Kenya has gone to the polls, but the the new president's victory is contested and might affect relations with the US.
Kenya's election commission on Saturday announced that last week the deeply ethnically divided nation had elected Uhuru Kenyatta to be the new president by a narrow margin. Everyone's mind is focus on the fear of new violence similar to what happened after the December 27, 2007, elections, when inter-ethnic killings, rapes and amputations triggered by dissatisfaction with election results killed thousands of people. In his acceptance speech, Kenyatta said:
"I would especially like to acknowledge the Kenyans who lost their lives on the eve of the elections. They made the ultimate sacrifice, laying down their lives, in the name of democracy. To the families of those who lost their loved ones- I offer my sincere condolences and I assure you that I, and the people of Kenya are standing with you in prayer. The incidents that took the lives of our officers are a reminder that security remains one of the biggest challenges to our nation. It is unacceptable to see the lives of Kenyans lost so senselessly. As we move forward, I pledge to keep the issue of national security high on our agenda."
However, Raila Odinga, the candidate who lost the election, is not very happy with the results. In his speech, he listed "massive irregularities" in the voting process. Billions of dollars had been spent on new technology — electronic voter identification kits and electronic voter tallying systems — that all failed completely, forcing a count of the paper ballots, according to Odinga as qouted by Standardmedia :
"Two days after the vote, the electronic tallying process was discarded and counting began afresh, manually. That too turned out to be flawed exercise in which, among other things, there was massive tampering with the IEBC voter register. …Democracy is on trial in Kenya. It is clear that the process of electing a new set of leaders has been thwarted by another tainted election.""
Odinga's supporters believe that these failures were intentional sabotage to give his opponent a victory. However, Odinga asked his supporters to remain peaceful:
"Any violence now could destroy this nation. …Let the Supreme Court determine whether the result announced by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission [IEBC] is lawful. We are confident the court will restore the faith of Kenyans in the democratic rule if law."
The Supreme Court will then have 14 days to hear the dispute and make a ruling whether to call for a new election. Odinga has made it clear that he expects to win a victory in court. Whichever way the court decision goes, it's going to make a lot of people very angry.
Kenyatta's Criminal Charges Provide Dilemma for Obama Administration
The fact that Kenya is Barack Obama's ancestral homeland only complicates the diplomatic dilemma over the fact that winning candidate Uhuru Kenyatta is under indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity, stemming from his alleged involvement in the bloodbath that occurred after the December 2007 elections. He's accused of organizing and funding the death squads that killed more than 1200 people, and caused many atrocities. Kenyatta's trial is scheduled to begin this summer, and many people inside and outside of Kenya are wondering how he's going to be able to govern the nation while he's standing trial in the Hague.
Western nations, including the United States, are going to be reluctant to have ordinary diplomatic relations with a man who allegedly committed such these atrocities. In fact, prior to the election, the US. State Department’s top diplomat for Africa, Johnnie Carson, issued a thinly veiled warning to Kenyans that "choices have consequences."
This remark caused a huge outcry in Kenya, where the US. was accused of trying to interfere in Kenya's election process. As it turned out, Carson's remark proved to be a big benefit to Kenyatta. He portrayed himself as a victim of both the ICC and the United States, and was able to rally his supporters with those charges. In many ways, the election turned into a referendum on the ICC itself.
Kenya is extremely important to US interests, according to the Council on Foreign Relations:
"The fact that the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi is the largest in all of sub-Saharan Africa reflects the country’s centrality to a number of U.S. priorities. Kenya is a significant counterterrorism partner and an important point of military and humanitarian access in the region. Kenya has been a vital diplomatic partner in efforts to bring stability to Sudan and Somalia. The country is also a regional hub for U.S., international, and nongovernmental programs as well as the linchpin for private sector activity in East Africa. Trouble in Kenya can quickly infect neighboring countries, as the economic spillover effects of the current crisis have already made plain."
However from our point of view the view of generational theory, Kenya's last generational crisis war was the Mau-Mau rebellion that climaxed in 1956, and so a new round of violence has a moderate probability of spiraling into a full-scale ethnic war.
*[This article was originally published by Generational Dynamics on March 10, 2013.]
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.