucky ones. Others died on the streets at the hands of the oft-brutish security forces. Considering the antecedents of the ruling Tigray-dominated Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) party, Dr Gudina likely never reckoned his release would be so soon or so easy. Mind you, he had already spent more than a year in prison. His fellow comrades who took on the authorities in the more distant past could not have dared hope to be so lucky. Much earlier detainees essentially resigned to their fates. The EPRDF’s sudden magnanimity has pundits wondering what the catch is. Ordinarily, it makes sense that the government finally decided to extend an olive branch to the opposition. There have been perennial agitations by the Oromo and Amhara ethnic groups, who together constitute about two-thirds of the population, over myriad issues from land to the odd marginalisation here and there. To douse the tensions, the authorities certainly needed to do more than a cosmetic fix. A more inclusive cabinet in the aftermath of one of the now many protests by the Oromos and others did not seem to be satisfactory or adequate to placate the agitators. And unlike Meles Zenawi, the former legendary leader of the EPRDF, prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s clout in the party structures is weak. Thus, his consensual style is more forced than voluntary. While this would have been a disadvantage in a quasi-communist regime, it is informative when decisions such as the recent amnesty granted opposition leaders are reached. It was likely decided as a collective. Still Mr Hailemariam must be given some credit. He is leader, after all. In my column of 11 Oct 2016 (“Time for Hailemariam to lead”), I did urge Mr Hailemariam to be bolder and allow more room for dissent and political expression and for world powers to take a tougher stance towards a country that still remains dependent on their beneficence. Because even as Mr Hailemariam could not hope to grow in stature to match Mr Meles, the responsibility was now his to ensure that Ethiopia continued to be a trailblazer on many fronts on the African continent. It does seem like he came to that realisation himself. So if anyone should get credit for this recent positive move, it is Mr Hailemariam. There is only one little problem. Many are sceptical about the genuineness of the EPRDF’s reconciliation move. The EPRDF is well-known for its utter dislike of opposition of any kind. Students of politics also know that power is rarely ceded voluntarily. Nor are political moves ever altruistic. Thus, the opposition, as well as pundits, believe the EPRDF has something up its sleeve. A likely explanation for this recent move may simply be self-interest, though; on the part of most of the EPRDF apparatchiks, at least. Something significant needed to be done to stem the tide of increasingly popular antagonism towards the ruling EPRDF elite. But if the motivation is indeed noble, then the onus is on the EPRDF, and Mr Hailemariam specifically, to prove they are genuinely seeking to reconcile with other political groups in the country.

Good ground
Despite the scepticism, the authorities’ reconciliation move adds to what remains a largely positive narrative; on the economic front, at least. Ethiopia continues to churn out good growth figures and it is making significant strides in logistics, infrastructure, and manufacturing. Most recently, economic growth was more than 8 percent; and is expected to remain so for another two years, thereafter slowing to above 7 percent. And when the 6,450 mega watts (MW) Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is completed, Ethiopia would not only have abundant power to fire its industrial ambitions, it would have some left to aid its neighbours achieve theirs as well. In this regard, though, the authorities have had to contend with what have now become incessant disagreements with other countries dependent on the River Nile which feeds the GERD. Egypt and Sudan are currently at loggerheads, with speculations that should calm nerves not prevail, an armed conflict might be imminent. Egypt and Ethiopia have, however, demonstrated remarkable maturity despite their differences. They recently entered into development agreements, vowing to not let their differences over the GERD stop them from engaging in friendly and mutually beneficial relations. Credit for the amity must clearly go to Ethiopia, though, in light of the converse situation between Egypt and Sudan. It is thus not unlikely that Mr Hailemariam genuinely desires to smooth relations internally and externally. With outsiders, it is not so difficult to demonstrate the truth of his intentions; as there are markers by which both sides can measure progress. With distrustful compatriots, however, it would take more than the release of prisoners to build trust.

Open politics
So how should Mr Hailemariam prove he really means business? He could promise genuine elections when the next ones are due, for one. That is, all parties would be able to participate and campaign freely without the typical strong-arm tactics of bans, intimidation, imprisonment and result manipulation. There is not a single member of the opposition in the current parliamentary cohort. In the 2015 parliamentary elections, the EPRDF won 500 of the 547 seats. The remaining 47? It went to parties allied with the EPRDF. Surely, it is not because of a lack of interest or a shortage of candidates from the other side. It is by design. Until the EPRDF lets go of its fears and allows plural, free and fair elections, it should not entertain the hope that it could succeed in winning the hearts and minds of its opponents. Thing is, there is yet to be proof that it genuinely gives a darn.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays). See link viz. http://www.businessdayonline.com/ethiopia-hailemariam-must-build-trust/

Call me Mr President

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

On 12 December, a “president” would have been inaugurated in Mombasa, Kenya. At least, that was the plan. But the president of where or what? Because just weeks before, one was sworn-in. His name is Uhuru Kenyatta. And he looks nothing like the one that could have taken another oath of “office” this week. I have been at my wits’ end trying to fathom what Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga was trying to achieve by committing what could on the face of it have been deemed a treasonable offence. Mr Odinga lost to President Kenyatta in the August elections which was annulled by the Supreme Court over irregularities. As he did not participate in the second one, which incidentally was validated by the court, it beggars belief on what legal basis his purported presidential inauguration would have stood upon. With some reflection and after reading commentaries here and there, I came around to an understanding of what he might have been trying to achieve. A man could call himself anything. If I wrote in this column that I am the “president” of this page, who is to query me? Some companies entitle their chief executive “president”, for instance. In Nigeria, the head of the Senate is what again? Mr. President. But is Bukola Saraki, the president of the Nigerian Senate, the president of Nigeria? Surely not. So Mr Odinga might actually be on to something I thought. Since he is almost assured of the support of about half the Kenyan population, designating himself as “president” of some assemblage, a “peoples’ assembly”, say, might just do the trick of getting on the nerves of his rival in the presidential palace. In a nutshell, what Mr Odinga had planned today may actually have passed the test of legal scrutiny. At least, so I thought; until a press release by his party over the weekend postponing the swearing-in stated he would have been inaugurated as “President of the Republic of Kenya.” Say we ignore this about-face. Let us also assume he was not about to be foolhardy to the point of actually declaring himself the President of Kenya. With some creativity, he could actually get away with something close to the real deal.

Much ado about a title
Going around the country as the “president” of “something” that everyone knows represents about half of Kenya could actually be the perfect revenge from the scion of a family forever at odds (and always at the losing end it seems) with the Kenyattas. A good analogy can be found in China a long time ago. While Deng Xiaoping was the de facto leader of China in the late 1970s and for most of the 1980s, he was never officially head of state. At one point, the only title he had was that of honorary chairman of the China Bridge Association. Even then, he was able to wield tremendous power. Mr Deng proved the point that power is not so much about the title as it is about legitimacy. It seems to me Mr Odinga’s plan should be to hold on to the half of Kenya that he is now almost sure would pledge fealty to him if he asked. That way, as he and his party “resist” and ask for electoral reforms, they would be able to sustain the current momentum until the next elections. Mr Kenyatta and his men are not likely to sit idly by while he does this, though. Opposition strategist, David Ndii, was recently arrested by the authorities, likely in the hope that incriminating evidence would be found against him, Mr Odinga and the other principals of the National Super Alliance (NASA). As Mr Ndii recounts after his release on bail, they did not succeed.

Catch-22
Had the “president” been sworn-in today as planned, the president (which one now?) would have had little choice but to arrest and prosecute him for treason. Until the postponement was announced, I came to the resolution that perhaps Mr Odinga reckoned it would not be such a bad idea to be in the news in that manner. After all, he has been in prison before. In the event, attention would be drawn from whatever potential good Mr Kenyatta might be doing for the people towards the likely spectacle of a treason trial. He could still do some sort of oath-taking within the confines of the freedoms of association, expression and so on. But when the swearing-in eventually takes place, if ever, how should Mr Kenyatta respond? If he arrests and prosecutes Mr Odinga, the subsequent drama would be a tremendous distraction. If he does nothing, Mr Odinga would increasingly look presidential. Maybe it should end with the postponement.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays)

What is the North’s restructuring game?

By Rafiq Raji, PhD

Northern political leaders met in Kaduna in mid-October to articulate their position on recurrent agitations by major ethnic groups about restructuring the Nigerian federation. They had hitherto either been silent on the issue or suggested there was no need to change the current governance structure; which most argue is biased in their favour. It would be interesting to know what made them come around on the issue. If history is a guide, perhaps an argument was made that engaging other sections of the country on the great matter would be more beneficial than their aloofness hitherto. Tagged “The North and the future of the Nigerian Federation” and under the auspices of the Arewa Research Development Project (ARDP), I was pleasantly surprised at how well-organized it was. (I shall refer to it as the “Arewa Conference” subsequently.) Not that I made the day road trip to Kaduna from Lagos just to attend: I followed it on social media; which in addition to tweets also included live video feeds of key discussions. And even though, the political elite were accorded the usual prestige, ordinary northerners, especially minorities, were amply represented and had their say. This is important. One of the key problems of the north is the feeling minorities have of neglect and discrimination. Northern political leaders have been keen to use their numbers for supposedly the region’s gain but often to the detriment of the minorities’ interests.

Heard of Catalonia? 
The Spanish region of Catalonia recently voted to form its own country via a secret referendum, after a court declared the planned vote illegal. Tensions remain, even as Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, has signalled he would not be averse to talks. You would think the Spanish government would be similarly conciliatory. What did Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, do? He gave Mr Puigdemont a 5-day ultimatum to say pointedly whether his government has declared independence from Spain or not. If in the affirmative, Mr Rajoy has signalled the central government would take over the reins of power in the autonomous region. Still, you have to wonder whether Spanish authorities needed to wait for things to go this awry. Some of the Catalans’ grievances could have been easily managed and perhaps resolved if the central government were more accommodating, for instance. And clearly, even now, it does not appear the Spanish government has taken lessons from its past mistakes. It is also worth noting how fellow European authorities have rallied round the Spanish government while at the same time piling tremendous pressure on the Catalans. Were a similar crisis to be in a developing or African country, they are not known to be so resolute in their support for constituted authority; often urging restraint by central governments while accommodating oft-called “freedom-fighters” or “activists” in tandem. No foreign government has yet to put pressure on regional agitators in southeastern Nigeria, for instance; with evidence suggesting that but for their turning a blind eye, the errant groups might not be so enduring.

That said, the Nigerian government must take lessons from what is happening in Spain. Back home, the problem has not yet degenerated to the point where someone or a group would be able to organize a referendum for independence and potentially get some legitimacy. Besides, when people agitate peacefully, it is usually because despite their dissatisfaction, there is something about the status quo that still appeals to them. Igbos in southeastern Nigeria have long expressed displeasure about the state of their affairs in the Nigerian federation; especially as they are even now not adequately represented in the current Muhammadu Buhari administration. Bear in mind, the Niger Deltans similarly made public their grievances in peaceful ways, and only took up arms after their cries fell on deaf ears.

Stop wasting time
A committee of northern governors, traditional rulers and political leaders are expected to review the final document of the Arewa conference. Town hall meetings would also be held across the region in tandem, the organizers say. Quite frankly, I am not so sure there is a need for that much ado after the Kaduna get-together. If the intention is not to buy time, what the committee under the chairmanship of Sokoto governor, Aminu Tambuwal, should do is to immediately reach out to other regional leaders for a frank talk about the future of the Nigerian federation.

Also published in my Premium Times Nigeria column. See link viz. https://opinion.premiumtimesng.com/2017/10/13/what-is-the-norths-restructuring-game-by-rafiq-raji/

Liberia: Is it finally George Weah’s time?

By Rafiq Raji, PhD

I have been quite surprised, former world star footballer, George Weah, is yet to become president twelve years after he first vied for the office in 2005. (He was the first African player to win both the FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or in 1995.) There are not many things that could make one easily popular in African countries than being a master of the round leather game. And if Like Mr Weah, you rubbed shoulders with the world’s best, god-like status is almost assured. Mr Weah’s elusive ambition is partly because despite Liberia’s history of poverty, misery and war, the upper echelons of its society is largely elitist: Mr Weah did not have formal education early in life. (He has since corrected this lapse, earning a graduate degree in public administration from an American university in 2013.) When Mr Weah first contested against departing Liberian president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and lost, his lack of education was touted as one of the reasons why (President Sirleaf is Harvard-educated). Mr Weah claims intimidation and vote-rigging were the actual reasons. Clearly, though, Ms Sirleaf was better prepared: she was already finance minister when Mr Weah was in his teens. Besides, she had the backing of the establishment: an uneducated Mr Weah had to start from scratch, forming his own political party, the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), just to contest. Even so, he proved to be a strong competitor, securing a place in the second round and garnering 41 percent of the vote to Ms Sirleaf’s 59 percent. Thereafter, Mr Weah contested as a vice presidential candidate in the 2011 elections and lost again. Finally in 2014, he won a senatorial seat, beating Robert Sirleaf, the president’s son.

Last chance
With Ms Sirleaf finally departing the scene after 12 years of mixed performance, Mr Weah now has a fighting chance of becoming the president of Liberia in elections scheduled for 10 October. Considering there are 20 candidates on the ballot, an easily recognizable Mr Weah may be ideally placed to benefit from the overcrowding. And he could not be accused of inexperience this time around: he has an almost 4-year senatorial stint under his belt; and representing Liberia’s most populous county at that. There is also evidence of some political maturity on his part: his running mate is Jewel Howard Taylor, the influential ex-wife of jailed former warlord, Charles Taylor. Unsurprisingly, she is a controversial choice, with some arguing she could be a drag on the ticket. I disagree. In most post-conflict transitions, the protagonists in the preceding war or crisis tend to retain their influence. And even as Mr Taylor languishes in an English prison for war crimes, he is still able to exert considerable influence back home.

Cold shoulder
Most permutations put Mr Weah against incumbent vice president Joseph Boakai of the ruling Unity Party (UP) in a likely second round. Mr Boakai, who a friend just back from the country refers to as mild-mannered, has not enjoyed the support of his principal. Ms Sirleaf did not show up for any of his campaigns, for instance. At least his principal is not being hypocritical about it: there are not many cases of warmth between African presidents and their deputies. Considering Mr Boakai’s major selling point is that he is best placed to continue Ms Sirleaf’s legacy, her aloofness suggests she does not necessarily think so; a point voters are not likely to miss. Mr Weah has not been without troubles of his own; lately fending off accusations he has been in touch with Mr Taylor. He denies the allegations. I think he is lying. There is no way there could not have been some sort of communication between the two; probably by proxy, though. That is, even as he probably did not need to deny having contact with a man that one of his compatriots recently remarked would be accorded red carpet treatment were he to return to the country today. It may be no matter, really. More importantly, people just desire that the polls be peaceful. Besides, times are hard. Liberians simply want someone that would improve their fortunes.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria column (Tuesdays). See link viz. http://www.businessdayonline.com/liberia-finally-george-weahs-time/

Kenyan presidential election re-run must be done right

By Rafiq Raji, PhD

After being initially declared winner in the 8 August 2017 presidential election with 54 percent of the vote, Uhuru Kenyatta, the incumbent Kenyan president, had the surprise of his life when just barely a month after, the Supreme Court overturned his win and ordered fresh elections within 60 days. His challenger, opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) leader, Raila Odinga, had protested the election results, arguing the umpire was fraudulent in its computation of the tally. While the full court judgement is yet to be released, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has set 17 October as the date for the re-run, with only two candidates on the ballot: Mr Kenyatta of the ruling Jubilee party and Mr Odinga. Holding the new election that early is believed to have been informed by a desire not to disrupt the academic calendar of schools, whose premises are used as polling centres. The NASA candidate is unimpressed, prefering the new poll be held later.

Still, politicians have already started making re-alignments. Isaac Ruto, one of the NASA principals switched to the Jubilee camp in September, for instance. Peter Munya, a prominent county governor, also changed sides to NASA in the same month, where perhaps he believes his political fortunes might be rosier. Renewed campaigns have been characterized by vitriol, especially by the Jubilee candidate, who has spared no one he considers averse to his re-election bid. After initially acting statesman-like in the aftermath of the annulment of his election win, President Kenyatta has now adopted a no-holds barred strategy. Such is the extent of Mr Kenyatta’s angst, he recently called the country’s chief justice, David Maraga, a cheat on the campaign trail. Mr Odinga is not letting up either, announcing in September his determination to double down on his allegations of corruption, which he believes to be rife at the IEBC. Unless the candidates and their supporters desist from such acerbic rhetoric, the risk of unprecedented violence around the re-run poll is high. And to think only about a month ago, Kenyans demonstrated remarkable calm as they voted for candidates of their choice.

Disband IEBC leadership
Sharp divisions within the IEBC leadership have now come to light, with chairman Wafula Chebukati clearly at loggerheads with chief executive Ezra Chiloba. In saner climes, they would both have resigned by now. A leaked memo by Mr Chebukati to Mr Chiloba in early September vindicates the observations of the opposition and Supreme Court. For instance, Mr Chebukati wondered why a username was created in his name without his consent. IEBC vice-chairperson Consolata Nkatha and four other commissioners are livid at not being privy to the memo, only to find out about it in the press; evidence of disarray. Another allegation made by Mr Chebukati asks why expensive satellite phones procured to transmit results failed to work on election day. Ballot papers did not have security features, it turns out. Mr Chebukati also wonders why a “porous file server system” was used to transmit results. The real question begging for an answer, however, is why despite knowing about such irregularities, the chairman went ahead to announce the election results. There is no way Mr Chebukati can escape responsibility for the poll’s failings. In any case, Mr Chiloba has indicated he would have no qualms about resigning if the full Supreme Court judgement implicates him. Both of them are culpable.

Do it right this time
Mr Odinga has formalized his disapproval of a rushed re-run. He complains the umpire did not consult him or his party before announcing a new date. Mr Kenyatta asserts he was not consulted either, but would like the poll held as announced. Besides, argued Mr Kenyatta, there is no requirement in law that the IEBC must consult candidates before deciding on the new date. Even so, Mr Kenyatta is being a little disingenuous, as it is highly unlikely he was not familiar with the thinking of the IEBC ahead of the date announcement. After all, suggestions about the date emanated from a member of his cabinet. But would disrupting the academic calendar be too huge a price to ensure the new poll does not have any of the shortcomings of the earlier one? Definitely not: Mr Odinga is not being entirely unreasonable to think so, especially as the stakes are all too high. Quite frankly, all the needless controversy could have been easily avoided if the IEBC were more transparent in the first place.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays). See link viz. http://www.businessdayonline.com/kenyan-presidential-election-re-run-must-done-right/

Ethnic politics and the 2017 Kenyan elections

By Rafiq Raji, PhD

Two tight opinion polls on the frontrunners of the 2017 Kenyan presidential election just weeks to the 8 August vote made writ large how potentially contentious the outcome could be. [1] For the first time since campaigns began, one poll had the leading opposition candidate, Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance (NASA), ahead of incumbent president, Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee Party. The Infotrak Harris opinion poll conducted on 16-22 July put Mr Odinga ahead of Mr Kenyatta by one point, with the former rising in popularity to 47 percent, a 3-point gain from about 2 weeks before.[2]Mr Odinga’s improved chances stemmed from holding on to his key support base, as well as securing new supporters from what used to be the Rift Valley and North Eastern provinces (now a couple of counties), strongholds of the ruling Jubilee Party. Another poll, that by Ipsos, taken on 2-12 July, put both leading contenders at a tie at 45 percent. The Ipsos survey was probably behind the curve in light of its earlier date. Judging from how the media initially under-reported Mr Odinga’s gains, the establishment was clearly shocked.[3]

Not long thereafter, Mr Odinga made a surprise appearance at a televised presidential debate that he and Mr Kenyatta had earlier indicated they would not attend.[4] There was much concern about the reluctance of the candidates to debate each other ahead of the elections. In the vice-presidential debate for instance, only one candidate showed up. Independent deputy presidential candidate Eliud Muthiora Kariara debated himself in mid-July as his rivals found excuses ranging from disagreement with the format to not being formally invited for staying away.[5] Mr Kenyatta’s no-show at the debate was a little surprising considering his campaign cancelled an earlier scheduled trip to Samburu and Marsabit districts in the former Rift Valley and Eastern provinces respectively on the day of the debate.[6] His decision might prove costly: Mr Odinga had the stage entirely to himself.[7] In his defense, Mr Kenyatta asserted the debate would have been a waste of his time, preferring as he put it, to be commissioning projects.[8] NASA stalwarts think he simply fell for their trick: Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr Odinga’s running mate, said he deliberately stayed away from the deputy-presidential debate in a calculated scheme to snare the Jubilee camp into thinking the head of the NASA ticket would similarly not attend the presidential one. They probably have a point, because it is highly unlikely Mr Kenyatta would have ceded 90 minutes of primetime television and radio to his opponent otherwise.

Whether Mr Kenyatta’s debate miss would have an impact on the election results remains to be seen, however. But should Mr Kenyatta lose the election, one of the reasons would almost certainly be because he allowed Mr Odinga to have the undivided attention of the country for more than an hour without the chance to make his own case.[9] Such is the level of uncertainty now that there is talk of a likely second round vote. And even before the debate upset, an objective assessment would have revealed Mr Odinga was probably in a far stronger position than the media, or in fact the opinion polls, suggested. Mr Odinga’s coalition of popular politicians from the major ethnic groups, his populist rhetoric, and the electoral reforms he successfully pushed for, could sufficiently tilt the balance in his favour. That is, barring any major adverse events, of which there are already a few. An ongoing cholera outbreak and the perennial terrorist threat from Somali Al-Shabaab militants are examples of threats that could instigate measures by the authorities with potentially dampening effects on voter turnout on election day.

Ethnic arithmetic favours opposition coalition
Although the 2017 elections would be the second since the new 2010 constitution, which allowed for the devolution of powers to the counties, was adopted, it would also be the first since citizens got a taste of how much power the counties now wield. And it is increasingly obvious a couple of counties might decide the election, judging from the amount of time the two leading candidates dedicated to them during the campaigns. They are Narok, Kajiado, Kisii, Baringo, and those in the former Coast and Western provinces.[10] Even so, a lot of voters are expected to decide along ethnic lines.[11] Mr Kenyatta, who is Kikuyu, the country’s largest tribe and 17 percent of the population (2009 census), and his deputy, William Ruto, who is Kalenjin (13 percent of the population), could easily secure 30 percent of the vote, based on their joint ethnicity alone.[12] Mr Odinga, who is of the Luo ethnic group (10 percent of the population) and the other 4 principals of the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition namely; former vice-president and deputy prime minister Musalia Mudavadi of Luhya ethnicity (14 percent of the population), former vice-president Kalonzo Musyoka of Kamba ethnicity (10 percent of the population), former Senate minority leader Moses Wetangula of Luhya ethnicity and Isaac Ruto, who is a Kalenjin, could together easily secure 47 percent of the vote if their ethnicity is a reliable proxy; albeit only Mr Musyoka is on the presidential ticket with Mr Odinga.

Even as tribal loyalities do run deep, however, voting choices may not necessarily be tribally homogenous. Considering deputy president William Ruto is a more influential Kalenjin, Mr Isaac Ruto, who has boasted of bringing at least 1 million Kalenjin votes to the table, cannot be so confident, for instance. And the voters’ register does not necessarily reflect the exact tribal configuration of the population. That is, some tribes might have a greater representation in the register than their share of the population and vice versa. Besides, voter turnout on election day might not be similarly structured. And the loyalties of tribes like the Kenyan Somali (6 percent of population) might go either way, although they may not forgot too soon the court-botched closure of the Dadaab refugee camp by the ruling Jubilee government.[13]

Past election results could also be an indicator of how the candidates might fare this time around. Mr Mudavadi, who is not contesting for elective office in the upcoming polls, secured 3.96 percent of the 2013 presidential election votes. If summed with Mr Odinga’s 43.7 percent, their joint tally of about 48 percent, though impressive, would still fall short of the minimum 50 percent and one vote needed to secure a victory, however. That is in addition to having more than 25 percent of votes cast from at least half of the country’s 47 counties. But add those that could potentially come on the back of the other NASA prinicipals, an extra 2 percent might not be that difficult. In contrast, Mr Kenyatta cannot be assured he would get as much as the 50.5 percent of the vote that he got in 2013. Myriad allegations of corruption, a drought-induced grain shortage (albeit now ameliorated with government-subsidized imports) and so on, have likely eroded some of his support. It is also probable Mr Odinga’s populist and socialist rhetoric resonates more with voters than Mr Kenyatta’s capitalist drift.

Key Politicians & tribal affilliations
Name Political Party Ethnicity
Uhuru Kenyatta Jubilee Kikuyu
William Ruto Jubilee Kalenjin
Raila Odinga NASA Luo
Musaila Mudavadi NASA Luhya
Kalonzo Musyoka NASA Kamba
Moses Wetangula NASA Luhya
Isaac Ruto NASA Kalenjin

Source: Author’s research

IEBC must be beyond reproach
With such a tight race, much would depend on whether voters trust the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). What is significantly different this time around though, is that the election results declared at polling stations would have finality, as opposed to the past practice of making them provisional to final certification by the IEBC in Nairobi. That much the courts have affirmed: the IEBC failed in its appeal of the April 2017 court ruling which ordered that results declared at polling stations must not be subject to change at the national collation centre. [14]Such a decentralized system makes it more difficult to cheat, as all stakeholders would be able to do their own collation based on the same constitutency-level results. The increased transparency consequently is also why fears of violence may be overblown. Credit for these laudable changes must go to Mr Odinga and his coalition partners.

From April 2016 onwards, Mr Odinga and his supporters staged several protests demanding changes at the IEBC that would ensure the umpire is not in a position to fraudulently tilt the elections in favour of the incumbent. After a few deaths, the ruling Jubilee government agreed in August 2016 to replace the IEBC commissioners, which the opposition called biased.[15] One month later, Mr Kenyatta signed into law amendments to the electoral act that included new criteria for recruiting IEBC commissioners.[16]

Despite these gains, Mr Odinga and his coalition partners did not relent in their scrutiny of the IEBC. When the ruling Jubilee government would not budge on an issue, the opposition simply went to the judiciary for redress. Mr Kenyatta did not hide his irritation, as the courts seemed to be ruling more often in the opposition’s favour at some point, forcing a word of caution from Chief Justice David Maraga.[17] Jubilee tried to cast doubts on the credibility of at least one judgement unfavourable to it, citing conflict of interest.[18]Court of Appeal judge William Ouko, who was one of the five-member bench that ruled on the finality of election results at the constituency level, is related to Mr Odinga’s wife, for instance. [19] The niece of one of the NASA lawyers turned out to be married to one of the judges in another case that NASA won. [20] Were that to be a yardstick, however, then almost all the top judges could be conflicted. It is typical of the elite in the private and public sectors to inter-marry; after all, they often belong to the same social circles. Unsurprisingly, when the courts have been unfavourable to Mr Odinga, he has similarly accused Mr Kenyatta of intimidating the judiciary. The key point here is how deliberative combative both sides have been and how determined they are to win.

Procurement activities at the IEBC have also been marred by one controversy after another. It cancelled the tender for poll equipment in March 2017, for instance, amid accusations of corruption from the opposition.[21] [22] The awarding of the contract to print ballot papers to Dubai-based Al Ghurair, a company NASA claims has ties to Mr Kenyatta, is another[23], a charge the firm denies in a sworn affidavit.[24] A high court ordered Al Ghurair to stop the printing of presidential ballot papers regardless, but was later overturned on appeal as the IEBC expressed fears the elections could be delayed.[25] The controversy could have been avoided in the first place if proper tendering processes were followed. Because even before the Al Ghurair saga, the tender had been cancelled at least twice over irregularities, forcing the IEBC to send erstwhile procurement director Lawy Aura on compulsory leave in June 2017.[26] Information Technology director, James Muhati, received a similar treatment at about the same time when it emerged he was not being helpful with a systems audit. His replacement, Chris Msando, was found tortured and murdered in late July, a little over a week to the polls and just before a systems audit was scheduled.[27] Although, the IEBC has since discountenanced suggestions of a disruption consequently, it would be difficult to put in place another senior staff with the same level of competence, preparedness and, as was found, high integrity, within such a short period. Besides, it is highly improbable that Mr Msando’s assailants would have taken such a drastic step if they were not convinced that his replacement would either be less competent or prepared or more pliable. Regardless, they likely succeeded in getting enough information on the so-called Kenya Integrated Elections Management System (KIEMS) through torturing him. Thus, unless there is a re-configuration, KIEMS has likely been compromised. The proximity of the killing to the poll date also means a new ICT manager would not have enough time to gain the trust of the public like Mr Msando was able to. In fact, NASA has expressed fears the transmission of the election results may be hacked. To forestall this, it has asked that an independent international firm be tasked with overseeing KIEMS. IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati disagrees, insisting the commission’s systems are secure and a competent team remains in place to ensure hitch-free elections.[28] Mr Chebukati could not be so sure that early on before the conclusion of substantive investigations. For an election considered to be Kenya’s most expensive yet, these negative events are quite concerning.

There is currently more than 300 cases at the courts against the IEBC.[29] The major ones, that is, those that could have delayed the elections, have been addressed, however. The one that relates to the printing of presidential ballots was earlier highlighted. Another suit by NASA asking the courts to stop the IEBC from using a manual voting system as back-up, has also been quashed. The worry of NASA of course, was that a manual system would be open to fraud. It had hoped voting would be exclusively electronic. But in light of the Nigerian experience where electronic voting kits failed on election day, it is probably wise to have a manual back-up. That is even as Jubilee may likely want the manual system backup for sinister reasons. What NASA had wanted was for the IEBC to postpone the elections should the electronic kits fail. This it hoped would demotivate any shenanigans like the electronic kits being made to deliberately fail just so the elections would be largely manual. Still, the myriad litigations even before an actual vote point to a potentially contentious election aftermath. It is a positive that at least the key questions that hitherto put a cloud over the elections, have been answered by the courts.[30]

Potential turnout holdups
A spreading cholera outbreak is not helpful either.[31] From the beginning of the year to 17 July, there were already 1,216 registered cases and 14 deaths. [32] The World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified it as high risk nationally and regionally. Should it deteriorate further, necessary quarantine measures would disenfranchise a swathe of voters. The authorities have already shut down venues where cases have been recorded and ordered the testing of about half a million people in July.[33] More stringent measures are probable. Furthermore, elections are being held this year amid a still challenging food supply environment. Government-sponsored imports to ameliorate the problem have been largely effective, though. But the arrangements have tended to run into problems from time to time. In July for instance, wheat prices rose on higher demurrage charges to ships carrying imported supplies, but were delayed at the ports. [34] A 2kg packet rose as much as 11 percent to 133 shillings from 120 shillings two months earlier. The food crisis came in handy for Mr Odinga, who harped on past warnings about the country’s dwindling grain reserves. A refusal to lift trade barriers with neighbouring Ethiopia to favour Jubilee acolytes’ maize import arrangements with Mexico, was fingered.[35]

Economic costs not likely as high despite fears
Historically, Kenyan economic growth suffers in election years.[36] There have been exceptions. In years when electoral reforms preceded the polls, there was no material negative economic impact that could be attributed. Typically, however, there is a 60 percent chance of a growth slump in an election year, if analysis based on World Bank and Kenyan National Bureau of Statistics data from 1990 is anything to go by. [37] So it is not too surprising that expectations are rife that this might also be the case for the 2017 polls. And the recovery has tended to range from 18-26 months, depending on whether the elections were single-party or multi-party based. [38] But the election-related slumps theory has not proved to be robust post-2002. True, growth was -1.1 percent in 1992 from 1.3 percent the year before. Similarly, growth slowed to 0.4 percent in 1997, another election year, from 4.2 percent in 1996. Growth also slowed to 0.5 percent in 2002 from 4 percent in 2001.

Interestingly, even with the violence that characterised the 2007 elections, growth actually rose higher to 6.9 percent that year from 5.9 percent the year before. This was also the case for the 2013 election year, which saw growth up to 5.7 percent from 4.6 percent in 2012. So, there is room to contend that growth might actually not suffer as much in the current election year. Most economic growth forecasts for 2017 remained around the 5 percent area a month to the elections despite these concerns. In its July 2017 update, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) put its forecast for 2017 at 5.3 percent; albeit lower than the 6 percent estimate for 2016.

Besides, if the IEBC succeeds in being as transparent as it has promised to be, earlier anxiety ahead of the polls might quickly translate into an aggressive push to regain lost economic ground afterwards. And what was largely city-centred violence in the aftermath of the bloody 2007 elections, could supposedly not be the case this time around. This is because as more power has been devolved to the counties since then, what is probable could be no more than small pockets of violence here and there at the local level, and not the type of co-ordinated anarchy in 2007.

Regardless, some remain convinced that there could be even more troubles this time around. One theory revolves around the intergenerational family rivalry between the Kenyattas and Odingas. Mr Odinga would be contesting for the fourth and likely last time, but second time against Mr Kenyatta. After a remarkably strife-filled political life ranging from imprisonment to exile, Mr Odinga is putting everything into this election. There is a family history that Mr Kenyatta is seeking to guard as well. Mr Kenyatta would likely be heartbroken if it turns out he lost to Mr Odinga, the son of his father’s arch-rival and who, like his father, he has managed to prevail over thus far.

Currency speculators, who are almost convinced the shilling would suffer losses over worries of a violent vote, have been having a field day. The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) governor Patrick Njoroge has warned they would get their fingers burnt, pointing to ample foreign exchange reserves boosted by an IMF standing facility precisely for such potential shocks.[39]

Still, economic activity has slowed owing to the upcoming polls.[40]Manufacturers have been reducing their throughput and investors have not been investing as much. [41] International trade has also recorded dampened activity, as landlocked neighbours, who usually pass their cargoes primarily through the Mombasa port, have been diverting them to the Dar es Salaam port in Tanzania. [42] There is historical precedence for these actions. In the aftermath of the 2007 election violence, Ugandan and Rwandese traders reportedly lost 158 billion shillings, compensation for which the Kenyan authorities had no choice but to oblige. [43] This time around, it does not seem like they are taking any chances.

Travel advisories have also been issued by foreign governments, with multinationals reportedly giving their staff leave to move to neighbouring countries a week before and stay until a week after the polls. [44]

In general, most companies have suspended capital allocation decisions till after the elections. Businesses have also organised emergency drills for those staff that have little choice but to stay back during the election period. Tourism would suffer most definitely. Countries that have asked their citizens to take precautions, include the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Canada, Australia and Russia. Some companies have simply asked their staff to take their annual leave in August. These are just precautions of course. The polls may prove to be largely peaceful.

The author, Dr Rafiq Raji, is an adjunct researcher of the NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies, Singapore, a trilateral platform for government, business and academia to promote knowledge and expertise on Africa, established by Nanyang Technological University and the Singapore Business Federation. This article was published by the NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies on 4 August 2017. It was also published by Africabusiness.com.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria column on 5 Sep 2017. See link viz. https://www.businessdayonline.com/ethnic-politics-2017-kenyan-elections-2/

 

[1] Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odinga in dead heat – Infotrak poll (Daily Nation 24 Jul 2017) http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Infotrak-poll-shows-Raila-ahead-of-Uhuru/1056-4028786-ejfvfjz/index.html

[2] Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odinga in dead heat – Infotrak poll (Daily Nation 24 Jul 2017) http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Infotrak-poll-shows-Raila-ahead-of-Uhuru/1056-4028786-ejfvfjz/index.html

[3] Why did media ignore poll showing Raila ahead of Uhuru? (Daily Nation 23 Jul 2017) http://www.nation.co.ke/news/politics/Why-did-media-ignore-poll-showing-Raila-ahead-of-Uhuru–/1064-4027776-u3xb9tz/index.html

[4] Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odingsa to skip presidential debate(Standard, 5 Jul 2017) https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2001246203/uhuru-kenyatta-raila-odinga-to-skip-presidential-debate

[5] Kenyan vice president candidate debates himself after rivals’s no-show (Reuters 18 Jul 2017) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-election-debate-idUSKBN1A3162?il=0

[6] Presidential debate: Uhuru cancels Samburu tour (Daily Nation 24 Jul 2017) http://www.nation.co.ke/news/politics/Presidential-debate-Uhuru-cancels-Samburu-tour/1064-4029880-nb81rk/index.html

[7] Kenyan president fails to show up for election debate (Reuters 24 Jul 2017) https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-election-debate-idUSKBN1A92LJ

[8] Uhuru: Why I snubbed debate (Daily Nation 25 Jul 2017) http://www.nation.co.ke/news/politics/Uhuru-snubbed-debate/1064-4031612-b3yep5/index.html

[9] Kalonzo: How we tricked Uhuru and Jubilee to miss debate (Daily Nation 25 Jul 2017) http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Presidential-Debate-Kenya-Uhuru-Kenyatta/1056-4031404-grbxkf/index.html

[10] Why Jubilee, Nasa have focused campaigns on 5 zones (Daily Nation 13 Jul 2017) http://www.nation.co.ke/news/politics/Why-Jubilee–Nasa-have-focused-poll-campaigns-on-five-regions–/1064-4012734-n4biohz/index.html

[11] The role of ethnicity in Kenyan politics (DW 8 Feb 2017) http://www.dw.com/en/the-role-of-ethnicity-in-kenyan-politics/a-37442394

[12] Census: Here are the numbers (Standard 1 Sep 2010) https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/business/article/2000017306/census-here-are-the-numbers

[13] Rights groups welcome court ruling to block Kenya refugee camp closure (Guardian 9 Feb 2017) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/09/kenyan-court-quashes-government-order-close-refugee-camp

[14] Kenyan court rules vote results declared at station are final (Bloomberg 23 Jun 2017) https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-06-23/kenyan-court-rules-presidential-votes-can-be-declared-at-station

[15] Kenya clears out electoral officials after deadly protests (Reuters 17 Aug 2016) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-politics-idUSKCN10R1S6

[16] Kenya enacts law to replace electoral agency ahead of vote (Bloomberg 15 Sep 2016) https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-09-15/kenya-enacts-law-to-replace-electoral-agency-ahead-of-vote

[17] Kenya president, chief justice clash as elections approach (Reuters 9 Jul 2017) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-election-idUSKBN19U0X2

[18] Jubilee alleges conflict of interest in Al Ghurair ballot papers case (The Star 10 Jul 2017) http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/07/10/jubilee-alleges-conflict-of-interest-in-al-ghurair-ballot-papers-case_c1594456

[19] Jubilee alleges conflict of interest in Al Ghurair ballot papers case (The Star 10 Jul 2017) http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/07/10/jubilee-alleges-conflict-of-interest-in-al-ghurair-ballot-papers-case_c1594456

[20] Jubilee alleges conflict of interest in Al Ghurair ballot papers case (The Star 10 Jul 2017) http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/07/10/jubilee-alleges-conflict-of-interest-in-al-ghurair-ballot-papers-case_c1594456

[21] IEBC cancels tender for poll equipment, seeks lease (The Star 23 Mar 2017) http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/03/23/iebc-cancels-tender-for-poll-equipment-seeks-to-lease_c1529673

[22] Probe ‘corrupt’ IEBC for cancelling poll equipment tender, says Mudavadi (The Star 23 Mar 2017) http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/03/23/probe-corrupt-iebc-for-cancelling-poll-equipment-tender-says-mudavadi_c1530331

[23] NASA links Jubilee officials to Al Ghurair tender, wants Chiloba sacked (The Star 14 Jun 2017) http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/06/14/nasa-links-jubilee-officials-to-al-ghurair-tender-wants-chiloba-sacked_c1579637

[24] We have never met Uhuru, Al Ghurair now claims in affidavit (The Star 27 Jun 2017) http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/06/27/we-have-never-met-uhuru-al-ghurair-now-claims-in-affidavit_c1586814

[25] NASA loses cross-appeal on Uhuru links to Al Ghurair (The Star 20 Jul 2017) http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/07/20/nasa-loses-cross-appeal-on-uhuru-links-to-al-ghurair_c1600686

[26] IEBC fires procurement director over ballot tender (The Star 7 Jun 2017) http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/06/07/iebc-fires-procurement-director-over-ballot-tender_c1575518

[27] Kenya election official tortured, murdered before vote, officials say (Reuters 31 Jul 2017) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-election-death-idUSKBN1AG1B5

[28] IEBC systems secure, Wafula Chebukati says (Daily Nation 1 Aug 2017) http://www.nation.co.ke/news/IEBC-systems-secure-Chebukati-Msando/1056-4040634-w5ak74/index.html

[29] Kenyan election body fighting over 300 lawsuits as vote looms (Reuters 20 Jul 2017) https://af.reuters.com/article/africaTech/idAFKBN1A52EM-OZATP

[30] Court declares IEBC can use manual system (Daily Nation 21 Jul 2017) http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Nasa-loses-yet-another-court-battle/1056-4025664-7eewwd/index.html

[31] WHO sees high risk from Kenya cholera outbreak (Reuters 21 Jul 2017) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-cholera-idUSKBN1A61HU

[32] WHO sees high risk from Kenya cholera outbreak (Reuters 21 Jul 2017) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-cholera-idUSKBN1A61HU

[33] Cholera kills four in Kenyan capital since May, government shuts hotels (Reuters 19 Jul 2017) https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-health-idUSKBN1A417I

[34] Wheat prices rise again as imports delay at port (BusinessDaily 20 Jul 2017) http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/markets/news/Wheat-prices-rise-again-imports-delay-airport/3815534-4025046-on836m/index.html

[35] Raila wants Kiunjuri, Bett and Lesiyampe sacked for failing to end food shortage (The Star 8 Jun 2017) http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/06/08/raila-wants-kiunjuri-bett-and-lesiyampe-sacked-for-failing-to-end-food_c1576049

[36] Why economy slows in election years (Daily Nation 23 Apr 2016) http://www.nation.co.ke/newsplex/kenya-election-2017-gdp/2718262-3173194-moknsqz/index.html

[37] Why economy slows in election years (Daily Nation 23 Apr 2016) http://www.nation.co.ke/newsplex/kenya-election-2017-gdp/2718262-3173194-moknsqz/index.html

[38] Why economy slows in election years (Daily Nation 23 Apr 2016) http://www.nation.co.ke/newsplex/kenya-election-2017-gdp/2718262-3173194-moknsqz/index.html

[39]‘Chill’, Kenya central bank tells shilling speculators as election nears (Reuters 18 Jul 2017) http://af.reuters.com/article/africaTech/idAFKBN1A310A-OZABS?utm_source=34553&utm_medium=partner

[40] Economic activity slows down ahead of General Election (The East African 26 Jul 2017) http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/business/Economic-activity-slows-down-ahead-of-General-Election-/2560-4032474-syhlq6/index.html

[41] Economic activity slows down ahead of General Election (The East African 26 Jul 2017) http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/business/Economic-activity-slows-down-ahead-of-General-Election-/2560-4032474-syhlq6/index.html

[42] Economic activity slows down ahead of General Election (The East African 26 Jul 2017) http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/business/Economic-activity-slows-down-ahead-of-General-Election-/2560-4032474-syhlq6/index.html

[43] Economic activity slows down ahead of General Election (The East African 26 Jul 2017) http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/business/Economic-activity-slows-down-ahead-of-General-Election-/2560-4032474-syhlq6/index.html

[44] Economic activity slows down ahead of General Election (The East African 26 Jul 2017) http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/business/Economic-activity-slows-down-ahead-of-General-Election-/2560-4032474-syhlq6/index.html

Ethnic politics and the 2017 Kenyan elections

By Rafiq Raji, PhD

Two tight opinion polls on the frontrunners of the 2017 Kenyan presidential election just weeks to the 8 August vote made writ large how potentially contentious the outcome could be. [1] For the first time since campaigns began, one poll had the leading opposition candidate, Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance (NASA), ahead of incumbent president, Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee Party. The Infotrak Harris opinion poll conducted on 16-22 July put Mr Odinga ahead of Mr Kenyatta by one point, with the former rising in popularity to 47 percent, a 3-point gain from about 2 weeks before.[2]Mr Odinga’s improved chances stemmed from holding on to his key support base, as well as securing new supporters from what used to be the Rift Valley and North Eastern provinces (now a couple of counties), strongholds of the ruling Jubilee Party. Another poll, that by Ipsos, taken on 2-12 July, put both leading contenders at a tie at 45 percent. The Ipsos survey was probably behind the curve in light of its earlier date. Judging from how the media initially under-reported Mr Odinga’s gains, the establishment was clearly shocked.[3]

Not long thereafter, Mr Odinga made a surprise appearance at a televised presidential debate that he and Mr Kenyatta had earlier indicated they would not attend.[4] There was much concern about the reluctance of the candidates to debate each other ahead of the elections. In the vice-presidential debate for instance, only one candidate showed up. Independent deputy presidential candidate Eliud Muthiora Kariara debated himself in mid-July as his rivals found excuses ranging from disagreement with the format to not being formally invited for staying away.[5] Mr Kenyatta’s no-show at the debate was a little surprising considering his campaign cancelled an earlier scheduled trip to Samburu and Marsabit districts in the former Rift Valley and Eastern provinces respectively on the day of the debate.[6] His decision might prove costly: Mr Odinga had the stage entirely to himself.[7] In his defense, Mr Kenyatta asserted the debate would have been a waste of his time, preferring as he put it, to be commissioning projects.[8] NASA stalwarts think he simply fell for their trick: Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr Odinga’s running mate, said he deliberately stayed away from the deputy-presidential debate in a calculated scheme to snare the Jubilee camp into thinking the head of the NASA ticket would similarly not attend the presidential one. They probably have a point, because it is highly unlikely Mr Kenyatta would have ceded 90 minutes of primetime television and radio to his opponent otherwise.

Whether Mr Kenyatta’s debate miss would have an impact on the election results remains to be seen, however. But should Mr Kenyatta lose the election, one of the reasons would almost certainly be because he allowed Mr Odinga to have the undivided attention of the country for more than an hour without the chance to make his own case.[9] Such is the level of uncertainty now that there is talk of a likely second round vote. And even before the debate upset, an objective assessment would have revealed Mr Odinga was probably in a far stronger position than the media, or in fact the opinion polls, suggested. Mr Odinga’s coalition of popular politicians from the major ethnic groups, his populist rhetoric, and the electoral reforms he successfully pushed for, could sufficiently tilt the balance in his favour. That is, barring any major adverse events, of which there are already a few. An ongoing cholera outbreak and the perennial terrorist threat from Somali Al-Shabaab militants are examples of threats that could instigate measures by the authorities with potentially dampening effects on voter turnout on election day.

Ethnic arithmetic favours opposition coalition
Although the 2017 elections would be the second since the new 2010 constitution, which allowed for the devolution of powers to the counties, was adopted, it would also be the first since citizens got a taste of how much power the counties now wield. And it is increasingly obvious a couple of counties might decide the election, judging from the amount of time the two leading candidates dedicated to them during the campaigns. They are Narok, Kajiado, Kisii, Baringo, and those in the former Coast and Western provinces.[10] Even so, a lot of voters are expected to decide along ethnic lines.[11] Mr Kenyatta, who is Kikuyu, the country’s largest tribe and 17 percent of the population (2009 census), and his deputy, William Ruto, who is Kalenjin (13 percent of the population), could easily secure 30 percent of the vote, based on their joint ethnicity alone.[12] Mr Odinga, who is of the Luo ethnic group (10 percent of the population) and the other 4 principals of the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition namely; former vice-president and deputy prime minister Musalia Mudavadi of Luhya ethnicity (14 percent of the population), former vice-president Kalonzo Musyoka of Kamba ethnicity (10 percent of the population), former Senate minority leader Moses Wetangula of Luhya ethnicity and Isaac Ruto, who is a Kalenjin, could together easily secure 47 percent of the vote if their ethnicity is a reliable proxy; albeit only Mr Musyoka is on the presidential ticket with Mr Odinga.

Even as tribal loyalities do run deep, however, voting choices may not necessarily be tribally homogenous. Considering deputy president William Ruto is a more influential Kalenjin, Mr Isaac Ruto, who has boasted of bringing at least 1 million Kalenjin votes to the table, cannot be so confident, for instance. And the voters’ register does not necessarily reflect the exact tribal configuration of the population. That is, some tribes might have a greater representation in the register than their share of the population and vice versa. Besides, voter turnout on election day might not be similarly structured. And the loyalties of tribes like the Kenyan Somali (6 percent of population) might go either way, although they may not forgot too soon the court-botched closure of the Dadaab refugee camp by the ruling Jubilee government.[13]

Past election results could also be an indicator of how the candidates might fare this time around. Mr Mudavadi, who is not contesting for elective office in the upcoming polls, secured 3.96 percent of the 2013 presidential election votes. If summed with Mr Odinga’s 43.7 percent, their joint tally of about 48 percent, though impressive, would still fall short of the minimum 50 percent and one vote needed to secure a victory, however. That is in addition to having more than 25 percent of votes cast from at least half of the country’s 47 counties. But add those that could potentially come on the back of the other NASA prinicipals, an extra 2 percent might not be that difficult. In contrast, Mr Kenyatta cannot be assured he would get as much as the 50.5 percent of the vote that he got in 2013. Myriad allegations of corruption, a drought-induced grain shortage (albeit now ameliorated with government-subsidized imports) and so on, have likely eroded some of his support. It is also probable Mr Odinga’s populist and socialist rhetoric resonates more with voters than Mr Kenyatta’s capitalist drift.

Kenya Elections 1

Key Politicians & tribal affilliations
Name Political Party Ethnicity
Uhuru Kenyatta Jubilee Kikuyu
William Ruto Jubilee Kalenjin
Raila Odinga NASA Luo
Musaila Mudavadi NASA Luhya
Kalonzo Musyoka NASA Kamba
Moses Wetangula NASA Luhya
Isaac Ruto NASA Kalenjin

Source: Author’s research

Kenya Elections 2

IEBC must be beyond reproach
With such a tight race, much would depend on whether voters trust the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). What is significantly different this time around though, is that the election results declared at polling stations would have finality, as opposed to the past practice of making them provisional to final certification by the IEBC in Nairobi. That much the courts have affirmed: the IEBC failed in its appeal of the April 2017 court ruling which ordered that results declared at polling stations must not be subject to change at the national collation centre. [14]Such a decentralized system makes it more difficult to cheat, as all stakeholders would be able to do their own collation based on the same constitutency-level results. The increased transparency consequently is also why fears of violence may be overblown. Credit for these laudable changes must go to Mr Odinga and his coalition partners.

From April 2016 onwards, Mr Odinga and his supporters staged several protests demanding changes at the IEBC that would ensure the umpire is not in a position to fraudulently tilt the elections in favour of the incumbent. After a few deaths, the ruling Jubilee government agreed in August 2016 to replace the IEBC commissioners, which the opposition called biased.[15] One month later, Mr Kenyatta signed into law amendments to the electoral act that included new criteria for recruiting IEBC commissioners.[16]

Despite these gains, Mr Odinga and his coalition partners did not relent in their scrutiny of the IEBC. When the ruling Jubilee government would not budge on an issue, the opposition simply went to the judiciary for redress. Mr Kenyatta did not hide his irritation, as the courts seemed to be ruling more often in the opposition’s favour at some point, forcing a word of caution from Chief Justice David Maraga.[17] Jubilee tried to cast doubts on the credibility of at least one judgement unfavourable to it, citing conflict of interest.[18]Court of Appeal judge William Ouko, who was one of the five-member bench that ruled on the finality of election results at the constituency level, is related to Mr Odinga’s wife, for instance. [19] The niece of one of the NASA lawyers turned out to be married to one of the judges in another case that NASA won. [20] Were that to be a yardstick, however, then almost all the top judges could be conflicted. It is typical of the elite in the private and public sectors to inter-marry; after all, they often belong to the same social circles. Unsurprisingly, when the courts have been unfavourable to Mr Odinga, he has similarly accused Mr Kenyatta of intimidating the judiciary. The key point here is how deliberative combative both sides have been and how determined they are to win.

Procurement activities at the IEBC have also been marred by one controversy after another. It cancelled the tender for poll equipment in March 2017, for instance, amid accusations of corruption from the opposition.[21] [22] The awarding of the contract to print ballot papers to Dubai-based Al Ghurair, a company NASA claims has ties to Mr Kenyatta, is another[23], a charge the firm denies in a sworn affidavit.[24] A high court ordered Al Ghurair to stop the printing of presidential ballot papers regardless, but was later overturned on appeal as the IEBC expressed fears the elections could be delayed.[25] The controversy could have been avoided in the first place if proper tendering processes were followed. Because even before the Al Ghurair saga, the tender had been cancelled at least twice over irregularities, forcing the IEBC to send erstwhile procurement director Lawy Aura on compulsory leave in June 2017.[26] Information Technology director, James Muhati, received a similar treatment at about the same time when it emerged he was not being helpful with a systems audit. His replacement, Chris Msando, was found tortured and murdered in late July, a little over a week to the polls and just before a systems audit was scheduled.[27] Although, the IEBC has since discountenanced suggestions of a disruption consequently, it would be difficult to put in place another senior staff with the same level of competence, preparedness and, as was found, high integrity, within such a short period. Besides, it is highly improbable that Mr Msando’s assailants would have taken such a drastic step if they were not convinced that his replacement would either be less competent or prepared or more pliable. Regardless, they likely succeeded in getting enough information on the so-called Kenya Integrated Elections Management System (KIEMS) through torturing him. Thus, unless there is a re-configuration, KIEMS has likely been compromised. The proximity of the killing to the poll date also means a new ICT manager would not have enough time to gain the trust of the public like Mr Msando was able to. In fact, NASA has expressed fears the transmission of the election results may be hacked. To forestall this, it has asked that an independent international firm be tasked with overseeing KIEMS. IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati disagrees, insisting the commission’s systems are secure and a competent team remains in place to ensure hitch-free elections.[28] Mr Chebukati could not be so sure that early on before the conclusion of substantive investigations. For an election considered to be Kenya’s most expensive yet, these negative events are quite concerning.

There is currently more than 300 cases at the courts against the IEBC.[29] The major ones, that is, those that could have delayed the elections, have been addressed, however. The one that relates to the printing of presidential ballots was earlier highlighted. Another suit by NASA asking the courts to stop the IEBC from using a manual voting system as back-up, has also been quashed. The worry of NASA of course, was that a manual system would be open to fraud. It had hoped voting would be exclusively electronic. But in light of the Nigerian experience where electronic voting kits failed on election day, it is probably wise to have a manual back-up. That is even as Jubilee may likely want the manual system backup for sinister reasons. What NASA had wanted was for the IEBC to postpone the elections should the electronic kits fail. This it hoped would demotivate any shenanigans like the electronic kits being made to deliberately fail just so the elections would be largely manual. Still, the myriad litigations even before an actual vote point to a potentially contentious election aftermath. It is a positive that at least the key questions that hitherto put a cloud over the elections, have been answered by the courts.[30]

Potential turnout holdups
A spreading cholera outbreak is not helpful either.[31] From the beginning of the year to 17 July, there were already 1,216 registered cases and 14 deaths. [32] The World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified it as high risk nationally and regionally. Should it deteriorate further, necessary quarantine measures would disenfranchise a swathe of voters. The authorities have already shut down venues where cases have been recorded and ordered the testing of about half a million people in July.[33] More stringent measures are probable. Furthermore, elections are being held this year amid a still challenging food supply environment. Government-sponsored imports to ameliorate the problem have been largely effective, though. But the arrangements have tended to run into problems from time to time. In July for instance, wheat prices rose on higher demurrage charges to ships carrying imported supplies, but were delayed at the ports. [34] A 2kg packet rose as much as 11 percent to 133 shillings from 120 shillings two months earlier. The food crisis came in handy for Mr Odinga, who harped on past warnings about the country’s dwindling grain reserves. A refusal to lift trade barriers with neighbouring Ethiopia to favour Jubilee acolytes’ maize import arrangements with Mexico, was fingered.[35]

Economic costs not likely as high despite fears
Historically, Kenyan economic growth suffers in election years.[36] There have been exceptions. In years when electoral reforms preceded the polls, there was no material negative economic impact that could be attributed. Typically, however, there is a 60 percent chance of a growth slump in an election year, if analysis based on World Bank and Kenyan National Bureau of Statistics data from 1990 is anything to go by. [37] So it is not too surprising that expectations are rife that this might also be the case for the 2017 polls. And the recovery has tended to range from 18-26 months, depending on whether the elections were single-party or multi-party based. [38] But the election-related slumps theory has not proved to be robust post-2002. True, growth was -1.1 percent in 1992 from 1.3 percent the year before. Similarly, growth slowed to 0.4 percent in 1997, another election year, from 4.2 percent in 1996. Growth also slowed to 0.5 percent in 2002 from 4 percent in 2001.

Interestingly, even with the violence that characterised the 2007 elections, growth actually rose higher to 6.9 percent that year from 5.9 percent the year before. This was also the case for the 2013 election year, which saw growth up to 5.7 percent from 4.6 percent in 2012. So, there is room to contend that growth might actually not suffer as much in the current election year. Most economic growth forecasts for 2017 remained around the 5 percent area a month to the elections despite these concerns. In its July 2017 update, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) put its forecast for 2017 at 5.3 percent; albeit lower than the 6 percent estimate for 2016.

Besides, if the IEBC succeeds in being as transparent as it has promised to be, earlier anxiety ahead of the polls might quickly translate into an aggressive push to regain lost economic ground afterwards. And what was largely city-centred violence in the aftermath of the bloody 2007 elections, could supposedly not be the case this time around. This is because as more power has been devolved to the counties since then, what is probable could be no more than small pockets of violence here and there at the local level, and not the type of co-ordinated anarchy in 2007.

Regardless, some remain convinced that there could be even more troubles this time around. One theory revolves around the intergenerational family rivalry between the Kenyattas and Odingas. Mr Odinga would be contesting for the fourth and likely last time, but second time against Mr Kenyatta. After a remarkably strife-filled political life ranging from imprisonment to exile, Mr Odinga is putting everything into this election. There is a family history that Mr Kenyatta is seeking to guard as well. Mr Kenyatta would likely be heartbroken if it turns out he lost to Mr Odinga, the son of his father’s arch-rival and who, like his father, he has managed to prevail over thus far.

Kenya Elections 3.png

Currency speculators, who are almost convinced the shilling would suffer losses over worries of a violent vote, have been having a field day. The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) governor Patrick Njoroge has warned they would get their fingers burnt, pointing to ample foreign exchange reserves boosted by an IMF standing facility precisely for such potential shocks.[39]

Still, economic activity has slowed owing to the upcoming polls.[40]Manufacturers have been reducing their throughput and investors have not been investing as much. [41] International trade has also recorded dampened activity, as landlocked neighbours, who usually pass their cargoes primarily through the Mombasa port, have been diverting them to the Dar es Salaam port in Tanzania. [42] There is historical precedence for these actions. In the aftermath of the 2007 election violence, Ugandan and Rwandese traders reportedly lost 158 billion shillings, compensation for which the Kenyan authorities had no choice but to oblige. [43] This time around, it does not seem like they are taking any chances.

Travel advisories have also been issued by foreign governments, with multinationals reportedly giving their staff leave to move to neighbouring countries a week before and stay until a week after the polls. [44]

In general, most companies have suspended capital allocation decisions till after the elections. Businesses have also organised emergency drills for those staff that have little choice but to stay back during the election period. Tourism would suffer most definitely. Countries that have asked their citizens to take precautions, include the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Canada, Australia and Russia. Some companies have simply asked their staff to take their annual leave in August. These are just precautions of course. The polls may prove to be largely peaceful.

The author, Dr Rafiq Raji, is an adjunct researcher of the NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies, a trilateral platform for government, business and academia to promote knowledge and expertise on Africa, established by Nanyang Technological University and the Singapore Business Federation. This article was by the NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies on 4 August 2017. It was also published by Africabusiness.com.

Links viz.
https://ntusbfcas.com/african-business-insights/content/ethnic-politics-and-the-2017-kenyan-elections

http://africabusiness.com/2017/08/03/ethnic-politics-and-the-2017-kenyan-elections/

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria column (Tuesdays). See link viz. http://www.businessdayonline.com/ethnic-politics-2017-kenyan-elections/

[1] Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odinga in dead heat – Infotrak poll (Daily Nation 24 Jul 2017) http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Infotrak-poll-shows-Raila-ahead-of-Uhuru/1056-4028786-ejfvfjz/index.html

[2] Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odinga in dead heat – Infotrak poll (Daily Nation 24 Jul 2017) http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Infotrak-poll-shows-Raila-ahead-of-Uhuru/1056-4028786-ejfvfjz/index.html

[3] Why did media ignore poll showing Raila ahead of Uhuru? (Daily Nation 23 Jul 2017) http://www.nation.co.ke/news/politics/Why-did-media-ignore-poll-showing-Raila-ahead-of-Uhuru–/1064-4027776-u3xb9tz/index.html

[4] Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odingsa to skip presidential debate(Standard, 5 Jul 2017) https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2001246203/uhuru-kenyatta-raila-odinga-to-skip-presidential-debate

[5] Kenyan vice president candidate debates himself after rivals’s no-show (Reuters 18 Jul 2017) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-election-debate-idUSKBN1A3162?il=0

[6] Presidential debate: Uhuru cancels Samburu tour (Daily Nation 24 Jul 2017) http://www.nation.co.ke/news/politics/Presidential-debate-Uhuru-cancels-Samburu-tour/1064-4029880-nb81rk/index.html

[7] Kenyan president fails to show up for election debate (Reuters 24 Jul 2017) https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-election-debate-idUSKBN1A92LJ

[8] Uhuru: Why I snubbed debate (Daily Nation 25 Jul 2017) http://www.nation.co.ke/news/politics/Uhuru-snubbed-debate/1064-4031612-b3yep5/index.html

[9] Kalonzo: How we tricked Uhuru and Jubilee to miss debate (Daily Nation 25 Jul 2017) http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Presidential-Debate-Kenya-Uhuru-Kenyatta/1056-4031404-grbxkf/index.html

[10] Why Jubilee, Nasa have focused campaigns on 5 zones (Daily Nation 13 Jul 2017) http://www.nation.co.ke/news/politics/Why-Jubilee–Nasa-have-focused-poll-campaigns-on-five-regions–/1064-4012734-n4biohz/index.html

[11] The role of ethnicity in Kenyan politics (DW 8 Feb 2017) http://www.dw.com/en/the-role-of-ethnicity-in-kenyan-politics/a-37442394

[12] Census: Here are the numbers (Standard 1 Sep 2010) https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/business/article/2000017306/census-here-are-the-numbers

[13] Rights groups welcome court ruling to block Kenya refugee camp closure (Guardian 9 Feb 2017) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/09/kenyan-court-quashes-government-order-close-refugee-camp

[14] Kenyan court rules vote results declared at station are final (Bloomberg 23 Jun 2017) https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-06-23/kenyan-court-rules-presidential-votes-can-be-declared-at-station

[15] Kenya clears out electoral officials after deadly protests (Reuters 17 Aug 2016) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-politics-idUSKCN10R1S6

[16] Kenya enacts law to replace electoral agency ahead of vote (Bloomberg 15 Sep 2016) https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-09-15/kenya-enacts-law-to-replace-electoral-agency-ahead-of-vote

[17] Kenya president, chief justice clash as elections approach (Reuters 9 Jul 2017) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-election-idUSKBN19U0X2

[18] Jubilee alleges conflict of interest in Al Ghurair ballot papers case (The Star 10 Jul 2017) http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/07/10/jubilee-alleges-conflict-of-interest-in-al-ghurair-ballot-papers-case_c1594456

[19] Jubilee alleges conflict of interest in Al Ghurair ballot papers case (The Star 10 Jul 2017) http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/07/10/jubilee-alleges-conflict-of-interest-in-al-ghurair-ballot-papers-case_c1594456

[20] Jubilee alleges conflict of interest in Al Ghurair ballot papers case (The Star 10 Jul 2017) http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/07/10/jubilee-alleges-conflict-of-interest-in-al-ghurair-ballot-papers-case_c1594456

[21] IEBC cancels tender for poll equipment, seeks lease (The Star 23 Mar 2017) http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/03/23/iebc-cancels-tender-for-poll-equipment-seeks-to-lease_c1529673

[22] Probe ‘corrupt’ IEBC for cancelling poll equipment tender, says Mudavadi (The Star 23 Mar 2017) http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/03/23/probe-corrupt-iebc-for-cancelling-poll-equipment-tender-says-mudavadi_c1530331

[23] NASA links Jubilee officials to Al Ghurair tender, wants Chiloba sacked (The Star 14 Jun 2017) http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/06/14/nasa-links-jubilee-officials-to-al-ghurair-tender-wants-chiloba-sacked_c1579637

[24] We have never met Uhuru, Al Ghurair now claims in affidavit (The Star 27 Jun 2017) http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/06/27/we-have-never-met-uhuru-al-ghurair-now-claims-in-affidavit_c1586814

[25] NASA loses cross-appeal on Uhuru links to Al Ghurair (The Star 20 Jul 2017) http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/07/20/nasa-loses-cross-appeal-on-uhuru-links-to-al-ghurair_c1600686

[26] IEBC fires procurement director over ballot tender (The Star 7 Jun 2017) http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/06/07/iebc-fires-procurement-director-over-ballot-tender_c1575518

[27] Kenya election official tortured, murdered before vote, officials say (Reuters 31 Jul 2017) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-election-death-idUSKBN1AG1B5

[28] IEBC systems secure, Wafula Chebukati says (Daily Nation 1 Aug 2017) http://www.nation.co.ke/news/IEBC-systems-secure-Chebukati-Msando/1056-4040634-w5ak74/index.html

[29] Kenyan election body fighting over 300 lawsuits as vote looms (Reuters 20 Jul 2017) https://af.reuters.com/article/africaTech/idAFKBN1A52EM-OZATP

[30] Court declares IEBC can use manual system (Daily Nation 21 Jul 2017) http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Nasa-loses-yet-another-court-battle/1056-4025664-7eewwd/index.html

[31] WHO sees high risk from Kenya cholera outbreak (Reuters 21 Jul 2017) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-cholera-idUSKBN1A61HU

[32] WHO sees high risk from Kenya cholera outbreak (Reuters 21 Jul 2017) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-cholera-idUSKBN1A61HU

[33] Cholera kills four in Kenyan capital since May, government shuts hotels (Reuters 19 Jul 2017) https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-health-idUSKBN1A417I

[34] Wheat prices rise again as imports delay at port (BusinessDaily 20 Jul 2017) http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/markets/news/Wheat-prices-rise-again-imports-delay-airport/3815534-4025046-on836m/index.html

[35] Raila wants Kiunjuri, Bett and Lesiyampe sacked for failing to end food shortage (The Star 8 Jun 2017) http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/06/08/raila-wants-kiunjuri-bett-and-lesiyampe-sacked-for-failing-to-end-food_c1576049

[36] Why economy slows in election years (Daily Nation 23 Apr 2016) http://www.nation.co.ke/newsplex/kenya-election-2017-gdp/2718262-3173194-moknsqz/index.html

[37] Why economy slows in election years (Daily Nation 23 Apr 2016) http://www.nation.co.ke/newsplex/kenya-election-2017-gdp/2718262-3173194-moknsqz/index.html

[38] Why economy slows in election years (Daily Nation 23 Apr 2016) http://www.nation.co.ke/newsplex/kenya-election-2017-gdp/2718262-3173194-moknsqz/index.html

[39]‘Chill’, Kenya central bank tells shilling speculators as election nears (Reuters 18 Jul 2017) http://af.reuters.com/article/africaTech/idAFKBN1A310A-OZABS?utm_source=34553&utm_medium=partner

[40] Economic activity slows down ahead of General Election (The East African 26 Jul 2017) http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/business/Economic-activity-slows-down-ahead-of-General-Election-/2560-4032474-syhlq6/index.html

[41] Economic activity slows down ahead of General Election (The East African 26 Jul 2017) http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/business/Economic-activity-slows-down-ahead-of-General-Election-/2560-4032474-syhlq6/index.html

[42] Economic activity slows down ahead of General Election (The East African 26 Jul 2017) http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/business/Economic-activity-slows-down-ahead-of-General-Election-/2560-4032474-syhlq6/index.html

[43] Economic activity slows down ahead of General Election (The East African 26 Jul 2017) http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/business/Economic-activity-slows-down-ahead-of-General-Election-/2560-4032474-syhlq6/index.html

[44] Economic activity slows down ahead of General Election (The East African 26 Jul 2017) http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/business/Economic-activity-slows-down-ahead-of-General-Election-/2560-4032474-syhlq6/index.html

A critique of Mandela’s legacy

By Rafiq Raji, PhD

Whether in mining or banking, the structure of the South African economy still bears great resemblance to that of the apartheid era. Mostly black miners take trips deep down into the earth via thin shafts, while their mostly white counterparts stay atop or wear clean shirts to offices on well-manicured grounds with vistas still as beautiful as they were when they first fell in love with the country. If the new mining law, now suspended, asks that blacks own in perpetuity, a 30 percent stake in all mines, is that so unreasonable? Maybe the minimum 1 percent of turnover compulsory distribution to host communities requires a rethink; using another variable, like profit, could be problematic, however; because it could be manipulated. It could be made due only after unavoidable business expenses, though. Asking that half of new prospecting rights be black-owned is not unjustifiable either. In any case, what is the alternative? If the status quo is allowed to continue, a more radical approach would be adopted further down the line. The ultra-nationalist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) opposition party would nationalise all mines (and banks) if it ever got to power certainly. Of course, the mining companies may not mind buying more time to sweat their assets faster under the current lopsided terms: only about 38 years in gold reserves are believed to be left, albeit there is at least two centuries worth of platinum reserves yet untouched. So on balance, there is much to be gained and lost by both sides.

Best to concede a little more now
Even so, it is probably wiser for the industry not to allow things deteriorate to that extent. So even as their resort to the courts have secured them a quick-win, with mines minister Mosebenzi Zwane suspending the implementation of the new law pending when the courts decide on the matter, they would be better served by making some concessions to the government. It is unfortunate, of course, that someone with President Jacob Zuma’s tainted credibility happens to be the one championing the black cause. Like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe before him, his selfish motive is writ large. Had that person been Nelson Mandela, no one would have the temerity to challenge such a move. Such was President Mandela’s stature and power. With lesser beings now floudering at the helm, many argue Mr Mandela could have done much more. Because now a black South African with that kind of influence is not likely to emerge again in our lifetime. (Just like India is not likely to produce another Mahatma Gandhi.) The conditions that create such mythical figures only occur generations at a time. And rarely is a later champion ever able to fill in the shoes of earlier heroes. So with the benefit of hindsight, Mr Mandela should have paid as much attention to economic freedom as he did the political one. Some might say he was constrained somewhat. This is doubtful. The apartheid regime only caved in because it had no choice. Mr Mandela could have pushed harder.

So as the world marks another Mandela Day (18 July), black South Africans must reflect on the future they want for their country. Their reality is what it is. But if they think deeply, they would see how fortunate they already are. White South Africans can be accommodated, allowed to continue thriving in tandem with a similarly successful black population. The key is to find that optimal policy mix that allows both sides get almost all they want without totally alienating the other. Securing more economic power for blacks does not necessarily have to be an entirely zero-sum game. Without some forceful correction of the country’s currently unjust economic structure, however, whatever progress that is made while it subsists would eventually unravel, when an even more impoverished black majority decides they have had enough. Still, no matter how much economic power black South Africans snatch from their erstwhile oppressors, it would be meaningless if most remain underskilled or as is depressingly still the case for a lot, unskilled. Europeans realised a long time ago that it would be far more profitable to give control of primary resources to their former colonies if they could almost exclusively be the ones to add more value to them and subsequently sell them back at premia that dwarfed whatever value the raw materials ever had. So when it seemed like the colonialists had finally accepted reason by succumbing to agitations for independence those long years ago, they were actually motivated by the realisation that what would replace their repression could be even more lucrative. And without any of the bad press.

Not too late
But this is no secret, or excuse in fact: Asians managed to unshackle themselves regardless, rising to levels that African countries they were hitherto at or below par with now only dream of. Without a doubt, African leaders, past and present, are especially guilty for their countries’ frustratingly floundering evolution. For sure, there were foreign enablers. But principally, Africans are primarily responsible for the story state of their affairs. It would be most saddening if all the suffering that Mr Mandela and his people endured for all those long years turns out to be all for nothing. But that is what it would be if all that the black majority achieves is the expropriation of brick and mortar from their erstwhile oppressors without the skills to maintain and enhance them, and innovate new ones. Zimbabwe is the perfect example of how a senseless economic nationalism is almost a sure step to even more bondage. While that country continues to struggle since the selfishly motivated act by Mr Mugabe, the expelled whites have since found fortune elsewhere. A subsequent reversal by Mr Mugabe after much loss is evidence of the error. To that extent, Mr Mandela had some foresight in making what now seem to be overly generous concessions to the apartheid government. His pragmatism was suitable for his time. A new one is required today.

Also published in my Premium Times Nigeria column (19 Jul 2017). See link viz. http://opinion.premiumtimesng.com/2017/07/19/the-mandela-legacy-the-costs-of-not-pushing-hard-on-economic-freedom-by-rafiq-raji/

Our wars must be no more than words

By Rafiq Raji, PhD

Our aspirations whether we are Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba (even this characterisation is an injustice; we are much more diverse) are the same. Like all humans, we desire a life of peace, dignity and wealth. Do we have these currently? We have relative peace at least. Were we to loose that, flawed as it is, our loftier aspirations would be no more than dreams. The examples of war-torn Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are instructive. These countries have been so disfigured and scarred that it would take generations for any reasonable semblance of normalcy to return to them. Do we want that in Nigeria? Still, the marginalisation of the Igbos (and minorities elsewhere) in Nigeria must be acknowledged. We must also be frank with our Igbo brothers. If they insist on secession, there will be war. All of us, Nigerians, must do our utmost to prevent this.

Stop threats and bluffs
It has come to light that recent incendiary statements against the Igbos by some youth representatives in the north had the backing of their elders. The venue, their calm and confidence were evidence enough regardless. The symbolism of “Arewa House”, where the so-called “quit notice” was made from, was definitely meant to convey their legitimacy. Unsurprisingly, their ‘tactical’ hate-speech has gone unpunished. Thus far. Because unlike the popular perception, our country’s security services, inefficient though they are in many spheres, have one distinct competence: they have their ears to the ground. It is very unlikely that the security system did not get wind of the event that led to this unnecessary stoking of tensions. Besides, the culprits are not in hiding. So it is right that acting president, Yemi Osinbajo, and the security services be criticized for this seeming impunity. Cold feet, argue cohorts from the Niger Delta. If only things were that simple. Still, by not arresting the northern youths as yet, assertions about a privileged north and a marginalised south are vindicated.

When people scheme to influence outcomes in their favour, they often do not plan for when things get out of control (as they always do) on the back of their actions. Say the northern youths were simply calling the bluff of their Igbo brothers’ threats of secession. If come October 1, their deadline, a few criminals decide to instigate violent incidents here and there, what then? We cannot afford such a crisis on our hands. And as far as tactics go, the northern youths’ threat was similarly not well thought through. Because just like the Igbos have a significant portion of their wealth outside Igboland, so do northerners. As if to buttress the point, supposedly pacified Niger Delta militants have issued threats of their own. In demanding that owners of crude oil exploration blocks from the north relinquish their assets, the stakes have been raised not only for the pseudo-tacticians and strategists across the divide but for the entire nation.

Efforts by Prof Osinbajo to soothe frayed nerves are laudable. In meeting with the respective regional groups seperately and later with both, he has taken a necessary first step towards resolving the impasse. Shouldn’t Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), who has been made a living martyr by the authorities’ needless sensationalism, have been included in the meetings, some ask. I imagine Mr Kanu was snubbed because the government may have realised its folly hitherto: To do so would almost certainly deify him further as the leader of the Igbos. But is he? Igbo leaders and elders must bear responsibility for allowing Mr Kanu usurp them. Ralph Uwazuruike, leader of the Biafra Independence Movement (BIM) and former leader of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), acknowledges as much. (Some of Mr Uwazuruike’s kinsmen accuse him of not sincerely acting for the Biafran cause.) Still, in company of Hamza Al-Mustapha, former chief security officer to former head of state, late General Sani Abacha, he has been trying to secure safety guarantees for Igbos living in northern Nigeria and provide assurances of same for the Hausa-Fulani living in southeastern Nigeria. In purportedly handing over “Radio Biafra” to Mr Kanu, Mr Uwazuruike says he did not envisage that things would deteriorate as they have. One thing has become clear, however. Unlike the Hausa-Fulani and Yoruba, Igbo elders cannot boast of having the ears of their youth. And therein lies the risk. It is not all too clear that the Igbo elders the acting president met with would be able to rein in their younger ones. Unless they do, a likely imminent militarisation of the southeast is almost inevitable.

Scheming for 2019
Fissures exist in the north as well. Two northern governors were very visible after the quit notice from their younger brothers. One because the threat emanated from his domain. The other because of his incumbency as the chair of the northern governors’ forum. That they are alleged to be interested in the vice-presidency should the ailing Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, succumb to his ailments, has hurt their credibility somewhat. The call by the former, Nasir El-Rufai, a Buhari stalwart, that the erring northern youths be arrested has been derided by some of his kinsmen, for instance. And by inviting Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Bisi Akande – influential Yoruba politicians in the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) party and backers of the acting president – to commission projects in Borno state, popular opinion in the north wonders whether governor Kashim Shettima’s similar call is not also purportedly motivated by his desire to boost his nationalist credentials. Unless the two say otherwise, we have to assume that they were simply doing their patriotic duty. For had they been silent, eyebrows would have been raised certainly. That said, northern politicians interested in the vice-presidency are already mud-slinging each other. A purportedly doctored telephone conversation between Mr Shettima and Ibikunle Amosun, a governor in the Yoruba southwest, which recently surfaced online, in which the former supposedly wondered about the hypocrisy of the Igbos’ secession quest while still prospering in other parts of the country, is evidence of this: Mr Shettima’s spokesman, Isa Gusau, told Voice of America Hausa, an American radio station popular with northerners, that an unnamed northern politician interested in contesting the presidency in 2019 was behind the smear campaign. Of course, Mr Gusau was quick to point out his principal has never indicated an interest in joining the race.

Evidence has also emerged about what the real intentions behind some of the Biafran agitations could be. In about mid-June, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council revealed how their agitation is partly motivated by positioning for the 2019 elections, unabashedly demanding an Igbo presidency in 2019 or secession the year after. This is needless. Any regional group interested in ruling the country must convince others why they should be given the opportunity. Building a coalition with at least one of the other major ethnic blocs is most definitely a required first step. Since coalitions are built on trust, it behoves the agitators to make necessary moves towards engendering it. Besides, the north already fears the acting president, a Yoruba, could suddenly desire to run for president in the event that President Buhari dies before his first term expires. They already worry about his rising popularity: His recent travels across the country, which are arguably much needed to douse the tension in the land, have revealed the law professor’s surprisingly deft grassroot touch. Recent military coup rumours were aimed, it is believed in some parts, at tempering any potential presidential ambitions on his part. Should ongoing regional agitations deteriorate further, it would not be surprising at all if a state of emergency declaration is forced on him; a scenario that would give the armed forces and security services enhanced powers. In this regard, there is little comfort in the fact that their command structures are now predominantly northern. Curiously, the Nigerian Senate recently started reviewing the country’s emergency powers law. The chamber’s president, Bukola Saraki, who was recently acquitted of false assets declaration charges, has refuted claims that this is aimed at empowering the federal government to remove elected state governors and appoint sole administrators in their place. Mr Saraki did add that civil unrest, insurgency or unmanageable natural disasters could be sufficient grounds for declaring a state of emergency though.

Be fair
Suggestions have been made in past articles by this columnist on ways out of our current troubles. It is not farfetched for Igbos (and minority ethnic groups) to feel like foreigners in their own country when the top three most powerful leaders in the land are from the north. (Unless acting as president, the vice-president is only as influential as his principal allows him.) Peripatetic Fulani pastoralists continue to maim and kill farmers from minority ethnic groups over grazing land with impunity. These are just few but significant examples. Clearly, with the root of most of these agitations due to many unpunished past and ongoing injustices, whether by one region over the other, or the rich over the poor, or politicians over the electorate, not until there is some semblance of equity and justice for the marginalized, oppressed and wounded would there be peace. Even so, any potential solution must be within the ambit of existing laws. The process of changing the constitution for anything beyond what the extant ones accommodate would be almost certainly destabilizing. And history is replete with examples of how agitators almost always loose the plot when they resort to anarchy. There are a number of creative ideas about how to begin to remedy the current potentially combustible situation in the reports of past constitutional conferences as well. Political will has always been the problem. And because Mr Buhari is indisposed and the authority of the acting president remains relatively shaky, the bell tolls for the legislature to do the needful. Thankfully, the Senate has decided to do just that. It has asked the executive to make available to it the report of the 2014 national conference with a view to adopting some of its recommendations. Of course, it speaks to the insincerity of past governments (and indeed the current one if it pushes back on the request) if the peoples’ elected representatives, sworn to protect the sovereignty of our dear country, are as yet not privy to the contents of the report of a constitutional conference supposedly instituted in the peoples’ name. Our lawmakers must act swiftly.

Also published in my Premium Times Nigeria column. See link viz. http://opinion.premiumtimesng.com/2017/06/19/our-wars-must-be-no-more-than-words-by-rafiq-raji/

No place for coups

By Rafiq Raji, PhD

Today’s Nigeria is very different from that of the 1980s and 1990s. Any coup attempt will fail. So those who might be contemplating one against the Muhammadu Buhari adminstration are forewarned. There might actually not be a country for them to govern in the event they choose to act so foolishly. Former military generals from across the country have being vociferous in their condemnation of any such plots. Curiously, their northern contemporaries have been relatively silent. True, their brethren in active service, chief of army staff Lt General Tukur Buratai, was the one that “blew the whistle”. They must join their voices to his nonetheless. Since the information that some politicians (I suspect of northern extraction) were plotting with some military officers to topple the government broke, the army leadership has made overt and covert moves to forestall any such move. Division commanders have been redeployed across the country and there are reports that the army’s intelligence service has been ordered to infiltrate the rank and file. There is a self-preservation motivation to why senior military officers (whether from the north or elsewhere) would be averse to the truncation of Nigeria’s democracy. Some relish with pride the renewed professionalism in the military. There is also an external dimension. The American military is so entrenched now on the African continent that any coup could easily be quashed by their special forces. Proud Nigerian military men would be loathe to give them an excuse to invade the one truly African country with the potential to resist their neocolonial tendencies. So if there is a coup plot afoot, I am almost certain Mr Buratai and his men are well-motivated to bring it down.

If you must rule, win the votes
Other high-powered schemes are about at the moment, it is believed. Whether it is the curious visit of former president Olusegun Obasanjo in early May to Minna to meet his fellow former military heads of state Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar (both are neighbours), or the “beauty parade” of the “who is who” of Nigerian politics at the wedding of Mr Babangida’s daughter almost two weeks after (thankfully, acting president Yemi Osinbajo stayed away), there is a lot of scenario planning ahead of either a resignation of the presidency by President Buhari or his death on the back of ill health. Even though one is not a fan of any of them, we may call the trio “the stabilizers”. Well, they should do the needful with dispatch.

To put it bluntly; the seeming déjà vu of another southern christian potentially taking the place of a sick northerner as president is what underpins the growing rumblings in the north. Left to likely candidates from the region who might replace Mr Buhari in the event of his exit from the scene, there should not be much to worry about per se. It is the possibility that a diligent and clearly hardworking Prof Osinbajo could become so popular over the next two years that should he choose to contest the presidency in 2019, he might win, that has their antennae up. If that is the case then, it behoves Prof Osinbajo to douse the tension. In this regard, he should try his utmost to assure the “worriers” amongst his northern brothers he has no such interest. Of course, it would not stop them being concerned. In any case, their worry is needless: Nothing ever stopped God from doing His Will. If He has willed Prof Osinbajo would remain president after 2019, it is a done deal. That said, if the north wants a shot at keeping the presidency instead, there is only one viable way for it to do so: the ballot box. Instead of nonsensical rumours about coups and needless threats, it should start to coalesce its political resources towards ensuring that it is able to field a candidate, a healthy one hopefully, for the 2019 presidential elections. Incidentally, to do so, it would need the support of the southwest. Because it certainly cannot hope for any support from the southeast which it has belittled under Mr Buhari’s leadership thus far.

Too fragile to yield
But what could a potential coup plot be looking to achieve? In the 1980s and 1990s when almost every lever of power and influence in the polity was state-owned, these nefarious schemes were relatively easy to execute. Today, with social media and a highly interconnected world – the United Kingdom has already issued warnings of its own – coup plotters would be hard-pressed to maintain secrecy during their planning stages on the one hand and control after the event on the other. My reckoning therefore is that perhaps the evil politicians behind the plot hope to use the military to force Prof Osinbajo’s hands at some point. Because they definitely cannot push Mr Buhari in any way or manner. It must be then that the plot is aimed at the event of Mr Buhari’s death. With the northeastern part of the country barely stable, the Niger Delta still largely fragile, and the vulnerabilities of the Nigerian military all too exposed under the erstwhile Jonathan administration (albeit increasingly redeemed under the current administration), a coup would almost definitely be destabilizing. Surely, the plotters need not be reminded that Nigeria’s forced unity is also why they covet ruling it so much.

Published in my Premium Times Nigeria column on 22 May 2017. See link viz. http://opinion.premiumtimesng.com/2017/05/22/no-place-for-coups-by-rafiq-raji/