Kenya holds its 13th substantive General Election on Tuesday. Each one of the preceding events have been defined by different themes and challenges.
1963: The Uhuru Elections
It was dubbed the Majimboists (federalists)-versus-centralists election. Federalists got eight regional “presidents”—almost similar to the present-day 47 governors—in accordance with the Lancaster House Constitution.
Parliament was bi-cameral—the Senate, seen as the upper house, and the National Assembly.
Founding President Jomo Kenyatta’s Kenya African National Union (Kanu) rooted for a unitary system while Ronald Ngala, Daniel arap Moi and other Kenya African Democratic Union (Kadu) leaders wanted Majimbo.
The campaigns were ugly as Kanu and Kadu supporters clashed but there was common ground in the general agenda: The fight against poverty, illiteracy and disease as key issues.
Kanu won the elections, Majimboism did not take root and Kadu was eventually dissolved with its leaders joining the then-ruling Kanu.
1966: The Little General Election
The Senate dissolved itself for a single Parliament. The entry of Kadu bigwigs brought instability and new equilibrium had to be sought.
An orchestrated witch-hunt against perceived disloyal Kanu politicians led to the Limuru conference, which diluted Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s party vice-presidency by splitting it into eight holders of the position.
Jaramogi bolted to form the Kenya Peoples Union (KPU). The Constitution was changed to compel Kanu “rebels” to seek a new mandate—hence the “Little General Election” to weed out anti-Kanu elements.
KPU managed to have only seven MPs in the House.
KPU was to be banned three years later following riots in Kisumu in which Kenyatta’s motorcade was stoned. Jaramogi and his allies were detained.
1969: The Kanu Elections
Two key Luo politicians who played a leading role in the Lancaster negotiations died in the same year.
CMG Argwings-Kodhek, the kingpin of the Lancaster Constitution, died on February 28 in a road accident in Nairobi.
Tom Mboya, Kenyatta’s blue-eyed boy, was assassinated on July 5 on Nairobi’s Moi Avenue. Jaramogi was in detention.
The campaign included promises like “Water to all homes by the Year 2000” but this is yet to be achieved in 2017.
1974: The Reality Check Elections
A decade after Independence, the promised goodies remained elusive.
Why should there be 10 millionaires among 10 million poor? Fiery MP for Nyandarua North Josiah Mwangi (JM) Kariuki, who was among a crop of more assertive youthful MPs, posed the question at every rally and it caught on.
JM was assassinated in March 1975. Three decades on, the ratio of billionaires-versus-the poor is worse.
1979: The Nyayo Elections
Jomo Kenyatta died on August 22, 1978, paving the way for the Moi era. Moi came with the Nyayo (following in Kenyatta’s footsteps) philosophy. It became thermometer to gauge loyalty for the next 24 years, introducing an era of unrivalled sycophancy that only ended when Moi retired in 2002.
1983: The Njonjo Elections
The snap elections were called after the fall of Kenyatta-Moi era titan Charles Mugane Njonjo.
Moi accused his then-Constitutional Affairs minister and former Attorney-General Njonjo of plotting with a foreign power to topple his government.
A Commission of Inquiry would investigate Njonjo but he was later “pardoned” by the President.
The polls had a two-fold purpose: Consolidate Moi’s power and weed out Njonjo and Kenyatta allies.
1988: The Mlolongo Elections
Voters would line behind their preferred Kanu candidate. The one who garnered 70 per cent in the first round was automatically declared the winner, or voting went to the secret ballot.
Chaos, fear, Nyayo compliance and massive rigging on queues gave Kanu a dictatorial phase. It sparked off a campaign for re-introduction of multi-partyism — the “Second Liberation”.
1992: Second Liberation Elections
Years of street fights, detention without trial and torture in the infamous Nyayo House basement led to this elections.
Moi reluctantly bowed to international and local pressure for re-introduction of multipartyism in 1991 as the wind of change blew across Africa.
But the newfound democratic freedom was betrayed by the very opposition players, led by the giant Ford.
Jaramogi formed Ford-Kenya while Kenneth Matiba carved out Ford-Asili after the two leaders and their allies fell out.
Mwai Kibaki’s Democratic Party further split the opposition vote, giving Moi an easier-than-expected ride back to power.
The seed of reforms had, however, germinated. The Constitution was changed to limit presidential terms to two.
1997: Second Multiparty Elections
Kenyans had hoped the opposition would learn from the bitter defeat of 1992 and unite to beat Moi and Kanu. They were wrong.
Kanu’s reluctance to midwife a new Constitution was the foremost issue on the opposition’s campaign trail.
Scandals—including Kamlesh Pattni’s massive Goldenberg and others involving Youth for Kanu ’92 (YK92) personalities such as Cyrus Jirongo — were among key issues.
But Moi still won, beating Kibaki, Jaramogi’s son Raila Odinga and Michael Kijana Wamalwa, among others.
2002: End-of-an-Era Elections
President Moi, who was retiring after 24 years and was not eligible for re-election, goofed to anoint Jomo’s son Uhuru Kenyatta as his successor, precipitating a fallout in Kanu.
Raila, whose National Development Party had merged with the ruling party after the 1997 elections, led a walkout of Kanu loyalists—including Kalonzo Musyoka, Joseph Kamotho and George Saitoti.
They joined Kibaki, Wamalwa and Charity Ngilu to form the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc). The largely united opposition removed Kanu from power for the first time.
Despite the initial promise of the Kibaki administration to restore “a working nation”, Narc got entangled in the Anglo Leasing scandal and a political fallout.
Raila led a “rebel” faction that eventually defeated the President’s side in the campaigns for a new Constitution in 2005—providing the foundation to form the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).
2007: The Violence Elections
The deep divisions created by the 2005 referendum led to the worst political violence in Kenya’s history.
President Kibaki was declared winner in an election disputed by his challenger Raila, triggering scenes of death and destruction across the country—particularly in the Rift Valley, where deep-seated ethnic tensions between the Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities were ignited.
International mediators, led by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, struck a deal to form the Grand Coalition Government.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) later brought charges against six prominent Kenyans for the post-election violence-relate crimes.
The Annan-led talks also allowed various reforms, including a new Constitution promulgated in 2010.
2013: The ICC Elections
Uhuru and his running mate on a Jubilee ticket, William Ruto, came together as the ICC legal process was ongoing.
Their message was anti-ICC, which they said was led by foreigners wanting to influence Kenya’s political leadership. Raila and Kalonzo of Cord backed the cases.
Apart from the strange bedfellows forming alliances, it was also the first time the 47 devolved units would elect their leaders. The Senate would also make a return in the bicameral House.
Uhuru won and Raila went to the Supreme Court—another creation of the 2010 Constitution—to unsuccessfully challenge the results.
Today’s election is a repeat of 2013, involving the same candidates.