University of California, Los Angeles

Kenya Civil and Political Liberties Jeopardized?

Recent events in Kenya have prompted the country to peril in chaos. News of a supposed unfair election has the country on the brink of ruins after the runner-up Raila Odinga cries of an unfair loss against sitting President Uhuru Kenyatta.

This shocking ruling has led people to question the validity of the election. Odinga went to the Kenyan supreme court to advocate for another election. He suspected that the election polls had been hacked in favor of Kenyatta.

This is not the first time that a similar situation has happened to Kenya. Kenyatta won with an estimated 54% of the votes, while Odinga came at a close second with an estimated 44%. These two have fought for the same spot back in Keyna’s 2013 presidential election. The margin, however, was even smaller. Kenyatta won with an estimated 50% of votes. The same outcome of Odinga claiming that the election was rigged in favor of Kenyatta had the integrity of this election also questioned.

Their campaigns Back in 2007, there was a similar incident during an election where Odinga ran against Mwai Kibaki, who served as the current president. When Kibaki was announced as the winner of the election, mayhem struck Kenya. There is evidence that Kenyan government officials blatantly ignored undeniable evidence of votes being rigged. Before he won, there were previous tensions there had been existed. Where did these tensions come from? The lack of integrity within the elections.

Because of the bad history of Kenyan elections, Kenyan social media has thoughts and opinions that will also affect the voter outcome. Kenyan media laws have made it increasingly difficult to track online fake news and fake headlines. It is illegal to report false news in paper journalism and broadcast media. The false news has perpetuated more confusion in regards to what actually happened in the election, especially when these sources claim to be affiliated with more reputable sources.

One of the bills that Kenyatta signed, while he was serving his term in Kenya, was the ‘draconian bill.” The bill has made it so that news outlets that report false information can receive a fine due to the damage that fake news can cause to investigative reporting. The damage can be detrimental to investigative reporting in Kenya and how the world views Kenya’s quality of democracy. The irony of the whole situation is within the last decade, Kenyatta has been known to be in the media for infringing on the democratic procedures that the people in Kenya want to uphold given a democratic election in the first place. Interesting enough, there are no laws that make public officials obligated to report about any infringements of electoral procedures.

Much of the issues pertaining to this situation show signs of democratic backsliding in these foreign countries. History has shown that time has not made Kenya any more democratic. The fact that there is so much suspicion over contemporary presidents having control of Kenya’s electoral campaigns shows that democracy in Kenya is declining. Reducing citizens capacity to vote for the leader of their country is reducing the citizen’s capability to hold their own governments accountable.

There are no laws that hold government officials in Kenya responsible for essentially cheating during an election. It is not to say that Kenyatta cheated in any of the elections that Kenya acknowledges that he won. But, it is important to note that if he had actually cheated, there would not have been any sanction or consequence that compelled him or anyone else who was planning to run their campaign with integrity. Especially given the power dynamic in Kenya’s past elections where there is a reoccurring theme of the current president being re-elected for another term. It is safe to argue that ensuring honesty and integrity in these elections is not a top priority for the Kenyan government.

Politicians such as Odinga have called the government out for their supposed illegitimacy. Methods to alleviate issues like this one in the future include the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC ) in Kenya to purchase tamper-proof servers for the election. As mentioned before, there was also a re-election. These strides, however, were not sufficient enough for Odinga. Odinga decided to quit his campaign in response to Kenya’s shortcomings as a democratic country. The historical lack of integrity in Kenyan elections and the lack of efforts expended into alleviate the issues show the pre-existing political conditions are resistant to change in a direction towards democracy for the people of Kenya. Leaders such as Kenyatta have not been held accountable. The result has created this untrustworthy nature of the people and overall democratic erosion in the country of Kenya. Kenya needs to change their electoral procedures to help promote accountability. The Kenyan people’s civil and political liberties are constantly being jeopardized, and that is causing democratic erosion in the country of Kenya.





    March 15, 2018 at 7:30 pm

    This is very interesting how there has been a sort of trend in the past elections that is similar to the recent election that you focus on. I believe that Kenya has not set the rules that are necessary to hold a fair and just election and things need to be adjusted in order to do so. This way situations like this are can be averted. Rules that regulate voting allow the citizens a feeling of safety and they can feel as if they are valued and being heard. Since without the citizens main right this government is not a democracy at all.


    March 15, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    I found your article to be very interesting. You mentioned in the beginning of an incident of potential election rigging; however, it would have been interesting to add if it had caused any protests, uproar, or potential rise of coups. I also liked the part that you mentioned about fake news. Unfortunately, in the 21st century this is a BIG issue, no matter where you are from. But I am also curious if the passing of the Draconian Bill cause any backlash from the people? Your article set up a solid argument for how an isolated incident of potential election rigging could cause a country to lose its trust in the government. However, many countries have faced these kinds of accusations before, so how does this incident in Kenya differ from other incidents of election rigging? Was it primarily the loss of trust in the government that created caused this democratic erosion? It would also be interesting to know if there were other factors, besides the election and problem of fake news, that led to the democratic erosion of Kenya.


    March 15, 2018 at 7:49 pm

    I find it very interesting how you point out that the lack of accountability in government is threatening the civil liberties of the people. I think that without horizontal accountability from the legislature or the judicial branch to enforce checks on the president or at least ensure consequences for an unfair election, there can be no democratic growth. If candidates are able to cheat their way to the top than they are already corrupted and who know what they will do with the new found authority. Furthermore, I think it is important for voters to be able to have a say through vertical accountability. If their votes don’t matter then they have no incentive to participate in the legal process. This also means that approval while in office won’t matter because of a politician can cheat in an election than they do not need the support of the people and can proceed to do whatever they want once in office. For these reasons, I think that the corruption you highlighted in Kenyan will continue to deteriorate the quality of democracy in the country.

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