Main opposition leader, Raila Odinga, 72 and President Kenyatta, 55
Kenyans went to the poll on Tuesday, August 8, 2017 to vote for a new president and lawmakers, or to maintain the current president and lawmakers in power for another 5-years terms. Although there are several political parties and players in the east African nation, the leading political blocs; the ruling Jubilee Party led current president Uhuru Kenyatta and the main opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) led by former prime minister Raila Odinga are said to be the main rivals and forces of contention.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party seeks a second term while NASA, under the leadership of Raila Odinga, mounts serious offensive to take control of state power in a process both international and local political observers dubbed the as one of the most competitive in Kenya’s history.
In their first match in 2013, President Kenyatta defeated the former prime minister, Odinga, by more than 800,000 votes after acquiring 6,173,433 votes (50.51%) in contrast to Mr Odinga’s 5,340,546 (43.7%) in an election that had 12.3 million registered to voters – an equivalent of 86% – that cast their ballot.
For most Kenyans, the August 8 election is a decisive period in their country’s history. Several poling groups, including the African Electoral Observation Group, an electoral observation assemblage, recent survey shows that at least 89% of all registered voters will cast their ballot on August 8. At such, it means that 16 million voters of the 19.2 million registered voters will cast their ballot in a nation where tribal sentiments and ethnic rivalries and perception cloud democratization.
The main tribal rivalry is between the Kikuyu tribe of president Kenyatta and the Luo tribe of the main opposition leader and former prime Odinga.
All aside, signs that the August 8 election will not be free and fair have already been displayed with the targeted political assassination of Chris Msando, the head of information, communication and technology at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the main body overseeing the polls.
Msando’s body was found on the outskirts of Nairobi on Saturday but news of his death was released 48 hours later with absolute government inaction.
“There’s no doubt that he was tortured and murdered,” Wafula Chebukati, the chair of the IEBC, said to media groups in Nairobi. The question is, who murder him?
According to reliable sources, Msando appeared to be killed by political agents and all accusations are leading to the ruling Jubilee Party and the main opposition group the National Super Alliance (NASA)
Both sides have accused the other of underhanded tactics in the run-up to the polls, with the president saying Odinga is trying to divide the nation and provoke violence, and the opposition leader claiming Kenyatta plans to rig the poll.
The former prime minister, Odinga, consistently argued that fraud robbed him of victory in the last two elections, citing specifically that in 2013, electronic voting machines were hit by widespread malfunctions. To correct that he filed a complaint which a court dismissed.
With these counter accusation and heated attacks, and the murder of Chris Msando, the electoral senior staffer who had a critical part to play in developing a new electronic ballot and voter registration systems at the IEBC, point to the fraudulent nature of the process.
A regional analyst at the International Crisis Group, Rashid Abdi, said that the killing of “someone who was involved in a critical component of the elections, the electronic infrastructure” would “definitely raise suspicions and undermine public confidence in the outcome” of the poll.
U.S.-based Human Rights Watch calls on the authorities to urgently investigate Msando’s death, a killing many believed was done for political and electoral purposes.
Nic Cheeseman, a professor of democracy at the University of Birmingham and an expert in African politics said, “It is not clear if the gap is actually narrowing, but … there is certainly a perception that the opposition has momentum.” He further maintained, “They (opposition) are hitting the government hard on corruption, rising inequality and rising cost of living. They have been connecting all three very well.”
Despite the opposition’s push, early predictions have been that current president Kenyatta would be victorious, but some recent polls have reveals a tight race.
The torture and murder of Msando suggests that the election will not be free and fair as manipulation in the process has begun.
Sources say Msando had made frequent media appearances to reassure voters that the new information technology system that awaited deployment for the August 8 election was reliable against fraud.
His murder occurred nine days prior to the day that voters in the east African state will elect new leaders by choosing a new president, as well as lawmakers and local representatives. Sources say Msando was killed by state agents so that fraud and voting machine tempering would take place.