Kenyan Election 2017: Raila Odinga the Kenyan Donald Trump

Baltimore, MD August 11th 2017

In an age of populist and nationalistic upsets accompanied by fake news, Kenyans went to the polls on August 8th to elect a president as well as all legislative seats.


Odinga who has been vying for the presidency since 2002 without success was also the flag bearer of the opposition in 2013 when the current President Uhuru Kenyatta was elected to serve his first term. That election was bitterly contested and culminated in legal challenges from Mr. Odinga who took his grievances all the way to the Supreme Court of Kenya where he did not prevail.


Odinga’s campaign for 2017 began right there and then in 2013. Unfortunately, Mr. Odinga’s campaign since then has been a slash and burn campaign of innuendo, false allegations and blatant tribalism couched in populist overtones. Mr. Odinga has appealed to his passionate supporters with winks and nods and thinly veiled promises of socialist redistribution of wealth from the affluent and powerful Kikuyu community to all of Kenya’s other tribes.

After his loss in the Supreme Court in 2013, Raila Odinga turned his sights on the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), finally culminating in the disbandment of the body less than a year before the election. Raila Odinga did not stop there and has continued to attack and cast aspersions against the newly reconvened IEBC, their systems, President Uhuru, as well as the election process as a whole, including the international election observers who used to be his go to guys in previous elections.


Mr. Odinga has consistently followed the Trumpian model of making statements that are both demonstrably false and outrageous with the full confidence that his supporters will believe and parrot everything he says without question. He has also mastered the art of throwing shiny objects at the media which the fourth estate has fallen for at every single turn. It also doesn’t hurt much that Kenyan media happens to be highly favorable to Raila. For example, Mr. Odinga started complaining about the posting of provisional election results arguing that a certain form (Form 34A) that is required to officially certify an election result must be provided at every projection. In reality, election results are always provisional even in the United States and where the official tally doesn’t get certified until weeks later. The media went for this shiny object and started parroting the issue of the form which has now become as famous in Kenya as hanging chads did in the 2000 general election in the United States.


The elections have been touted as credible, free and fair by all the election observer bodies monitoring the elections. NASA, led by its flagbearer, Raila, however, has already rejected the election results even before they have been formally released. Further, the NASA party has now gone ahead and issued their own election tally which differs greatly from the official tally, claiming that in fact Raila is in the lead, which would have made him the president-elect.


Social media community of so called NASA tallying center…

The electoral process has steadily improved since 2002 when Kenyans had their first free and fair multi party elections upon the retirement of Kenya’s second president, Mr. Daniel Arap Moi.

In 2017, it is arguable that Kenyans have finally achieved true freedom of speech as well as a truly free media with journalists and politicians alike able to be extremely critical of Kenyan leaders including the president.

Having been at the forefront of the fight for a free multi party democracy which Kenya now has, Raila Odinga appears to harbor a sense of entitlement that perhaps he should be rewarded for his efforts with the ultimate prize that is the presidency. His supporters seem to agree, and often tout his contribution to the fight for democracy as the justification for their impassioned support.

It is inarguable that Mr. Odinga was central to the fight for free and fair elections. It is also unfortunately the case that his legacy will also include the sowing of tribal hatred and resentment, particularly against President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Kikuyu community culminating in the violence that erupted after the 2007 elections.

During this, his likely last presidential contest, Mr. Odinga has refused to concede the defeat that is clearly the projected outcome. He has sown so much doubt in the electoral process, despite all evidence to the contrary, and despite having already been proven to be lying on numerous occasions.

Upon the announcement on August 11th 2017 of President Uhuru Kenyatta as the winner of the current election Raila Odinga has refused to concede. The most likely outcome will be that his supporters will take to the streets, leading to unrest. I hope I am completely wrong but it appears that Raila has prepared to accede to the presidency by any means necessary. He was previously rewarded with a hastily created post of Prime Minister in 2007 when he lost to former President Mwai Kibaki.

Mr. Odinga seems prepared to attempt to achieve a similar feat yet again, a whole 10 years later in 2017. It is unlikely however, because on this occasion, the IEBC has provided full transparency at every turn of the process and demonstrated a level of professionalism and competence.

Despite Kenya’s gains in freedom and transparency, indeed, having achieved what Mr. Odinga fought for over such a long period, it is desperately sad to me that Kenyans have chosen to behave as if they still live under a dictatorship when in fact that is no longer the case. The IEBC, Kenya’s new constitution, judicial system and many independent institutions have been created as a successful result of Raila Odinga’s push for transparency and good governance.

That should be and could still have been his legacy. I wish that Raila would see the value of having this as his legacy of service and accept that Kenyans have not seen it fit to reward him with the presidency. Kenya is bigger than Raila or any other individual candidate. Voters are an unpredictable lot and they do not always reward the candidates that have sacrificed the most in public service. Just ask John Kerry or Hillary Clinton in the United States or David Cameron or even Theresa May in the United Kingdom.

Categories: Politics

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