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November 21, 2018

Compromise before it's too late


Like many others around the world who take an interest in American politics, I went to bed on the night of November 8, 2016, not bothering to stay up and monitor the outcome of the US presidential election.

There seemed to be no point. All the prominent pollsters predicted a Hillary Clinton victory against the “unelectable” Donald Trump.

But on the morning of November 9, it emerged that Trump had pulled off an unprecedented upset and that he was going to be the next President of the US — a prospect that filled many Americans with such dread that they could hardly find words to express their feelings.

It is with this in mind — this unforgettable experience of waking up to find that an election you thought was a mere formality actually yields a totally different result from that which you had expected — that I have been wondering what will happen in Kenya on October 27.

Considering that the two leading candidates, President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, were more or less evenly matched in all the polls leading up to that flawed election, it must be admitted that either of them could win the October 27 repeat presidential election.

And yet Uhuru’s supporters, not doubting he did win in the nullified August 8 polls, consider his victory in the upcoming election to be a mere formality. Raila’s supporters, likewise, believe without that earlier benefit of blatant state-sanctioned rigging, Uhuru is headed for a humiliating defeat.

So, consider first, supporters of the ruling Jubilee Party: If Raila should win, do you really see them calmly accepting that outcome? Will there not instead be declarations that this “victory” is but the final stage of an evil conspiracy involving elements within the Kenyan Judiciary and various much-maligned NGOs.

More practically, given the manifest incompetence of the IEBC — exemplified by its clownish CEO Ezra Chiloba — we may be fairly certain that there will be plenty of evidence of “irregularities and illegalities” that Uhuru’s lawyers can then take to the Supreme Court, with every expectation Raila’s victory will be declared null and void.

In other words, we would then be back where we started: With Uhuru still in State House, a fresh presidential election on the horizon and a continuation of political brinkmanship and tension all around.

But whatever may be the outcome of a Raila victory, it would hardly be as chilling as what the opposition seems to have in mind, if Raila should lose again. For before the historic Supreme Court ruling created the opportunity for a rerun, their position was that it is pointless to run for President in a country where presidential elections are invariably rigged in favour of the incumbent.

Top opposition strategist Dr David Ndii was plainly speaking for the entire opposition team when he suggested that if Raila lost, then the next time that the roughly 50 per cent of the country that supports him went to the ballot, it would be to vote for secession.

This is a deeply troubling prospect for all of us who believe the political problems that we face as a country can be solved without resort to such extreme measures.

We can only hope that, as retired President Mwai Kibaki once remarked, the Kenyan political class, when the country is on the brink of disaster, always manages to make the difficult compromises demanded by such circumstances.

But at the moment there seems to be little appetite for such difficult compromises, with each side of the political divide convinced that victory is at hand.

In his seminal work, The Prince, Machiavelli noted that:

“... Physicians tell us of hectic fever, in its beginning it is easy to cure, but hard to recognise; whereas, after a time, not having been detected and treated at first, it becomes easy to recognise but impossible to cure. And so it is with State affairs.”

That just about sums up the situation we face as a country, as concerns this nascent move towards secession. For the Kenyan secessionist ‘hectic fever’ is only just getting started.

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