2017: A year largely defined by politics

Contested presidential poll deeply divided the country

President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) and Nasa leader Raila Odinga. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

IN SUMMARY

  • The year saw President  Kenyatta take his gloves off, engaging the Opposition in verbal duels.
  • This  saw him being occasionally by some Kenyans that he was  forgetting that he was Kenya’s CEO.

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Perhaps no year has captured the imagination of Kenyans like 2017 did. A politically charged year, it was one of the tensest Kenyans have ever experienced.  As an election year, it began in high political gear as politicians criss-crossed the country wooing voters. And with politics now a well-paying career, the battles for the posts were bruising, with the presidential poll the most hotly contested. It was expected to give Uhuru Kenyatta his final term as president, and also the final chance for Raila Odinga to take a stab at the post. Come August 8 Kenyans turned out in large numbers to vote, braving the bad weather in parts of the country.

However, when the results were announced, Opposition leader Raila rejected them and filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging President Kenyatta’s win. This threw the country into political uncertainty and saw Kenyans follow the petition with great anxiety.

The Supreme Court turned into an arena where political theatrics played out, with lawyers James Orengo, Fred Ngatia, and Paul Muite showing their legal might and Dr Patrick Lumumba providing the much-needed comic relief with his romanticism of the legal jargon.

The Supreme Court nullified the presidential poll results and ordered a repeat presidential election within 60 days. Raila added a twist to the situation when he announced his withdrawal from the election October 10, arguing that the poll was unlikely to be free and fair since no reforms had been made to the electoral process. Nevertheless, the election went on  as planned, but saw mass boycotts in perceived Nasa strongholds.

PRESIDENT SHOWS HIS TOUGH SIDE

The year saw President  Kenyatta take his gloves off, engaging the Opposition in verbal duels. This  saw him being occasionally by some Kenyans that he was  forgetting that he was Kenya’s CEO.

And following the nullification of his August 8 victory,  President Kenyatta threw at least two barbs at the Supreme Court to express his displeasure: “The good thing about the law is that previously, I was President-elect. Si Maraga na watu yake, hawa wakora hawa amesema ati basi hiyo uchaguzi upotee (But now [Chief Justice] Maraga and his trickster colleagues have said that the election is invalid).” “Mimi tena sio rais mtarajiwa. Sijui kama mnanishika? Maraga ajue ya kwamba sasa ana deal na rais ambaye amekalia kiti. Tumerudi kazini; sasa ni campaign. (I am no longer a president-elect; do you understand?  Let [Justice] Maraga know that he is now dealing with a sitting president. We are back to work,  we back to campaigning),” he added while addressing supporters at Burma Market in Nairobi.

RAILA ODINGA AND HIS SUPPORTERS

Love him, hate him, Raila Amolo Odinga consistently shaped political discourse in 2017. He kept fellow politicians  guessing his next political moves, including those in Nasa. And together with his supporters, the Nasa leader kept the security and journalists busy for a good part of the year.

Right from the August 8 General Election to the 2017 presidential petition, the poll boycott and his unwavering ambition to be sworn in as the people’s president, the  former prime minister pulled a number of surprises. While many consider his withdrawal from the repeat presidential poll his biggest undoing, he says he will be sworn in as the people’s president this year. How that works out, only time will tell. 

What he did prove, however, is that he has a loyal following, as witnessed on November 17 when he returned from a trip to the US. Police used tear gas, water cannons, and at some point pelted crowds of strong-willed Nasa supporters who had turned out to meet him. The confrontaion left five dead and several others admitted to city hospitals with serious injuries.

Unexpected  ruling: Chief Justice David Maraga

On September 1, Chief Justice David Maraga set a precedent when he annulled the August 8 presidential poll. “Elections are not an event but a process. After considering the totality of the entire evidence, we are satisfied that the elections were not conducted in accordance to the dictates of the Constitution and the applicable principles,” he said.

Following the ruling, some people took it upon themselves to rename City Hall Way, which runs in front of the Supreme Court, “Maraga Way”. Some people even of uploaded pictures of the CJ as their online profile pictures.

EZRA CHILOBA: MAN IN THE EYE OF THE STORM

As the polling took place after the August 8 General Election,  the IEBC boss,  Ezra Chiloba won  the hearts of many young Kenyans with his intelligence, wit, looks and the way he explained the poll updates. This earned him the  nickname “Chilobae” on social media.

But following the nullification of the presidential poll result, the brilliant political scientist, policy and governance expert was a man under siege as Nasa supporters called for his resignation, referring to him as “Chilobye”. He later took a personal three-week leave.

 DR ROSELYN AKOMBE: DISAPPEARING ACT

IEBC Commissioner Roselyn Akombe’s dramatic resignation while on an official trip just a week to the repeat presidential poll  put the credibility of the poll agency on the spot.

“The commission, in its current state, can surely not guarantee a credible election on October 26, 2017,” she said.

“It has become increasingly difficult to continue attending plenary meetings where commissioners come ready to vote along partisan lines and not to discuss the merit of issues before them,” she added. “It has become increasingly difficult to appear on television to defend positions I disagree with in the name of collective responsibility.”

TEERIFIC TEACHER: BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY

Forget about “Githeri man”, whose claim to fame was being photographed eating the maize-and-beans mixture as he waited in aqueue to vote. Lairuba Day Secondary School principal George Along’o  was the year’s unsung hero. Determined to get the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exam papers to his students despite the bad weather, Mr Mutwiri waded through  muddy waters, accompanied by a security officer, James Ngugi, to deliver them.  Many who saw their photo on social media felt he deserved to be “The Teacher of the Year”. However, he received no recognition for his noble effort while the security office received a presidential commendation.  

 DRAMATIC ARREST: DR DAVID  NDII

Although he has been a public figure for the last 25 years, scholar and economist David Ndii, has never got in trouble with the authorities, despite his hard hitting commentaries against the government.

One of Dr Ndii’s articles in 2017 said that “The Jubilee administration has spent the last four years burying the economy in a mountain of unproductive debt” while  another said “Kenya is a cruel marriage, it is time we talk divorce.” 

His  opinion pieces critical of  the government of the day have earned him considerable popularity; he has  more than 200,000 followers on Twitter, a platform he uses often.

That is why the arrest of the Nasa strategist and head of the People’s Assembly National Steering Committee in early December took many by surprise. That his wife came out strongly in his defence following his  dramatic arrest caused great excitement among his fans.

JIMI WANJIGI: OUT OF THE WOODWORK

The wealthy life of tenderpreneur and secretive political financier Jimi Wanjigi, came to the fore in 2017. So secretive is Mr Wanjigi that until recently, no newsroom had his photograph. Those close to him said that he lives lavishly, with a heated swimming pool, a helipad for his helicopter, a bunker and a compound with top-of-the-range security features.

In mid-October, his Muthaiga home was dramatically raided, with security officers breaking into his house.  The incident brought his close association with Nasa leader Raila Odinga to the fore. But it is perhaps the photo of Jimi Wanjigi’s wife, Irene Nzisa, holding him as if to shield him  from some danger at a press conference after the raid that excited Kenyans and went viral on social media under the hashtag #JimiWanjigiChallenge.

THE ECONOMY

It was a tough year for businesses. The tense political environment saw investors adopt a wait-and-see attitude. Unemployment worsened as many employers, including banks, sent some of their  employees home  in order to remain afloat. The  economy also suffered losses in revenue.

In January, the Central Bank of Kenya had warned that 2017 would be a difficult year, and that the economy expected to shrink from the previous year’s 5.9 per cent to 5.7 per cent  as a result of drought, Trump policies and Brexit. Indeed, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics said inflation rose to 6.99 per cent in January, up from 6.35 per cent in December, 2016, on account of rising food and electricity prices.

EDUCATION

A prolonged lecturers’ strike paralysed operations in public universities for a good part of the year. The dismal performance in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) caused an uproar within the teaching fraternity and the political class. Of the more than  610,000 candidates who sat for KCSE last year, only 70,073  qualified for university admission, a drop from 88,929  in 2016.

And for the second successive year, girls outshone boys, a fact  largely  attributed to over-empowerment of girls’.  But while efforts to uplift the girls seemed to be bearing fruit, they still face a number o challenges, many of them  culture-based.

DROUGHT

The country experienced prolonged drought, which saw 23 counties,  among them Marsabit, Samburu and Turkana, hit by severe famine. In an early warning bulletin last week, the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) said the counties were yet to fully recover and still face challenges accessing food, pasture and water.  

 A youthful Parliament

Last year saw many youthful people win elective political posts, which will, hopefully see issues affecting the youth incorporated into policy decisions.

WOMEN ON THE MOVE

Three women were elected governor in the August 8 poll, namely  Dr  Joyce Laboso (Bomet),  Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga). Ms Waiguru was in 2016 cleared off graft accusations  in a Sh791 million  National Youth Service scandal.

 

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