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Election Watch: Kenya and Lesotho

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on June 24, 2022 14:50

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Elections are looming in these two African countries. Observers watch as the political parties and other leaders ready themselves for the campaigns. Some key points to watch are whether ethnicity will play a role, what role economic issues will play, and whether democracy will win.

Kenya will go to the polls on August 9, in elections that will pit erstwhile comrades against each other, and may just usher in class and economics ahead of ethnic affiliation as mobilizing factor. 

Previous elections were marked by violence. In 2007 election violence resulted in the death of more than a thousand people, and the displacement of 650 000. But early indications are that the well-entrenched ethnic basis of elections is taking second place, and economic circumstances and class may be more important. 

Elephants in Amboseli Park, Kenya. Photo amoghavarsha.com via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

Faced with a regional drought that threatens millions in neighboring Somalia and an economy decimated by Covid, current Deputy President William Ruto is positioning himself as the champion of the working class and the unemployed youth with his 'hustle nation' brand. His rival, Raila Odinga, enjoys the support of outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta and the political establishment. Odinga has selected former Minister of Justice and women's rights activist Martha Karua as his running mate, a first for Kenya. Ruto chose Rigathi Gachagua, an experienced civil servant and opposition politician with roots in the tribal heartland. 

Nairobi, capital of Kenya. Photo Daryona via Wikipedia. CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Technology in voter registration and vote counting and transparency in the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission would, it is hoped, reduce the threat of violence, but a lower turnout and voter apathy would also reduce the likelihood of confrontation at the ballot. 

Further south the mountain kingdom of Lesotho will also go to the polls in October. The political system is still recovering from a series of conflicts and coups as rivals sought power in this tiny, land-locked country. Legislation aimed at bringing order to the political landscape has been inching its way through Parliament, with political infighting inside the ruling party blocking progress. 

The regional body, The Southern African Development Community has sent a Special Envoy to try to unblock the reform process. The role of the King, the proliferation of political parties (more than 60 at the moment), and the fragility of coalitions are some of the matters on the table. At the same time political assassinations and vigilantism, some linked to political factions, make compromise difficult. End July is the deadline, when Parliament rises, and when legislation must be in place. 

Lesotho mountain village. Photo USAID Public Domain, Wikipedia

Democracy is at the same time something new in Africa and something known since time immemorial in tribal politics. Traditional political structures had parliamentary rules, structures, and freedom of speech. Fitting these traditions into a modern context, modern economic interests, and an increasingly global world is challenging. 

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on June 24, 2022 14:50

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Source: Al Jazeera

For decades, elections have hardly made a difference in curbing violent plunder by Kenya's ruling class.

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