Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

October 22, 2016   |   Ithaca, NY

ColumnsIn Other News

Kenya’s few deciding for the many

Imagine this: a country’s entire electoral commission resigns a year before a presidential election after months of protests accusing said commission of being biased toward the current leading party. This might seem like a big win for those who protested against a corrupt democracy, but it is not. This can open the door to a severely obscure system.

On Oct. 5, every member of Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission resigned after a summerlong wave of opposition protests called for them to quit. The Coalition for Reform and Democracy, the opposition party leaders and the Central Organization of Trade Union led these protests, calling for the disbanding of the IEBC under the premise that the IEBC is biased toward Kenya’s current president, Uhuru Kenyatta.

The IEBC in Kenya was created in 2011 to prevent the same electoral manipulation that led the country into political and ethnic unrest in 2007 after the re-election of a president whom few wanted. However, instead of creating a neutral system, it has perpetuated a biased system. It is speculated that the IEBC put the Jubilee Alliance in power in 2013 and is working to keep Kenyatta as president in the 2017 election.

It is safe to conclude that President Kenyatta is not favored by the large majority of the Kenyan people. This is probably because Kenyatta has had the reputation of favoring his native tribe, the Kikuyu, out of the 4070 other tribes in Kenya.

The best way to describe Kenyatta is a president who does a lot for people who are well off but not much for those who need government help. Disbanding the biased IEBC was supposed to be the first step to preventing Kenyatta’s reelection.

However, the IEBC’s resignation may lead to an even more biased system. The 10 members of the electoral commission who quit all received government compensation for doing so. This has made Kenyans believe that their resignation may not have actually been thanks to the protests themselves, but because it now gives President Kenyatta an excuse to remake the IEBC in a way that will guarantee his re-election.

Kenyatta might use this chance to give the Kikuyu tribe seats in the IEBC. This could be seen as perpetuating tribalism and cementing political and ethnic superiority in the country.

This is a dangerous trend worldwide: electing a leader who subtly — or not so subtly — uses racial and ethnic differences as well as the relationship with the higher socioeconomic classes of society to keep their governmental power.