By Chad Williams
Now that Kenyans have taken to the polls in what has been deemed as one of the most important elections in the country, it remains to be seen who will emerge victorious.
Reports that have emerged thus far indicate that leader of the Azimio la Umoja coalition and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga as well as the current Deputy President and member of the United Democratic Alliance William Ruto are the front runners for the presidential seat.
But victory will not be the main focus for Kenyans who participated in the 12th general election held on August 9.
Not at all.
Their main focus is likely to stem from who will rescue them from the tough economic times that have placed many of them under pressure as the country experiences soaring food, fuel and electricity prices.
The high cost of living, high unemployment and rampant corruption dominated the campaign season, with top presidential candidates Raila Odinga and William Ruto pledging to address the country’s inequality and focusing largely on domestic issues.
Kenya is a middle-income nation, and according to the African Development Bank, the Kenyan economy grew by 6.7% in 2021 after 0.3% contraction in 2020.
Experts say that growth was mainly driven by services on the supply side and by private consumption on the demand side, both benefiting from supportive policies and easing Covid-19 restrictions.
Inflation climbed to 6.1% in 2021 from 5.3% in 2020. The rising prices of basic commodities have left most citizens struggling to make ends meet.
The price of a 2kg packet of maize and wheat flour hit 200 shillings (US$2) from a low of 120 shillings in about three months. That is a 67% increase. The 12-month overall inflation rate reached 7.91% in June 2022.
Growth is projected to decelerate to 5.9% in 2022 and 5.7% in 2023.
On Tuesday, election authorities said the largest polling station was expected to have a maximum of 700 voters, with 46,229 polling stations across the country.
A day before the elections, the IEBC had committed itself to run free, fair and credible general elections.
It also deployed about 465,660 temporary staff towards the success of the general election. This includes Presiding Officers, Deputy Presiding Officers, Poll clerks and security.
Apart from the destruction of election materials in Chuka/Igambang’ombe, which were being transported from the IEBC warehouse in Chuka to Tharaka, the commission said it deployed its officers to liaise with local police to review the incident.
The Commission reiterated that it takes great exception to polling officials, who contravene the Code of Conduct for poll officials and will not hesitate to take stern action against any official found to be in breach of the Code and Election Offences Act.
The Commission said it has partnered with the National Police
Service and has trained and deployed over 150,000 police officers, with
two (2) police officers per polling station throughout the country.
Before the vote, the IEBC said it was aware of two insecurity incidents affecting polling stations in the Turkana and Mandera regions of the country.
According to election authorities, in Turkana bandits attacked and burnt down homes in a village within Kapedo/Napeiton ward and the displaced population was expected to vote in three (3) polling stations.
In Mandera County, unknown people burnt down two classrooms in
at Hariri primary school (a gazetted polling station) in Khalalio ward
in Mandera East Constituency.
The Commission has set up a fully-fledged call centre where poll officials
and the general public can call a toll-free number to make inquiries or
report incidences related to the 2022 General Elections.
Experts have said that misinformation or fake news could likely return the country to the old path of post-election violence unless nipped in the bud, Kenyan media reports.
The commission has accredited a total of 4,850 local and international 6
journalists to ensure a free flow of information and accurate reporting
of the election results to the public.
As part of its mandate, the commission said it has accredited a total of
120,731 domestic and international observers/monitors.
The African Union (AU) and the Common Market for Southern and Eastern Africa (COMESA), formed a joint election observation mission.
The Joint Mission is led by former President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, supported by former Minister of Health and Social Development of Seychelles, Ambassador Marie-Pierre Lloyd, a Member of the COMESA Committee of Elders.
The objectives of the Mission are to assess the conduct of the 2022 General Elections as part of the AU-COMESA broad mandates to promote democracy and democratic elections in Africa in line with their overall vision of a peaceful, prosperous and integrated Africa.
Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy
As incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta cast his vote at Mutomo Primary School polling station in Ichaweri, Gatundu South Constituency he was doing so for the last time as President.
The leader of the Jubilee Party and son of Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta first clinched victory at the polls in 2013 after two tumultuous and unsuccessful runs to become Kenya’s 4th President.
He was later re-elected for a second and final term in August 22017 where he clinched up to 54% of the popular vote.
Prior to his time in office, he had been mired in some controversy which includes his name emerging in the International Criminal Cout in relation to violence that erupted in the December 2007 elections experienced in the Naivasha and Nakuru regions.
His 2013 election run also had to end up in court following disputes over election. Although petitions were made against Kenyatta being sworn in office, the Supreme Court dismissed these and declared him as the winner.
During his term, Kenyatta has also been firm on tackling corruption and crime in the country.
Role of the new leader
In this year’s elections, Kenyans saw four names on the ballot paper which include David Mwaure of the Agano Party of Kenya, Raila Odinga of the Azimio la Umoja coalition, William Ruto of the United Democratic Alliance and George Wajackoya of the Roots Party of Kenya.
And while it has evidently become a two-horse race between Odinga and Ruto, just like Kenyatta who had battled rising public debt, a high public wage bill and allegations of corruption, one of these two men, whoever may be victorious, will have to lead Kenya into a new dawn and cement and uphold its reputation as one of Africa’s super economic powerhouse.
Williams is a multimedia journalist at the African News Agency.