The by-elections in Malindi and Kericho may have ended peacefully on Monday, but there were serious undercurrents that ought to be dealt with.
In particular, Malindi had many cases of high drama, among them a crowd roughing up former Mwea MP Peter Gitau over claims of voter bribery, Kabete MP Ferdinand Waititu being ejected from a voting station accused of voter intimidation, and ODM spokesperson Philip Etale arrested on suspicion of election malpractices.
Tension was high as Jubilee and Cord big wigs and supporters exchanged bitter words and accusations. Matters were not made any better by a provincial administration that appeared to be partisan, bringing back bad memories of the Kanu era, when it was used to tilt election outcomes in favour of the government.
The tension generated in the by-elections does not augur well for the country. From past experience, such tensions easily flare up into full-fledge violence, which is a risk the country must avoid at all costs. Often, it takes just a small matter to ignite fires.
This is the reason the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman Issack Hassan and the National Cohesion and Integration Commission chairman Francis ole Kaparo have warned that the country is teetering dangerously on the cliff and urged political leaders to cool down the temperatures.
Just the other day, violence broke out between two communities in Nairobi’s Kariobangi area on suspicion of voter transportation. The fact that people can fight over voter registration is indicative of more serious underlying problems. Mistrust and suspicion are prevalent and likely to persist until next year.
Yet for the politicians, winning an election is a life-and-death affair and so they invest their energies and resources towards that, irrespective of the implications for the country. The tragedy is that they enlist their non-discerning supporters into their crooked ways and often with dangerous consequences.
With the by-elections now concluded, the political leadership must bring down the tension. The country cannot continue in this mode, especially as the General Election draws near, for that is a recipe for disaster.
The IEBC must take these signals seriously and put in place measures to safeguard the integrity of the next elections.