Post Election Violence in Kenya’s 2017 elections a possibility

The discovery of the three murdered children of KANU aspirant James Ratemo in Uasin Gishu county is the stuff of nightmares. Even as the investigation into their deaths is ongoing the initial belief is that the little ones were the unfortunate target of political rivalries between their father and others. Upon further scrutiny, the reason for their demise could point to extreme ethnic hatred exacted by a relative. Nothing in the world can possibly justify the torture and killing of little children and we are totally horrified by this act.

It’s difficult not to think the worst in these elections; the stakes seem to be extremely high and alarming reports surfaced each week of the nominations process. From the abductions of MCAs who end up drugged, beaten and dazed to actual murders occurring in some counties, the targeted violence that politicians are facing is quite disturbing. What is our country coming to?

We seem to have come to the final conclusion after decades of entrenched acrimonious politics; not just politics of mud-slinging and one-upmanship but the kind of politics that opts to literally dehumanize opponents. 2017 political atmosphere was crafted in 2007 ethnic violence and it is terrifying.

The objectives of the constitution were to diffuse this sort of conflicts. The premise is supposedly that, given that there is inadequate and often ethnically biased representation in the National Assemblies and government, the first step to national inclusion would be to have a decentralized government system, and then allow the people to choose their representatives.

But we forgot one principal issue about Kenya politics. That it was never, EVER, about power being conferred to ethnic communities, or even tribalism, but it was about a political elite retaining power in the name of their communities, always hiding within tribal cocoons so as to retain the status quo.

The sort of chaos and shambles we see at the political party primaries is not just about a lack of organization on the part of the political party, but an exposure of the utter lack of democracy in a fragmented tribal society. It is not possible to claim democracy where your tribe matters, and it is not possible to represent your tribe when the cost to do so is exorbitant. Always, the politician will at once seek to recuperate whatever he spent during the elections, trying to woe his fellow tribesmen.

This is why the stakes are so high – were the issue merely about representing your ward in the name of your people, then other than the normal banter, and door to door “convincing through chai” most MCAs would not find it necessary to resort to violence because in the end the people would willing vote for their preference.

Since we have learned, as Kenyans, how to mimic our leaders, we finely extort our politicians during the electoral process in the name of becoming willing voters, and they in turn become ever more willing to go to extremes in order to retain their power (or gain it). That psychopathy seems to be silently endorsed in society; James Ratemo, though receiving condolences, also received unwarranted and unfair criticism of his ambitions, whether or not they contributed to his family’s loss.

We need to ask ourselves what kind of people we have become. Have we totally lost all humanity in the name of playing political musical chairs every 5 years? With thousands of aspirants to pick from in these elections, surely, we are spoiled for choice. Must we also make it a life and death situation?

As a nation, we seem to have bargained away the power over our lives to politicians, and in addition to that, we seem to have allowed the same political elite wield power over those they perceive as their challengers.

We shouldn’t be silent while aspirants are violated, attacked, drugged, abducted and killed simply because they vie for a post. We certainly shouldn’t ignore such psychopathic conduct and then vote in those that go to such extremes, literally handing them power over our own lives. That is how we dealt with things in the past, and that is the reason why even though we have greater representation we have less of our interests being served.

Kenyans need to take a stand against the sort of political violence going on, even within their wards. If anything, refusing to vote for a violent aspirant is a first step to reclaiming democracy at the local level. More importantly, consider protecting of lives of aspirants and their families as much as possible, especially in the face of political incitement. Nobody need lose their lives or be injured simply because of their political aspirations. Let’s breed tolerance even within our local communities.

Kenya’s Striking Doctors: The Fight For Medical Education For Africans (Part 1)

First Published in 


In 1972, the pioneer set of Kenya’s  locally trained indigenous doctors graduated from the first medical school in Kenya, the School of Medicine, at the University of Nairobi, having been under the tutelage of Dr. Joseph Maina Mungai, the first African to become dean of the faculty.

Kenya having become independent in 1963, after decades of British colonialization, it was nine years after independence, that these first locally trained doctors graduated from the illustrious Dr Mungai’s classes.

Dr. Mungai can best be described as the pioneer medical researcher in East Africa and it is during his neurological studies that he noticed the racist arguments used to justify the application of racial segregation in education in Kenya. In his autobiography “From Simple to Complex” Dr. Mungai describes the underlying policy on education in pre-independent Kenya.

“In the course of my reading, I came across work based on studies which had been done in Kenya. It was the most unbelievable reading that I had ever come across. I read it over and over again, as I tried to understand some of the background to the racially segregated system of Kenyan education for Europeans, Asians and Africans.”


“… it is in trying to justify racial segregation in education in Kenya, that the most erroneous conclusion was made. This was that the stage of development of the average African adult brain was equivalent to that of the average European boy between seven and eight years of age. The false justification for the continuation of a segregated educational system for Europeans, Indians and Africans in Kenya had been given a scholarly veneer.”

The education of African students had thus always been of an inferior quality and nature prior to independence and it was the express hope of the Kenyan people that with the acquisition of self-rule, the Kenyan government would be able to reverse this. This would thus provide education at par with that obtainable in Britain itself to Kenyans.

In 1965 the independence government presented to Parliament the now famous Sessional Paper 10, called “African Socialism And Its Application To Planning In Kenya”.

In its foreword, then President Jomo Kenyatta(the father of current president, Uhuru Kenyatta) stated that, “Our entire approach has been dominated by a desire to ensure Africanisation of the economy and the public service.”

Jomo Kenyatta
Kenya’s first president Jomo Kenyatta, widely regarded as a liberation hero who also initiated the Session 10 paper of African Socialism, a guiding document for many years in government policy.
His son Uhuru Kenyatta is the current President, who is widely regarded as not as much of a performer as his father was.

By the time Sessional paper 10 was published, Kenya had been under its own sovereign rule for 18 months.

Within its pages you can see the high optimism of the young government most explicitly stated in the belief that African socialism is a viable approach to running a country, the critical approach being that Kenya can build upon its traditional societies and culture in order to unite as an African nation. A lot of Marxist theory dominated this belief, specifically driving the initiative to recognise and establish trade unions within the country to deal with African workers’ rights within the private sector as well as an employer’s union.

In fact, some industrial unions were assisted by government and thus had obligations towards the government’s objectives as regards co-operatives.

At the time, the notion that civil or public servants would need to be unionised was not mentioned, instead there was a greater emphasis in the rapid training and recruitment of Africans as doctors, surgeons, engineers, surveyors, and other professionals.

The subsequent planning cycles of the Kenya government after 1965 showed a shift in economic ideology principally from African socialism to a mixture of liberalism and capitalism; this translated in the medical sector as adaptation and alteration of the generic health policy in Kenya from one based on the Medical Model between 1965-early 1970’s to one based on the Primary Health Care Model in the late 1970s and the 1980s, and later to a Market (profit based) model in the 1990s.

This shift in public policy meant that ultimately, the medical students graduating from Kenya’s first medical school would find a chronic lack of resources in the hospitals in the areas they are posted to by the government. They would also increasingly find it difficult to be gainfully employed by the government, many resorting to opening private clinics, and doing locums at private hospitals.

By 1983, just as Kenya was finally acknowledging the existence of the HIV virus and AIDS disease, the country was also steadily experiencing a medical brain drain. The more lucrative opportunities offered in Western nations especially contrasted sharply with the sort of conditions to be found in government facilities. At the same time, the 1982 coup attempt introduced a destabilising element to the scene which gave more urgency to the need for medical practitioners to flee abroad.

This brain drain escalated with the introduction in the 1990s of the US diversity visa lottery program, which piggy-backed on the increase in stricter immigration laws in the UK. Needless to say, the 1990s and early 2000s saw the greatest exit of professionals from Kenya to the US, with Kenya being the 5th largest contributor of skilled migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

Essentially, Kenya was now educating doctors for the West, a complete turnaround from the African socialist ideals of 1965, which were rooted in the concept that we can provide for, govern and sustain ourselves.

The patent disregard by government of the Kenyan healthcare system and its effects on the prospects as well as standards of medical education is seen in the steep deterioration noted between 1985 and 1995; a period during which the Kenyatta National Hospital, Kenya’s premier referral facility went from being a facility that senior civil servants were expected to receive treatment in, to KNH being synonymous with stolen/missing resources such as medicine, bedsheets and also absentee doctors.

The rapid decline of the nation’s facilities was commensurate with the rapid emigration of Kenyan doctors, deterioration and lack of implementation of public policy, and eventually a shift by the public to primary reliance on private health care.

The decades of neglect, oppression and underfunding by a public health sector that is incredibly corrupt, and the frustrations of medical students found a unifying force and outlet in Kenya’s 1990s agitation for multi-party democracy, much of which was driven by the energy of university students.

As soon as, President Moi repealed section 2 (a) of the constitution in 1992, the momentum begun to build in the medical students and practitioners who demanded the right to register the Kenyan Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists’ Union.

In 1994, 3000 Kenyan doctors went on strike for 105 days, the longest medical strike ever experienced in post-independent Kenya. The Ministry of Health responded by firing 1000 doctors for striking. 23 years later, Kenya has not recovered from that loss of medical professionals all of whom were either absorbed in private sector or emigrated abroad. Leaving the public sector, where the poor who cannot afford private care, seek treatment, devoid of these doctors.

Among the principal causes of the 1994 strike were the standard and quality of education the doctors were receiving; standards that ensured resources and educators were not only insufficient for the number of students admitted, but that even qualifying as a doctor after being educated was discriminatory. Career success in the public health sector was made dependent on ethno-political affiliation, with the choices postings going to those deemed favourable to the elite. So also was academic success in the medical schools were made dependent on these same factors.

In totality, the sort of medical education that doctors were receiving under public policy were a throwback to the racial discrimination and segregation of educational standards in pre-independence Kenya. The exact problem independence was supposed to correct, was one the post-independence elite perpetuated.

Kenyan doctors protesting
File Photo: Striking Kenyan doctors protesting

It was presumed that the 1994 strike was a failure, and for the 18 years the medical profession remained without a trade union. In 2011 however, the doctors registered their union and the KMPDU called for the first doctors’ strike under the new Kenya constitution.

Chief among the key points of contention by the KMPDU was of course, the sorry state of medical education in Kenya and the treatment of public sector medical professionals by their employer, which is the Kenyan government. This was only the most recent iteration of a 5 decade long struggle to change the course of the  Kenya government being the primary reason that Africans were not only discriminated in their education, but also in accessing healthcare and decent wages.

Why Women Do Not vote For Women – First Published in The Standard, Nov 16th, 2016

A local newspaper announces with glee, “Kenyan women would rather have man at any leadership position, survey says”. It would seem stating the obvious now makes for news in Kenya. The prevalence of misogyny in a patriarchal and highly conservative society should surprise no one, certainly not journalists.

Rather, the survey simply underscores what feminists and female politicians have long stated about the Kenyan electorate. Unless, by law, gender inclusion and representation becomes institutionalized and part of the political structure, women will never gain gender equality or representation. If anything the survey simply amplifies the very reasons as to why the two thirds gender principle was put into the constitution.

The fact is a conservative society such as our own will always defer to men, seeing them as bearers of power. The entire electorate will vote on the “potential” of the man, verses the actual merit and resume of the woman. Thus, the election campaign will be littered with litanies against for example, Ms. Anne Waiguru, Ms. Martha Karua, Ms. Millie Odhiambo or Madam Charity Ngilu based on their previous performances in leadership, verses the vague election promises of their male rivals. In fact, it is public knowledge that any woman who chooses to vie for an electoral seat verses a man will ultimately face the most disgusting and most personalized slander, from being called “flower girls” to the allusion of sexual impropriety with party or government leaders.

The surprising outcome of the U.S elections underscores this. As much as we would like to pretend that the United States is a liberal society, the slow recovery from the 2008 economic meltdown and a global spread of fascist white supremacy, dressed as nationalism was tapped into by the Republican Party and used by Donald’s Trump campaign. Bigotry in America was finally at its most visible in the last one year.

I say visible finally, because if anything, up until 2015, America had perfected the art of veiled hatred, clothed as ‘American Exceptionalism’, whereby, despite the clear affront on the civil rights of minorities locally and the several wars created by American capitalism, somehow Americans still believed that they were the greatest country in the world.

The accompanying bigotry thus took on its most basic form. An outright disregard for the rights of ethnic, sexual and religious minorities complete with threats made directly to millions throughout Trump’s campaign, meant that it was clear that Donald Trump was all about upholding the power and privileges’ of the white population. This most certainly affected the first female presidential candidate. Bigotry is never limited; rather it will target even those considered part of the white elite, especially because Hillary Clinton is a woman.

The result was a theatre of the absurd. A woman with over 40 years of experience in politics and governance won the popular vote but still lost the election to a man who had no experience and no plan, just a four word statement. “Make America Great Again”. 66% of white women voted for Donald Trump, a cutting betrayal that exposed the ideological failures of western feminism. White women, it seems, will protect their white privilege FIRST and then consider their gender.

Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump was reported by the Wall Street Journal to be so unaware and unable to meet the demands of forming an administration that he has been consulting with President Barrack Obama.

With the refusal of Kenya’s Senate and National Assembly to adopt the Gender Bill, Kenya’s parliaments are in constitutional crisis. Attorney General Githu Muigai remains unheeded by legislators, whose numbers currently lie at 75% majority male in the National Assembly and 73% male in the Senate.

Repeatedly we are told that ‘women should run against men in an equal playing field’. The fallacious claim that “women should vote for women” ignores the social reality that misogyny is the driving force behind the disenfranchisement and disempowerment of women, often entrenched by women themselves.

As Hillary Clinton’s case shows, even when the female candidate ultimately represents their ethnicity, is undisputedly far more qualified than her rival and is the better and more honest leader, the vast majority of women in that ethnic community will vote for a man. To rectify this situation ultimately demands a radical and systematic legal inclusion of women, especially within the political sphere.

It is a tragedy the Gender Bill did not pass. It is a catastrophe that the undemocratic locking in of aspirants after nominations in political parties is now legal. If women aspirants did not have a level playing field before, they now face the most impossible odds, regardless of whichever political party they belong. A completely ethnicized party that is entirely patriarchal will most certainly not give chance to the vast majority of female aspirants, because due to prevalent cultural misogyny they will lose the votes on the ground.

There is a battle ahead. If women leaders are to rise to power, they have to fight their own, prove themselves several times over and maneuver past misogyny somehow.






#Lipakamatender #CBA – Kenyan Doctors’ Industrial Action 2016 – Why Kenyan Doctors are Forced to Strike!

#Lipakamatender #CBA – Kenyan Doctors’ Industrial Action 2016
#Lipakamatender #CBA – How Kenyan Doctors got here –

Sunday December 4th 2016

Public Education

The nationwide doctors’ industrial action to commence at 0000 hrs Monday 5th December is the culmination of politicians playing with the health of Kenyans. As a result doctors are left with no choice but to result in industrial action which seems to be the only thing the government listens to. The hashtag is #Lipakamatender. The contention is failure of implementation of a legally signed CBA between KMPDU and MOH Kenya in 2013.

History of mismanagement of the health docket

Between 2007 and 2013 under the auspices of “reversing the trends” policy the health system underwent significant improvements. This came about because the health system did an introspection of itself, identified the root cause of problems that bedeviled the health system, put them down on paper and chatted a way to reverse the very poor trends in health that had plagued the system since independence. The health performance contracts were used as improvement tools. The DMSOs then were in charge of ensuring that the several hospitals under their supervision made continuous improvements on the line items of the performance contracts. Quarterly meetings presided over by PDMSs led to accountability. Afya house teams also had regular supervisory visits with the PDMSs. Management of health facilities improved dramatically. The health performance contracts are present in the individual hospitals and in the ministry of health.

As a result of this doctor-led improvements hospital managements improved so much that the revenues from FIF (Facility Improvement Fees) in the individual hospitals increased three to four fold in most hospitals. The hospitals were better managed, attracted more clients and revenue continued going up

Parallel constitutional process

At about the same time the constitutional process was ongoing. Guided by the policies that were in place at the time the medics pushed for two items i.e. a Health Service Commission to manage the scarce resource (medical personnel) and patient rights that would have included among other items strengthening further the hospitals with equipment. In the health workers minds health devolution was very clear – Primary health was to be managed by governors (promotion and prevention) while Curative health (medical facilities) were to be managed by central government with all health workers managed by the health service commission. The referral system was working well and would be strengthened. The stage was set and medical workers campaigned for the new constitution knowing that their health service commission was intact.

Political constitutional games played on health

The drama then unfolded.

1. The health service commission was sneaked out between Naivasha (Committee of Experts) and parliament. This was very deliberate. A “hidden force” is thought to be behind this. But a 5-year lifeline was put on it. It was stated in the Hansard of parliament that it could be activated by an act of parliament. During the various health problems in the counties members of parliament have tried to form some kind of HSC within the health bill but nothing has come of it so far.

2. A new constitution was passed in 2010 with the possibility of a HSC being created by an act of parliament. Luckily for health workers the constitution guaranteed the right to form a union. KMPDU was formed. A few industrial actions down the line only one yielded some fruitful improvements in the welfare of doctors. But to avoid future unnecessary industrial unrests by drs KMPDU and Ministry of Health signed a CBA.

3. The first notice in February 2013 that devolved health (notably before president Kibaki left office) was correct. It devolved primary health. Curative health was retained at national level. Afya house in the meantime had developed a fantastic master plan for health. It had 2 components 1. Healthworker management and improvement prior to and hand in hand with 2. Managed Equip

ment Scheme (MES).. keep this in mind as you read on.
Health workers were to be recruited, trained and deployed all over the country and remunerated well to make use of the medical equipment that was to be bought. This plan was as a result of the Musyimi Task Force report that was done during earlier industrial actions. The basis of this is that health equipment cannot use itself. It needs health workers.

4. March 2013 the general elections were done and the Jubilee government were charged with midwifing the new government structure. A non-medic is appointed cabinet secretary of health (I think this should never happen again).

5. Governors in their hunt for sources of income noted that hospitals were one of the few institutions within counties that had cash income in the form of FIF and the amounts were substantial. They thus wanted in on the gravy train. They directed their guns on the executive and accused them of being anti-devolution. The executive not wanting to look “anti-devolution” asked TA to devolve health illegally. They also did not mind throwing governors under the bus because managing health workers is difficult. What the governors forgot is that the wage bill of health workers does not come from FIF and of course they have continuously fallen short in paying health workers. Governors wanted to have their cake and eat it. The reality was different with the various health worker strikes. Governors though were also short changed by Afya house. Afya house retained the Medical Equipment Scheme portion (a procurement issue). Procurement is usually wrongly looked at as “income” by those handling it. Afya house acquired the medical equipment and pushed down the cost to the governors.

6. Transitional Authority unconstitutionally devolved curative health in August 2013 without withdrawing the correct notice of February 2013. This was done with no Health Act in place – total negligence.

7. KMPDU went to court in November 2013 and their case was thrown out

8. In 2014 health workers joined the case against unconstitutional devolution of health by Okiya Omutatah. Dr Kigondu participated in this case by giving the affidavit of what the spirit of health devolution was. Justice Lenaola declined to defined what national referral hospitals meant but said there was a process ongoing in parliament to streamline the health system. This was taken to mean that health is fully devolved but it did not mean that. If health workers appealed this case they would have won and the mess we are in would not have happened.

9. The Health Bill in the meantime was doing its rounds in parliament with multiple mutilations by various interested groups. Everyone is trying to put his hand in the cookie jar. There is no health act as of yet.

10. Salaries and Remuneration Commission has been used by the government in an attempt to hoodwink health workers. It does not hold the key to management of doctors. It is the body used to delay all major decisions that have to be made on doctors health. It is the excuse used to avoid having a health service commission. Yet it’s role is on state officers and advisory on all others. The judiciary always twists the law to try to say that SRC proclamations are binding. They are not.

10. The counties have continued to mistreat doctors. We have doctors who have been rejected for not being of that tribe. We have doctors who have not been absorbed yet there is need. We have doctors whose statutory deductions have never reached their destinations. Without laid down rules of how to manage doctors in this gubernatorial period without health laws the governors will kill health slowly. To protect the doctors a CBA signed by MOH Kenya must be implemented

In summary doctors are victims of a botched purported devolution of health. Doctors have in the past gone on strike to ask for equipment for hospitals for the benefit of the general public. Doctors have had input into the health bill that keeps being mutilated by too many interested parties not looking at the interest of the profession. Doctors are tired of being

manipulated by politicians. Why is it so hard for the government to implement a legally signed document yet it is so easy for them to throw doctors under a governors’ bus unconstitutionally so easily? Why must the welfare of doctors be sacrificed under the alter of political show offs. Doctors are tired. The collective fatigue of a misused profession has come together and this time round the government better listen. Otherwise the government of the people will act.

Ministry of Health of Kenya you will bear the responsibility for not implementing the #CBA. Let all doctors meet on Monday 5th December 2016 at Public Service Club for #Lipakamatender Day 1. Punda amechoka!

Dr Kigondu Simon

Health Social Thinker and Obstetrician Gynaecologist

Only A pink Revolution will save Women – First published in The Standard, October 2016


The complaints about London taxi cabs had always that women did not feel that they had a choice in their security or comfort because the cab companies overwhelmingly would hire male drivers. But in 2012, the pink revolution led by the ‘Pink Ladies’ taxi company, would guarantee a woman driver with every taxi. This simple change in management style drastically altered things for women, providing employment while increasing safety and comfort for users.

Kenya needs a pink revolution in the political arena.

The ‘Duale’ gender bill had an admirable and simple intent. What the gender bill wanted was to ensure that the two thirds gender principle becomes transmuted from rule to law. By allowing for changes in articles 81, 97, 98 and 177, there would be provisions for special seats to which female political aspirants would be allocated space within the national assembly should the elections outcomes not meet the required gender inclusion threshold.

The social science was quite bad. The creation of special reserved seats would automatically deign female aspirants be excluded from the party nominations on the notion there are reserved seats for women so the other elected positions belong to men. The extra positions would also result in a surge in the wage bill, a financial point that opponents of the bill harped on, stating that allowing for such financial demands would open the floodgate for other interested parties to also make a case for inclusion, further stretching resources. Finally, there were claims that the extra seats for women would not necessarily translate into greater representation for women in the electorate, seeing as the women nominated to the special seats automatically adhere to the patriarchal power structure of their political parties, and not necessarily the interests of women. Even so, the increase of women legislators in parliament was still a laudable goal and would certainly have made a difference in how the house business was conducted.

After two attempts, it appears that the battle for political gender inclusion in the national assembly has gone silent. Instead, the focus is now on The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill and the Election Offences Bill. The bills essentially have changed the political landscape permanently.

The bills lock in aspirants after the internal party nominations process, making it impossible for losers to jump ship and seek election nomination under other party vehicles as has been the trend in the past. As Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri stated, “this was a significant step toward political maturity of the country, it’s important to ensure that all parties are respected and that candidates respects the end results of polls.”

But the reality is the two bills do not take into consideration the dynamics within the political parties. Thus far, 15 governors have demanded automatic nominations from their respective parties, which in itself will be an affront to the democratic process. Further, the truth remains that cronyism, patronage and nepotism is rife in political parties and those with ample resources and the right connections can easily buy support from their parties and gain nominations. Most importantly, in the event of an undesired outcome, an aspirant is forced to abandon his ambitions, even though he has a democratic right to run in the election.

The worst effect is on women aspirants. Automatically, all nominations for women are guaranteed when it comes to seats already reserved for women, e.g. the women representative. the patriarchal structure will then state that since women have their automatic nominations all the other elective seats are for men. Women will then not get a chance to compete, nor will they get support through nominations. Regardless of their influence and popularity on the ground, women aspirants will not be able to competitively stand against incumbents even in the women reps position due to existing patronage, cronyism and favoritism.

This is the same argument that challengers are and have been making against the anti-party hopping bills that incumbents are given an unfair advantage, and that challengers to seats cannot possibly face a fair election. Some incumbents have already begun dictating that they should receive automatic nominations after all.

The effect this has on gender inclusivity is devastating. No longer are we talking about empowering more women towards running and aspiring for political office, we have now herded these women and locked them into 47 seats only, and reduced their participation nationally across all political parties.

There is a time to play the boys’ game and then there is a time for girls to make up their own game. I propose that a women centered ‘Pink Party’ be established, one that allows for political aspirants with ideologies and principles that not only address the concerns of the women in the electorate but that can raise the standards of party politics nationally to issue based instead of ethnic mathematics that support the patriarchal and detrimental vices of democracy in Kenya. Only with women in party leadership can there be broader inclusivity for women, youth and the disabled within the political landscape.


Only a Pink Revolt will Save Women


Hate speech could again trigger election violence in Kenya published in

In the period of investigations conducted after the violent outcome of the 2007 elections in Kenya, the Commission for Inquiry into the Post-Election Violence (CIPEV) identified incitement to violence and hate speech as one of the main triggers behind the widespread violence. The Independent Review Commission, better known as the Kriegler Commission, also noted this. In addition, it recommended that a framework of legislation be enacted to prohibit and prosecute hate speech.

But it is much easier to investigate and recommend than to regulate and implement laws that criminalise hate speech and incitement. The performance of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission since its inception in 2008 has been weak, to say the least. The numerous cases of hateful remarks targeted at ethnic groups, coupled with clear incitement documented in the media, especially over the past year, are yet to see any full convictions. If anything, it has become a matter of exerting public pressure on the NCIC to move forward with prosecutions.
Perhaps the challenge is that though the NCIC was given the authority to investigate complaints of ethnic discrimination, abuse, hatred and incitement of violence, the NCIC did not and still does not have sufficient resources to go after every single complaint brought forward. In addition, as a result of platforms like social media, the number of complaints has been increasing. Be that as it may, the NCIC certainly could commit its limited resources to investigating complaints brought against politicians.

Judiciary: a key factor

Kenya’s judiciary in Kenya has been through several reform cycles, including the vetting of judges and magistrates, and a strengthening of its institutional powers. It is still a key factor in any potential investigation of violence. Just like in 2008, the judiciary is still unable to meet the threshold of justice in politically sensitive cases, lagging desperately behind in making convictions about complaints of hate speech or incitement. Indeed in 2015, there were actually no convictions for hate speech despite cases being brought against a number of politicians. It seems that though the NCIC, the police service and the director of public prosecutions may move forward to bring charges in hate speech complaints, the Judiciary remains unable to fully try and reach a verdict in these cases.
The result is clear – a lack of convictions for hate speech that emboldens the political elite and creates a culture of impunity and recklessness. Some, like Mombasa politician Suleiman Shahbal, have gone so far as to claim that the Jubilee alliance will win the 2017 elections “even if they have to rig the polls.”
Indeed, just like in the run up to the 2007 elections, claims that one party or other will rig the elections are rife. By 6 January 2016, opposition leader, Raila Odinga, had declared that the Jubilee regime was the “most corrupt and intended to rig the elections“.

Volatile formula

When you add to this volatile formula the fact that thus far there have been no convictions at the International Criminal Court for the crimes committed in Kenya after the 2007 elections, and that locally none of the mid-level or high-level masterminds has ever seen prosecution, this makes for a highly charged situation in Kenya.
By November 2015, the increase in the number of cases of hate speech complaints against prominent politicians was blamed by the police on the lack of convictions by the judiciary. In a statement to the press, Police Spokesman Charles Owino said that the police had gone after suspects of hate speech, irrelevant of their party affiliations, and collected watertight evidence but the courts had frustrated their efforts.

National Cohesion and Integration Act

A close look at the legal frameworks developed after 2008 to deal with hate speech indicates that Kenya is more than adequately equipped to comprehensively identify and address cases of incitement, hate speech and ethnic discrimination. The National Cohesion and Integration Act of 2008 not only established the NCIC as an investigative body to deal with complaints of ethnic or racial discrimination, but Section 13(1) of the Act provides:
“that a person who uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or distributes, shows or plays a recording of visual images which is threatening, abusive or insulting or involves the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour commits an offence if such person intends thereby to stir up ethnic hatred, or having regard to all the circumstances, ethnic hatred is likely to be stirred up.”
In addition to defining what ethnic abuse is, the act works seamlessly with the provisions in penal code sections 77 and 96 that deal with penalising incitement to violence and enmity between races and ethnic communities.  So the problem is not in the legal provisions available.
Perhaps the weak link could be in the collection of evidence and witness testimonies in cases involving powerful and influential politicians. The institutions that are responsible for moving forward on complaints of hate speech are susceptible to the same influences of corruption, intimidation and yes, even human error in the processing of material and witness testimony.  Be that as it may, there is no denying that the judges involved in the cases can make a difference in the application of the law. But a number of suspects has got away with either not being in attendance at their own hearing, claiming they were in hospital, or finding a way to reach an out of court settlement.

1200 new police officers

Recently, the NCIC hired 1200 police officers to assist the institution in monitoring hate speech during the campaign period. While this may seem like a rigorous commitment by the NCIC to seek prosecutions, there is no doubt that this measure is likely to fail. The police are not lawyers, and they are not able to adequately decipher the nuances in the different ethnic languages to determine what simply is a cultural reference or an actual hate remark designed to instigate violence. Indeed, even the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC has faced the same difficulties in deciphering cultural constructs and contexts in language in the case of Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joseph arap Sang. To expect a police officer to be able to prepare a reasonable report that could be used to bring charges is asking just too much. In any case, the material which is likely to be produced by the 1200 monitors is likely to result in an incredible backlog in documentation. Before charges are actually pressed, several months or even years could pass after the actual elections take place.
There needs to be a greater commitment to the powers given to the institutions charged with curbing hate speech and incitement to violence. The NCIC needs to become realistic – they cannot monitor all candidates or aspirants. It would behoove them to consider a different strategy and make better use of their resources.
Kenyan society is quite a fragile fabric of tolerance. Beneath the surface, the simmering sentiments that exploded after the 2007 elections remain active, and without a stronger commitment by institutions, it would take only a small spark by a handful of reckless and selfishly-motivated politicians to push Kenya back to the brink of widespread conflict once again.

Political violence consistently mars elections in Africa published in


If African nations could choose to learn from history, then the first lesson they would learn is to undo all the confusion they arose at independence. The moment the colonial mantle was lifted from the different countries, each nation chose to adopt a superficial version of Western democracy, loosely structured around ethnic communities, one that on paper should have led to the equitable distribution of resources and power. But in reality, it simply entrenched the already existing divisive policies and institutionalized discrimination.

A cursory glance across the continent in the past decade reveals that in every country that attempted “democratic” elections, there was a clear and deliberate weakening of the very institutions that make a country a democracy. Every country that faced violent election disputes had its judiciary weakened, its constitution suspended and the rule of law completely disregarded.
Madagascar, Burundi, Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Kenya, South Sudan – these are just a few of the countries in which an usurping of constitutional order led to open post-electoral violence, military interventions and in the case of South Sudan, the most violent civil conflict in Africa in the 21st century.

Always the same script

The script is the same, whichever situation you look at – when a constitutional presidential term is coming to an end meaning that an election cycle is coming up, the opposing candidates will claim that their rivals (or they themselves!) will rig the elections and thus make it clear that they will gain power no matter what it takes. There will be public declarations that “fighting for rights” will have to occur should the results not be in their favor. The judiciary and the electoral body will be tarnished, vilified or threatened. People will amass arms, organise night meetings, and there will be sporadic outbreaks of violence. There will be a violent grab for power.
Kenya is no different. The 2007 elections were preceded by the same, structured script, designed to disrupt a democratic process and use violent means to attain power.  By the end of 2007, politicians had already begun declaring that “the elections would be rigged”, casting aspersions on the constitutional bodies created to conduct the electoral process and causing great doubt over the ability of the judiciary to soberly deal with electoral disputes as is their mandate. By the end of the elections, violence had erupted in various parts of the country, leading to over 600,000 internally displaced people and 1,300 dead.

Still no ICC convictions

Despite Kenyan suspects being arraigned and charged at the International Criminal Court, there has not been a single conviction so far at the ICC. Locally, though about 300 cases have been completed, the magnitude of crimes committed ultimately outweighs the judicial process and the abilities of the state to adequately prosecute these cases. There are various reasons for this: no witnesses, witnesses refusing to press charges, not enough evidence, failures in collection of evidence and so on.
The 2013 elections had a similar script. Again, there were claims that the incumbents would rig the elections, aspersions were cast on the electoral body – the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) – and there was clear maligning of the judiciary and its officials. The biggest difference is that during and after the elections, there was minimal violence as compared to 2007, although months before there were several politically-instigated conflicts in areas such as northern Kenya.

Another electoral cycle

Kenya is now going into another electoral cycle, the script remains the same. By early January, opposition leader Raila Odinga and other politicians had already declared that the incumbent was seeking to rig the 2017 elections. The entire IEBC is considered corrupt due to as yet unprosecuted allegations of corruption and bribery. The Supreme Court is in upheaval because the chief justice will soon retire. The deputy chief justice herself has past the age of retirement, and there are allegations of massive bribery against a Supreme Court judge and other members of the judiciary.
The script is the same, so what we need to look out for now is the evidence of weapons being amassed, night meetings conducted with the aim of planning attacks, sporadic violence and extreme views that are geared to raise temperatures and rile different ethnic groups against each others.
In the Kenyan newspapers and on television, you will see highly agitated politicians making clearly inflammatory comments. Moses Kuria, William Kabogo, Johnston Muthama, George Aladwa and Suleiman Shabal have all made incendiary remarks regarding the rigging of elections, the use of violence or use of what is considered tribal slurs against rivals. It is no surprise that these politicians come from rival parties. Their comments are ultimately targeted at the rival political party’s quest to participate in the elections.
Now that the inflammatory statements have begun, let’s look out for the investigative reports detailing the accumulation of weapons, as was seen prior to the 2007 and 2013 elections. These reports are surely on the way, as are the reports of night meetings, arming and sporadic violence.
It is the same script, with ultimately the same outcome – a usurping of constitutional order, an undemocratic grab for power, which could ultimately lead to the deaths and injuries of thousands. If Kenya wishes to end this sort of political cycle and enjoy true democratic freedom during elections then a conscious effort must be made to take note of the well-played script and bring an end to the deliberate machinations of politicians who use this script to grab power or stay in power.  African nations need to learn from history in order to stop being victims of their own history.