On Friday, the principal Kenyan presidential challenger, Raila Odinga, gave an address at Chatham House in London while back in Kenya the country has been preparing for some dramatic re-elections on 26 October 2017. His speech highlighted a concern for the up-coming elections which he asserts should be focused on good governance.
On 11 August 2017, Uhuru Kenyatta was declared president of Kenya for a second five-year term, with results showing that Mr Kenyatta achieved a lead of more than 1.4 million votes over Mr Odinga.
However, just days later, Mr Odinga filed a petition with the supreme court to nullify the result on the basis that it was fraudulent. On 01 September 2017, this assertion was upheld by the supreme court, who ordered that a new vote must be held within 60 days. It was found that the result had been tainted by irregularities and that the polls were “neither transparent nor verifiable”.
Whilst this decision was extremely pleasing to Mr Odinga and his coalition, the National Super Alliance (NASA), Mr Odinga confirmed that he will not be running in the re-elections on 26 October. Mr Odinga asserts, as he did in his petition to the supreme court, that the signals he received from agents at the polling stations were vastly different from the actual results, and this is because the process for tallying and transmitting the results was flawed and lacked transparency.
The fact that Mr Kenyatta was unable to open up the servers or provide hard evidence of the polling results in the supreme court is a clear message that the election was not carried out in good faith, Mr Odinga claims. He says that this is supported by the fact that Mr Kenyatta was declared winner with around 12,000 polling stations (accounting for around 7 million votes) still to be processed.
Taking all this into account, Mr Odinga stated that he does not want to be part of such a fraudulent process and he has no assurance that the re-elections will be any different to the first. He argued that his withdrawal from the race should force the election to be cancelled - with the election process started again from scratch.
"The 26th is a no deal, you can take that to the bank," Mr Odinga said on Friday. "The 26th will not happen, if it happens it will not be an election in the Republic of Kenya... there will not be credibility."
If Mr Odinga gets his wish and the elections are scrapped, what is clear is that the current political uncertainty and social unrest will continue and this is likely to have unwanted consequences on the appetite for foreign inbound investment. What effect this may have on any existing or planned power and infrastructure projects, including the recent USD 150 million World Banks Kenya Off-Grid Solar Access Project (KOSAP), aiming to provide 690,000 households with electricity generated from solar power, is yet to be seen.
However, if the elections do go ahead with Mr Odinga out the race, Mr Kenyatta will have a much smoother route to presidency. Whilst this will not be popular amongst NASA supporters, it may generate a much needed period of calm in Kenya for the next five years which should also bring some stability back to the country’s economy.