-Stolen Elections Are Nothing New Says famed activist and author
By Ajong Mbapndah L
For Firoze Manji, a stolen election in Kenya is something of a déjà vu. Discussing recent political developments in Kenya and the decision of the Supreme Court to annul the elections after incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta had been declared winner, Firoze Manji said in a normal democracy, the judiciary doing its job should not be such a big deal.
Firoze, a former Africa director for Amnesty International, author, activist, former Executive Director of Fahamu ,and Editor of Pambazuka Press, said it was extraordinary that even before the full results had come in from all of the constituencies, the Electoral Commission had proclaimed President Uhuru Kenyatta as the winner. In a Skype interview, Mr. Firoze said beyond the frenzy surrounding the cancellation of the elections by the Supreme Court, a stolen election in Kenya is nothing new.
“I think we have to go back to the 2007 elections which resulted in what everyone called the post-election violence, in early 2008. What happened there was that all the results that were coming in, indicated that it was a very close run between Mwai Kibaki the president and Raila Odinga and even some of the results coming through indicated that Raila might win the presidential election. When we got to that point, suddenly, the police and the security forces grounded the Kenyatta Conference Center; all observers including journalists were evicted. The press was silenced. The online reporting on the website was closed, and in secret Mwai Kibaki had himself sworn in as the new president,” Firoze recounted.
Describing Kibaki’s victory as a civilian coup, while the violence and bloodshed that followed was in alarmingly high proportions, Firoze Manjo said none of the perpetrators were ever brought to book.
As the political tussle between incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and challenger Raila Odinga persists, did Kenyans learn anything from the senseless killings in the early 2008 violence and are there politically mature today to avoid a repeat of sorry chapter in the history of Kenyan politics? The killings were not senseless Firoze starts by making a correction.
“Let’s be clear, people talk about this as being tribal violence, it was not. It was violence by an armed militia, who were armed, supported and motivated by gang of what are well known as the Mount Kenya mafia. This is an alliance of those who have used their position to appropriate large amounts of wealth .This is a mafia which did this and they have never been held to account. It was directed violence and Kibaki used both the police and the GSU to suppress the protests and to create a climate of fear that people went back into their houses and didn’t dare be seen to be protesting,” said Firoze .
The fact that people were not tried nor the groups and the absence of any tangible evidence that the militia was disarmed should be a cause for concern, he said.
If past elections have been flawed and challenges from eternal runner up have not stood at the Supreme Court what happened this year? Firoze Manji said while former Chief Justice Willy Mutanga had a long tradition of defending human rights, the quality of the evidence presented by the opposition was often inadequate for the Court to make a definite decisions, said Firoze Manji while lauding the courage of the present Justice Maraga led Supreme Court.
“I think that Maraga has exhibited an extraordinary courage in both the way he guided the decision, the way in which the report is being presented and the way in which he has made statements subsequently. I think what you have to say is you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time. And after a civilian coup followed by a stolen election, there are lessons learnt and I think Maraga and his colleagues were very smart to have made that call,” Firozi said.
Expressing the hope that Judiciaries across Africa could learn from the courage of the Justice Maraga led Supreme Court in Kenya, Firoze was however fearful that a victory of Uhuru Kenyatta could lead to the elimination of certain Judges or the amendment of the constitution to give him overwhelming powers to control the Judiciary
There is little fundamental difference between the Uhuru Kenyatta led Jubilee, and the Raila Odinga led NASA, said Firoze. Both men have served in the same government, Raila Odinga has served in governments which came to power in flawed and there is no guarantee that he will do better than the present leadership that he is fighting, Mr Firoze said. The present situation in Kenya however makes it difficult for President Uhuru Kenyatta to easily win re-election, he said.
“The reality is today, at least 45 percent of people in Kenya, live on less than a dollar a day. It has been shown that a dollar a day is not a measure of poverty. Today, five dollars a day is the minimum poverty level and about 85 percent of our people earn less than five dollars a day. We are poorer. Most of us are poorer today than were at independence. At least after independence, we had a right to health care, we had to right to education, we had a right to water, we had a right to … all these rights today, if we don’t have the money, we are just not considered.
And instead, we have to go to beg from NGOs and from the churches, just like we had to do in colonies. That’s the problem we face today. That’s why I keep talking about decolonizing and reclaiming humanity because that is the core of what we need to do. And to do that have to organize independently of these political parties. We have to be able to create today, the world we want to live in tomorrow,” Firoze Manji said.
Taking a swipe at the International Community, Firoze said there was a rush to see victory for Uhuru and to avoid violence which blinded them to the serious flaws that prompted the Supreme Court to annul the results. While some International Observers were humbled to accept that they did a less than thorough job on Kenya, to Mr. Firoze Manji, the gaffe from the observers is symptomatic of the profound racism that informs the way Africa is looked at.Inspite of that, Africa cannot leave it to others to guarantee its future, said Mr. Firoze.
“What I can say is that I have immense faith in those who are completely disenfranchised and have nothing. The people without jobs, without food, who are impoverished, the people who are made poor, that know their conditions and I have absolute faith that in due course, they will make their voices heard and I think our responsibility as Africans is to support those struggles, to support those activities and no matter those we have at the top, it is from there that the new world will be created,” Mr. Firoze ,concluded.