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Why Kenyans can’t wait for end of repeat presidential poll

Sunday October 1 2017

Uhuru Kenyatta

Residents of Kakamega line up for food during a Jubilee campaign rally hosted by President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto at Kakamega Approved school on September 30, 2017. Most Kenyans are tired and want the current political activities to end. PHOTO | ISAAC WALE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

JUSTUS WANGA
By JUSTUS WANGA
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SAMWEL OWINO
By SAMWEL OWINO
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Known for their passion for politics than any of their neighbours in Eastern Africa, the protracted bickering among politicians, driven further a notch by the nullification of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s election victory, has eventually inflicted fatigue among many Kenyans.

The enthusiasm that preceded the General Election on August 8 has significantly died down as sectors of the economy take a beating even as the main political formations struggle to rework their messaging to excite their bases.

A random survey among some supporters of both Mr Kenyatta and his fierce opponent Raila Odinga shows that it will not be too long before they reach the elastic limit amid reports that some are now asking to be paid before attending rallies.

The Supreme Court decision on September 1 invalidated Mr Kenyatta’s victory on grounds that the electoral commission did not comply with the law sending voters back to the ballot.

TIRED

In the run up to the elections last month, it was fashionable to hear men and women say they do not want to miss out on prime time news to keep abreast of major political events of the day. This has changed.

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They no longer care and most of them say they are tired of being bombarded with predictable political rhetoric on their screens and radio receivers.

“Which one do you want to pursue, politics or gainful activity? Engaging in politics all the time is not tenable,” Ms Esther Wekesa, a small scale trader in Nairobi said.

The politicians are themselves suffering from exhaustion coming from rigorous campaigning for the other five elective seats last month.

Publicly, they will not admit it for fear of being branded traitors by their respective presidential candidates.

CAMPAIGN TRAIL

Some of those who were elected and are not facing petitions in court are struggling to comprehend why they should stay in the campaign trail.

But the opposition politicians hold that good things never come easy.

Mr Odinga argues that the journey he has embarked on will see the culture of “cyclic electoral fraud eliminated in the country’s elections once and for all”.

Mr Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party blames Mr Odinga for putting the country on perpetual politicking mode by challenging his victory, a stance that has attracted rebuttal from the opposition which argues that this could have been avoided had Jubilee provided environment for free and fair polls (they accuse Jubilee of stealing the election, a charge it denies).

REPEAT POLL

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has set October 26 as the date for the repeat poll pitting the two politicians, an event Mr Odinga’s party has threatened to disrupt should his coalition’s demands for electoral reforms be unheeded.

The government has itself been forced to revise its own projections on economic growth due to a prolonged election period that has seen investors hold back.

The government has projected that the economy would expand by 5.9 per cent this year, but the first quarter growth was at 4.7 per cent, mainly due to drought and a slowdown in private sector credit growth.

“The general election spreads across two quarters and it is not clear when political tensions will ease,” Planning PS Irungu Nyakera is quoted by Reuters as saying.

The slowdown has affected almost all business sectors in different ways. Hospitality, retail and transport all suffered as consumers stayed home.

MAJOR CASUALTY

Victor Chesang, Human Resource manager at Sovereign Group Ltd said that in the last few months business, especially real estate, has been the major casualty due to the highly polarised political environment.

“The real estate is on its knees and if this political situation persists, it will be on its belly as investors are watching and waiting to perform post-election postmortem,” Mr Chesang told the Nation.

“Most investors have now adopted the wait-and-see approach and millions of Kenyans out there are struggling to make a living at a result,” Mr Chesang said. 

“In 2007-2008 post-election violence, properties worth millions of shillings was lost which set a bad precedent for investors. The current political tension not only kills investors’ confidence but also drives lending institutions to minimise credit extended to investors,” he added.

SUSPICIONS

Mr Paul Murage, a grocer at Kariobangi South, said business has not been good since August 10 due to suspicions among communities staying in the area.

Mr Murage told the Nation that the current political temperature has really affected his business and other small scale traders.

“Getting my daily bread has not been easy since August 10, most customers think that the food you are selling to them contains poison and you want to kill them so that their preferred presidential candidate does not get their vote,” Mr Murage said.

“I really hate politics, I wish life can be the same way it was some years back. We are really suffering down here and we have nobody to listen to us,” he added.

RECRUITMENT

Mr Kennedy Odhiambo, a graduate of Egerton University, said the prolonged political tension has affected various activities notably job recruitment.

“Most organisations that have community based programmes and which recruit young people for short term field activities have now withheld these activities as they wait for the tension to cool,” Mr Odhiambo said.

He also regretted that reckless political comments from certain leaders have also made it difficult to travel to certain places where one can be considered an “outsider” or places perceived to be “unfriendly”.

Mrs Jenipher Waituika who sells chicken at Burma Market, Nairobi, told the Nation that her business has been affected by the unending political campaigns, pointing out that before the poll she would sell 200 chickens in a day but the number has now reduced by half.

POLITICAL IMPASSE

“Business has not been good because of the tension. My customers have disappeared, when I follow up with them they tell me that they have nowhere to sell the chicken they buy from me,” she said.

Some of the politicians who spoke to the Nation and did not wish to be named said they are also tired of the political impasse.

They said they want to get down to serve their electorates but that cannot easily happen at the moment as they are busy either accompanying their leaders in various rallies across the country or holed up in strategy meetings.

“This election just needs to end so that we can move on with life. I can tell you that majority of MPs from both the opposition and Jubilee are tired but none will speak about it openly,” said the second term MP.