Kenyan elections, the sign that became a curse

Charles Motsi

On the 9th of August 2022, the Kenyan people went to the polls to choose their 5th President since gaining independence from the British in 1963.

While the people of Kenya were patiently waiting for the results of the tightly contested plebiscite, the world was surprised by one remark in particular from an unexpected voice, that of Zimbabwean opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) leader, Nelson Chamisa.

Chamisa took to twitter and wrote, “Kenya is a sign!” He tried to be cryptic and throw-off people but all knew what he meant and who he was rooting for. The race in Kenya was a close one between veteran perennial loser, Raila Odinga and the disowned deputy president William Ruto. With Chamisa being close and sharing the tag of opposition with Odinga, it was clear that his not so cryptic message was a victory chant for his long-time ally. However, his prophesied ‘sign’ became an unbearable curse.

As it turned out, Odinga lost the election and Chamisa’s message confirmed what the world had known about him all along, that he is an inexperienced childish leader not worth of occupying the highest and most respected seat in our land at State House. Many people from Kenya and Zimbabwe rebuked Chamisa for jumping the gun and celebrating the victory of a foreign leader before there was official confirmation from local Kenyan electoral board, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Aside from the verbal backlash that Chamisa received from online trolls regarding his ‘sign’ message, the more damning outcome from his ill-advised twit was perhaps how he seemed to foretell his own downfall in the upcoming 2023 Harmonised General Elections. What the opposition leader meant and what he got are completely different scenarios.

Chamisa expected Odinga to win and therefore further the winning streak enjoyed by opposition leaders following Hakainde Hichilema’s victory in Zambia. Hichilema won the election as an opposition and Chamisa hopes, wishes and dreams that the same luck visits him in 2023. But he should know that it is not luck or following signs but hard work through clear cut policies that speak to the people that wins elections, something he does not have.

If Odinga had won, by some miracle, then it would have confirmed to Chamisa that the opposition gods were at work and he stood a better chance in the 2023 election. It would have been the ‘sign’ he was looking for. Alas, his horse lost in Kenya and the sign seems to be confirming his own fears of an oppositional curse, the same curse that has dogged Odinga for 25 years now. That of being on the losing side and going on television to whine like a baby that you have been cheated when it is clear that you did not put in the work, hence could not win.

With all due respect to the Kenyan people and the IEBC, there elections were a long way from being perfect and for Chamisa to say they are a sign, implying that we had to emulate them, was just naïve and exhibited his lack of experience. The elections were marred by pre-elections violence which saw female candidates fearing for their lives and some even ended up not taking part. For example, Liz Njue, a psychologist who wanted to stand for an assembly seat could not vote in her party’s primary elections because her opponents attacked her, pulling her hair and tearing her blouse. She had to flee without casting her ballot and lost the race.

Other irregularities that missed Chamisa’s inexperienced eye were the delay in giving out results that resulted in a media blackout. From 12 August to 14 August, media houses stopped providing results tallies and no one knew what was going on in those hours of black out. On 16 August, the body of Daniel Musyoka, an official presiding over the election in Nairobi, was found in Kilombero forest, Kajiado County. Furthermore, before the results were announced, some youths from both camps had started to form blockades in and around the capital Nairobi. All these incidences failed to catch Chamisa’s eye who still regarded the Kenyan election as some sort of sign.

As if all these were not enough, as the results were being announced, there was chaos in the hall as commissioners failed to agree on the final results tally and Juliana Cherera, the deputy chairperson of the electoral commission told a media briefing that four out of the seven commissioners were not in agreement with the announced tally that gave Ruto the victory.

Chamisa might be a good talker who can bring people to frenzy during a rally but his judgment as a leader still lacks some much needed maturity. The Kenyan case that he referred to as a sign has turned out to be a nightmare and far from what he expected. A true statesman and leader could have anticipated or at least have waited for the final tally before declaring anyone a winner.