No excuse for messing up in voting in 2017

bk-Stakes-practices-outcomes-cover

Book Review: Kenya’s 2013 General Election – Stakes, Practices and Outcomes.

Editors: Prof Kimani Njogu and Dr Peter Wafula Wekesa.

Publisher: Twaweza Communications

Reviewer: Odhiambo Orlale

 

Kenyan voters will have no excuse in the coming General Election to vote in ignorance, thanks to a well-researched and written book about lessons learnt in the 2013 General Election, the first under the new Constitution.

The 383-page book, Kenya’s 2013 General Election – Stakes, Practices and Outcomes, is written by a battery of experts who have provided their professional experiences and analysis of the entire electoral process from an academic perspective.

The writers, from the universities and civil society organisations, were each given one of the 18 chapters to focus on an area of their specialty in reference to the hotly contested polls between President Uhuru Kenyatta and CORD Leader Raila Odinga and four others.

The book is edited by Prof Kimani Njogu and Dr Peter Wafula Wekesa, and is divided into two sections under the following titles: Drivers of Victory and Loss; and Sources of the Mandate to Lead.

This book is the second volume released by Twaweza Communications on the 2013 polls. The first was entitled Kenya’s Past as Prorogue: Voters, Violence and the 2013 General Elections and carried mainly ethnographic research undertaken by Kenyan and French academics.

Most of the 18 writers have used a simple and easy to read approach in addition to coming up with very interesting conclusions and recommendations. The topics range from The Land Question by Prof Patricia Kameri-Mbote, to Insecurity and Elections Outcome by Dr Musambayi Katumanga; and to The ICC and Kenya’s 2013 Elections by Sammy Gakero Gachigua.

To add colour and humour to the voluminous book, the editors have included captivating photographs and cartoons published in the run up to the polls in the local media by photo-journalist, Boniface Mwangi and cartoonist Godfrey Mwampembwa (Gado).

The crucial role of the media is well captured by Dr Nicholas Benequista under the topic: Somewhere Between the Truth and Peace: Understanding the News Coverage of Kenya’s 2013 Elections.

Other must-read chapters are: IEBC and Kenya’s 2013 Elections – Reform, Conform or Temporary Ceasefire? by Dr Peter Wafula Wekesa; Exclusionary Practices in the Elections of March 2013 in Kenya – How Gender Issues were Negotiated by Leaders and Voters by Jacqueline Adhiambo Oduol; Information Technology, the State and the Voter in the 2013 Elections by Prof Warigia Bowman and Grace Githaiga; and finally Judge J.B. Ojwang on Electoral Justice in Kenya – Resolving Disputes in a New democratic Dispensation.

The book launch last month was organised and supported by Heinrich Boll Stiftung, Twaweza Communications and the University of Nairobi. The key note address was delivered by Prof Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, who is the Kisumu County Senator and former Secretary General of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party.

In the first section, the writers identified key drivers such as land and property, ethnic identities, party alliances, security and the International Criminal Court (ICC) among other factors that made the 2013 polls not only unique but complex.

To them, the election only came to define the manner in which the wishes of the voters over the foregoing issues were translated into final outcome of the process. Both Dr Adams Oloo and George Omondi revisit the issue of ethnicity as a key driver in Kenya’s politics with a sustained view on its direct implication on the 2013 polls.

On the controversial land question, Mbote argues that despite its centrality politically, socially and economically in the development of Kenya since independence, it was not captured in the supreme law at that time nor has it been fully addressed since then making it a convenient space for contestation and violent clashes in different historical periods.

In their contributions, Nyong’o and Dr Felix Kiruthu, on the chapters on Political Party Organisation in Kenya and on the Political Parties in Kenyan General Elections, respectively, have provided a fresh debate on political parties and coalitions using the experience of 2013 polls.

On a lighter note, Dr Joyce Nyairo reveals that beyond the political parties and coalitions are more subtle and obviously less appreciated moments created through the campaigns that eventually come to bear on the choices and electoral outcomes.

Turning to the media, Benequista notes that their coverage of the 2013 elections was obviously conscious of the bitter criticism of their performance in the 2007 polls which ended in post-elections violence and left over 1,300 people killed and over 300,000 others displaced. He also observes that in the wake of the 2013 polls, a debate simmered over whether the mainstream media sacrificed duty to report the truth to preserve the peace.

Former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development, Oduol in her contribution pays attention to the manner in which gender issues were negotiated by leaders and voters in the run-up to the 2013 polls and how even before then, it was clear that patriarchy was set to claw back on the progressive and gender responsive provisions of the 2010 Constitution.

The controversial issue of the ICC cases against Kenyatta and William Ruto, on the eve of the 2013 polls has been well tackled by Prof Peter Kagwanja and Dr Tom Wolf, separately, looking at the extent to which it influenced the decisions around the General Elections and whether or not there were any lessons learnt that could further the scholarly debate and reflection on the future democratic practice in the country.

Finally, Supreme Court judge, Prof Ojwang, who was one of the judges who heard the unsuccessful presidential election petition filed by Odinga against Kenyatta’s election, maintains that what happened after the aftermath of the polls bore greater testimony to the fact that the culture of the rule of law, democracy and constitutionalism was finally taking root in Kenya as a nation and among Kenyans as a people. According to the judge, the supreme law has made a definite milestone in the country’s progression towards constitutional governance.

This book has been launched at an opportune time for voters and all stakeholders to study as Kenyans brace for the next election in August 2017.

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