Opinion: Kenyans turn tense | Africa | DW | 07.03.2013
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Africa

Opinion: Kenyans turn tense

After a largely peaceful poll, allegations of vote-rigging are troubling many Kenyans. Andrea Schmidt, head of DW's Kiswahili Service, praises Kenyan voters but is less complimentary about their politicians.

It shouldn't be allowed to happen. That at least is the view of many Kenyans. All politicians had promised before the elections that they would abide by the elections results. But now those politicians are crying "Foul!" The storm clouds are gathering and the fragile peace in the ethnically diverse nation looks as if it might shatter. The reasons for this are numerous technical glitches and delays in counting the votes. There have even been references to electoral fraud.

Schmidt, Andrea Multimediadirektion REGIONEN, Afrika - Kisuaheli DW2_8372. Foto DW/Per Henriksen 18.10.2012

Andrea Schmidt believes Kenyans deserve a better class of politicians

68-year-old Raila Odinga of the CORD alliance, who was convinced he was robbed of victory in the 2007 elections, now fears that the delay in counting the votes for this poll will lead to even more ballot-rigging.

In 2007, 1,200 people lost their lives in post-election violence and hundreds of thousands were forced from their homes, a trauma from which Kenya has still yet to recover. Odinga wants the vote counting to be stopped.

Under the Kenyan election system, a candidate must garner more than 50 percent of the vote and secure a majority of 25 of the 47 counties. The high number of spoiled ballot papers, according to the official explanation, was caused by a complicated voting procedure. Each voter had six votes to cast. The ballot papers and boxes had color markings for ease of identification, but at least 400,000 ballot papers ended up in the wrong boxes.

If these spoiled votes are actually counted, this could tip the scales for Uhuru Kenyatta and his bid to become president could end in defeat. Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto have a lot at stake. Both are to go on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity. Prosecutors accuse them of orchestrating the violence that marred the aftermath of the 2007 poll. They might have privately hoped that an election victory could protect them from a possible conviction at the ICC. Such hopes are now likely to have been in vain.

23,000 election monitors, including 2,600 from outside Kenya, have been watching the poll. Their remarks about the course of the election have so far been positive and they haven't found any evidence of rigging. The two rival parties should therefore cease accusing one another of tampering with votes until a firm result has been announced. They should also urge their supporters, who are getting more and more nervous by the minute, to stay calm in order avoid more ethnic bloodshed. If violence erupts in one part of Kenya, it could quickly spread elsewhere with very serious consequences for the Kenyan economy which is heavily dependent on tourism and exports. Kenya's neighbors, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi are also worried that they could be caught up in the chaos. Kenya is considered East Africa's economic powerhouse.

Kenyan voters formed long queues at polling stations to exercise their democratic rights although they remain traumatized by the last poll in 2007. The turnout was 70 percent. Kenyan voters have the right to expect authentic election results. They are equally entitled to expect that their politicians respect those results. The international community should bring pressure to bear on the two rival camps so as to avoid any escalation. Kenyans deserve politicians of another caliber who can keep their word, yet they are nowhere to be found.

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