After a bruising campaign, political scientist Martin Oloo says both candidates, Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, should now sit down together to discuss their differences for the sake of all Kenyans.
As the dust settles on the 2017 Kenyan presidential election between the incumbent, Uhuru Kenyatta, and opposition leader Raila Odinga, attention is now turning to the challenges facing the country's new leader. This election was characterized by an easing of ethnic tensions and a younger generation making their voices heard. DW spoke with Nairobi-based political scientist Martin Oloo about what comes next.
DW: What should be the first priority for the incoming president?
Martin Oloo: As things stand, I think that the current president [Uhuru Kenyatta] is going to continue as the president. His priorities, therefore, are to meet the pledges he has been making. And especially to suggest that whatever he has done in his first term, he is going to continue with that. There will be expectations and he must begin to show that he really intends to do that, including the issue of the free secular school – the implementation of it and the clarity around it has to be prioritized now.
Do you think it's going to be an easy task for the new president to reconcile Kenyans who once again have been divided along tribal lines?
I'm not sure that it's going to be an easy task and it might take longer for us to begin to look at our politics based on our issues and abilities. For now, we are organizing and we are voting along ethnic lines and that in itself has the tendency of dividing us and for that reason it will take different types of politics and politicians to be able to walk us out of that. This year alone there were 5.2 million out of 19 million voters who were voting for the first time. In five years time, more than half of the voters will be younger people and those young people have a cultural understanding that is slightly different from the older people who are still stuck in their tribe. Most of these younger people are urbanized, they have better cross-cultural understandings and this may be the solution.
All signs show that Uhuru is set to be announced the winner and there are fears this could possibly spark riots in places like Kisumu that's a stronghold of the National Super Alliance (NASA) presidential candidate Raila Odinga. Is there reason to worry that there could be a repeat of the 2007-2008 post-election violence?
There is absolutely no reason. This time around the government is better prepared, there are better police and they are better equipped. The real reasons which led to the 2007-2008 clashes are not there because those communities have since joined together and so that area remains peaceful. The only place where riots are likely to happen is in the Kisumu region. I don't think it will spread to the west and even then you cannot expect that people will turn on each other. So really with better policing and with better security organization, I do not have a reason to think that things will be anywhere as bad. But that said, it's also dependent on whoever is going to lose. I think that Raila Odinga has put up some fight; he has been disputing the results of the outcome. My problem with him is that he has not been putting what I would call irrefutable or tangible evidence of what he is alleging. So he's making fairly strong allegations but they are unsubstantiated. I don't think he has a case. And sooner rather than later he will concede defeat.
The two leaders Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga have been exchanging some pretty strong words in recent days. Can the two really work together for the sake of Kenya?
I'm telling you that, aside from their political platforms and ethnic communities, these two leaders are pretty much friends, their families are friends. So what they need to do is invite each other for a cup of tea and give each other the kind of comfort they need and they can leave the rest of the Kenyans alone because Kenyans need peace, they need to go about their normal business, they need to make a living. So these leaders cannot hold Kenyans to ransom. So yes, I really believe that those hard words were just politics and yet these people are friends and when they sit down, they will actually be able to have a cup of tea and resolve any issues they have between them.
Kenya has been described as an East African heavyweight in terms of political maturity. Is this still the case?
It's always growing and it's always maturing. But when you say democracy is maturing, it can mean different things. Look at a democracy like the United States, producing the kind of president that they have. So democracy can produce all kinds of outcomes. I think that we still have issues, but whether you like the candidates or not, those are the people's candidates so you have to accept it. As long as they are making those choices in a free, fair and credible manner, so be it.
Martin Oloo is a political scientist based in Nairobi.
Interviewer: Isaac Mugabi