October 26 is set to be a dubiously historic day in Kenya’s political and polling history. In some parts of the country, voters will ballot in the first-ever repeat presidential election, itself occasioned by the first-ever annulment of a presidential poll by a court of law.
In other parts, the election will be boycotted by voters heeding calls by National Super Alliance (Nasa) leaders not to cast their ballots lest they legitimise a process allegedly deliberately weighted against them by a polls umpire working in cahoots with the government.
The re-run that would have been the mother of all battles to finish, once and for all, the rivalry between Jubilee Party’s President Kenyatta and Nasa’s Raila Odinga, will go down in history as Kenya’s first presidential poll to be boycotted by the leading challenger and coalition.
So in the President’s corner, from the close of voting on Thursday, they will be celebrating a victory in which the President beat Mr Odinga and several other candidates decisively and calling for his immediate swearing-in so that Kenyans may return to building the nation.
But for Mr Odinga’s corner, there will have been no election because Nasa declared on October 10 that it is in the trenches: “We won the battle for multi-party democracy. We won the battle for a new constitution. We are going to win the battle for a free and fair election.”
That spotlights the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Jubilee believes in it. Nasa has neither time nor patience for it. In the middle are the majority electors who just want a free, fair and credible poll to end an unusually lengthy period of toxic campaigning and uncertainty.
But never before has a polls umpire gone into an election so battered and humiliated; so deeply mired in internal bickering and division; and stuck in litigation as the Wafula Chebukati-led IEBC.
And its work will be made even harder by protests maliciously timed for polling day by Mr Odinga.
As she resigned last week and fled Kenya, Dr Roselyn Akombe said she was heartbroken to hear first-hand IEBC staff feared for their lives.
Exposing the shambles at IEBC, she averred to the BBC that the commission will sure supervise the upcoming election, but it will not pass muster as a credible poll.
Dr Akombe’s resignation and exile further soiled IEBC’s reputation, sapped it of public confidence and cast a dark pall on Thursday’s poll. Mr Chebukati confirmed her position that he was besieged by his own colleagues and that he could not vouch for the credibility of Thursday’s election.
The poll is already infamous before it is held. If Mr Chebukati cannot guarantee its credibility, then, it is highly likely Mr Odinga will return to the Supreme Court and the justices will find for him for the selfsame reasons they fielded on September 1. But Mr Odinga has another avenue to court.
It has been argued that if there will be no voting in Nasa strongholds, he will seek nullification of the ballot because legally a presidential election can only be deemed to have occurred if votes were cast in all of Kenya’s 290 electoral constituencies. Nasa can only stop Jubilee supporters from voting by violence.
So security minister Fred Matiang’i has threatened to deploy Chinkororo, the outlawed Gusii militia, to ensure Jubilee supporters vote. Crucially, he has hinted at instructing police to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to Chinkororo violence.
Remember Jeshi la Mzee militia who bludgeoned picketing Presbyterian minister Timothy Njoya with hoe-length clubs outside Parliament on June 10, 1999 as uniformed police looked on? The augury is clear: There will be no law on Thursday because enforcers of it will be complicit in thuggery.
How about today’s prayers or search for divine intervention called by the President? Whether you believe God helps those who help themselves or those who cannot help themselves, on Thursday, thanks to President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, danger looms large.
The President prays for peace and preys on fears of Mr Odinga’s alleged violent politics for votes. Mr Odinga prays for justice and preys on fears of mass action to force IEBC’s hand on reforming polling. The two and their surrogates preach post-poll revenge.
Expect no divine intervention (miracle) when the protagonists love each other the way a mongoose does a snake. They must first find it in their hearts to be soldiers for peaceful post-poll Kenya.
Opanga is a commentator with a bias for politics [email protected]