Kenya General Election 2022: The Challenges and Prospects

Kenya General Election 2022: The Challenges and the Prospects

The results of Kenya General Election 2017 were somewhat unexpected. The Jubilee Alliance — the coalition led by incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto — won with a very small margin: just 8,000 votes.

The two leaders are now gearing up for a second term with the same coalition partners, including Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and Senator Mutahi Njiru and several new allies like former Member of Parliament Gideon Moi (from TENDER). This article explores the challenges that lie ahead for Kenya’s political parties as they gear up for the 2022 general elections.

 

Introduction to Kenya General Election 2022

kenya's general elections 2022

In 2022, Kenya is expected to hold its next general election. This will mark 32 years since Kenya returned to democracy in 1992. The country’s political landscape has evolved significantly since then, but many of the same challenges remain.

The country has a young population with the majority (90%) under the age 40. Yet many are increasingly frustrated with the political system that has produced a series of deeply flawed elections and frequent government crises. These frustrations have helped fuel a rise in anti-political sentiments and mobilized new political movements like the National Super Alliance (NASA). It is unclear how these trends will impact the 2022 elections.

 

When is Kenya General Election 2022 Scheduled?

General elections are scheduled to be held in Kenya on 9 August 2022. Voters will elect the President, members of the National Assembly and Senate, county governors and members of the 47 county assemblies.

 

The Challenges and the Prospects:

Jubilee’s Challenges in 2022

The Jubilee Alliance, which won the 2017 elections, has a lot of challenges to overcome if it is to win again in 2022. It is expected to face serious opposition from the NRC, a coalition of political parties that emerged in March 2018.

The parties in the NRC are opposed to the re-election of President Kenyatta, who is accused of involvement in the 2007 post-election violence.

The coalition includes several parties that were formerly parts of the Jubilee Alliance, such as the Ford Kenya and the Wiper Democratic Movement. Kenya’s High Court ordered the National Police Service to investigate the allegations against President Kenyatta and his Deputy Ruto.

Kenyatta and Ruto have both been charged with crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court for their alleged role in orchestrating the violence.

These cases will have to be concluded before the election, but the process is expected to take several years. The NRC has called for the elections to be held in 2020.

 

The National Rainbow Coalition (NRC)

The National Rainbow Coalition (NRC) is a coalition of political parties in Kenya formed in March 2018. It is led by Raila Odinga, who narrowly lost the 2017 presidential election.

The coalition came together to oppose President Uhuru Kenyatta’s attempts to run for a second term. The coalition includes several parties that were previously part of the Jubilee Alliance, such as the Ford Kenya and the Wiper Democratic Movement.

It also includes new parties such as the Amani National Congress and the Party of the People. The NRC hopes the coalition will be able to unite all of the main opposition parties in Kenya. The coalition is expected to field a joint presidential candidate in the 2022 elections.

 

The Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD)

The Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD) is a political party in Kenya. It is led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who narrowly lost the 2017 presidential election. Odinga and his supporters have accused President Uhuru Kenyatta and his allies of rigging the election.

The Ford Kenya was part of Raila Odinga’s National Rainbow Coalition (NRC) until it split in February 2019. The party accused Odinga of rigging the party’s presidential nominations for the coalition. Odinga denied the allegations.

The Ford Kenya has called for the government to scrap plans to hold a constitutional referendum in 2020. The party argued the March 2017 election results should be used to determine whether a new constitution is necessary or not.

 

The Kenyan National Congress (KNC)

The Kenyan National Congress (KNC) is a political party in Kenya. It was formed in 2018 by former Member of Parliament Gideon Moi, who was once a member of the Jubilee Alliance.

The KNC has been critical of the government’s use of the Public Benefits Management Act to hire and fire civil servants. The party has also called for the government to scrap its plans to hold a constitutional referendum in 2020.

The party has also come out in support of Raila Odinga and the National Rainbow Coalition (NRC). The KNC has called for Odinga to be the joint presidential candidate for all of the opposition parties in Kenya.

The party is expected to field candidates in all constituencies during the 2022 General Election.

 

Kenya elections 2022: Why the ethnic factor may be losing its power

Despite signs that Kenya’s politics might be getting beyond ethnic lines, Dickens Olewe writes that divisions have long handicapped the country’s politics.

On a chilly morning on 20 January 1994 I walked into the classroom to taunts.

I don’t remember much of what was said but one stayed with me.

“Your god is dead,” a classmate shouted.

Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Kenya’s first vice-president who later became a doyen of opposition politics, had died.

Despite only being in primary school, we were all well versed about our country’s ethnic-based politics, so my classmate understood what a huge political loss the death was to the Luo community.

Ethnic taunting was not uncommon in school playgrounds and even in classrooms, where some teachers used stereotypes to praise or criticise pupils’ behaviour.

This was, and still is, mostly seen as harmless humour, but sometimes it turns negative.

Another striking moment came eight years later when a confident four-year-old girl walked up to me on my first day volunteering at a charity supporting poor families in Nairobi, and asked a pointed question in Swahili: “Wewe ni kabila gani?” – in English: “What’s your tribe?

 

She wasn’t pleased with my mealy-mouthed reply, especially because I later learnt that my ethnicity had been part of an intense debate with her peers – their interest likely inspired by the heady political conversations of the time.

The childhood curiosity was cute, but I felt uncomfortable. Social mores had taught me to abhor such questions, especially when put so bluntly. I also worried what my answer would mean to her.

Kenya’s politics has been dominated by competition among its more than 40 ethnic groups, but it’s especially intense among the larger ones.

 

Protesters chant slogans while marching during a protest to demand peaceful elections and justice for victims of post-election violence in Nairobi, Kenya on June 23, 2022, kenya general election

 

Politicians often exploit historic grudges and cultural differences to incite violence so they can win elections.

This cynical strategy is as old as time and its tragic consequences continue to be experienced the world over.

In Kenya, ethnic identity has been used to grant privileges – sometimes it’s the only qualification considered for a job, a vote in the election, or even in accessing mundane favours from someone in a position of authority.

It has been weaponised to humiliate and frustrate others – a situation that breeds a siege mentality in those bearing the brunt, and a sense of entitlement among those benefiting from it.

Politics therefore becomes a zero-sum game, at the expense of addressing pressing issues that could better people’s lives.

Kenya saw horrific ethnic-based violence after the disputed 2007 election, when more than 1,500 people were killed, hundreds more were injured and 600,000 were forced to flee their homes.

The violence was probably Kenya’s lowest moment since independence.

A nation that had largely been peaceful, and had offered sanctuary to hundreds of thousands of refugees from across the continent, had turned on itself. The trauma of that time still lingers.

Kenya's election

 

During this election, some families plan to temporarily move to areas where their ethnic group is the majority to avoid being victimised, while mixed-ethnicity couples often face the biggest challenge as they calculate where it would be safest.

“Kenya has a sad history of unresolved grievances, stretching 50 years, that often trigger violence, and politicians have become adept at creating fear between communities,” Sam Kona, a commissioner at the state’s National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), told the BBC.

“People are blind to the fact that this is just a contestation of power among the elite, and once it’s over, the elite get together whether they won or not,” he added.

Mr Kona said tensions among communities in the six counties which NCIC has labelled as potential hotspots in the upcoming election were because of “missed opportunities to reconcile”.

He pointed out that Kenya adopted a new constitution in 2010, creating 47 counties – with their own governors – to end a winner-takes-all mentality.

It promised that all counties would be treated equally, and would receive a fair share of the national budget to plan their own development to avoid the need for different groups to compete for resources.

“Unfortunately most Kenyans still see the presidency as the main source of power – a situation that causes tension,” Mr Kona said, adding that the NCIC had intensified efforts to promote peace in potential flashpoints.

Governance expert John Githongo had to flee the country in 2005 because he was considered a traitor by some members of his Kikuyu community after he exposed a massive corruption scandal in the administration of then-President Mwai Kibaki, a fellow Kikuyu.

He told the BBC ethnic mobilisation was less overt in this election campaign, largely because Deputy President William Ruto has shaped it as a contest between “dynastic families” and “hustlers”.

He lumps his main challenger, Raila Odinga, a veteran opposition politician and the son of Kenya’s first vice-president, in the former category, along with President Uhuru Kenyatta,the son of the first president. While he portrays himself as the champion of “hustlers” – a reference to poor Kenyans.

Mr Odinga has criticised the framing as an attempt to divide Kenyans along class lines, and has focussed his campaign on a message of unity.

Kenya General Elections 2022

But in a significant change from previous campaigns, the two front-runners have mostly traded barbs over their economic and social policies.

This is not surprising as the election comes in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, worsened by high unemployment and a huge national debt.

In a major intervention just weeks before the election, President Kenyatta’s government announced that maize flour – used to make the country’s staple food, ugali – will be subsidised to bring down its price.

Mr Ruto saw the timing as an attempt to bolster Mr Odinga’s chances in the election.

Mr Kenyatta is backing Mr Odinga in the election, even though Mr Ruto is his deputy.

It is a sign of the changing nature of alliances within Kenya’s ethnically-influenced political elite. In 2007 Mr Odinga and Mr Ruto teamed up against Mr Kibaki, who Mr Kenyatta was supporting.

Some of the worst violence after the 2007 election pitted members of Mr Ruto’s Kalenjin community against Kikuyus like Mr Kenyatta, with people killed on the basis of their ethnic background.

However, in 2013 and 2017 Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto joined forces against Mr Odinga, a Luo, only for Mr Kenyatta to now throw his weight behind Mr Odinga.

“Kenyans have grown tired of all the byzantine alliances they’ve been seeing among the elite,” said Murithi Mutiga, Africa programme director at the International Crisis Group.

“I think this has made Kenyans much more indifferent, much less inflamed, much more likely to see that the elite are basically just playing their own game,” he added.

Mr Githongo said that said that while ethnic tensions rise during elections, “people are marrying each other immediately afterwards”.

“Among the youth it’s much less of a problem but the politicians mobilise along ethnic lines,” he added.

 

Conclusion

This article expresses the author’s own views, and not the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s, a non-partisan institution that seeks to publish well-reasoned, issue-oriented articles on American foreign policy and national security issues.

The 2022 elections are expected to be the most hotly contested in Kenya’s history. They will mark the end of a government formed just two years ago following a period of political uncertainty. This has given some of the opposition parties hope that they could be victorious.

At the same time, the incumbent parties have the advantage of incumbency. They are expected to run well-funded campaigns with many advantages. These include access to state resources and frequent media coverage.

They will also likely be able to increase the number of state employees who support them. The 2022 elections promise to be exciting, but many challenges remain for Kenya’s political parties. It remains to be seen which coalition will prevail in 2022.

 

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