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Post-election violence ghosts emerging ahead of August polls

Deputy President William and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga at a past function.

The emotive land question, International Criminal Court (ICC) matters, claims of presidential vote rigging and power sharing are some of the 2007 issues already clouding President Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession race.
For instance, with some of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) yet to return to their land, Orange Democratic Movement(ODM) leader Raila Odinga has promised to address their plight, saying the era of internal displacements must end.
“Those who were uprooted from their homes because of political violence will be returned to their original homes,” he said in Nakuru.
“I will not allow this country to have IDPs (internally displaced people) again because of political violence if I’m elected the fifth president of Kenya. Every Kenyan should be allowed to live anywhere within our boundaries.”
Lawyer Gicheru case
On the other side, the ICC case has returned to haunt the country’s second in command, Deputy President William Ruto, who is leaving nothing to chance in his bid to succeed President Kenyatta after the prosecution, in the Paul Gicheru case in The Hague, forwarded “evidence” that implicates him in the witness corruption programme that sabotaged the case against him and radio journalist Joshua arap Sang.
The brief signed by Deputy Prosecutor James Stewart and submitted on November 22 says: “The evidence establishes that the pattern of witness interference was conducted for the benefit of, and in coordination with, William Samoei Ruto.”
It is the first time the DP is directly named as the coordinator of the plan that corrupted his case. Previously, Dr Ruto’s name was redacted, and unlike the co-accused — Mr Gicheru, Mr Walter Barasa and Mr Philip Bett — the prosecution has never indicted him.
The naming of Dr Ruto will put him in an awkward position as he campaigns to be Kenya’s next president.
The information will open a new battlefront between him and the ICC, if it proves its case.
Also: Raila Odinga revisits PEV, absolves his supporters from blame
University of Nairobi’s Prof XN Iraki argues that since the issues of 2007 are emotive, the presidential contenders will use it to whip up emotions at the expense of winning elections.
“Victims of 2007/08 post-election violence are still bitter and so are their brothers, mostly in Central Kenya. Raila knows that land is a sensitive and emotive issue and returning it to its owners, if it is still available, would be a vote winner,” said Prof Iraki.
“Raila knows as a politician that emotions win elections. He will touch more on emotional issues as campaigns hot up. My concern is if his key opponent does the same.”
The DP has also promised to address the issue of land and recently, while in Mombasa where issues of the land remain so dear to locals, promised to resettle all squatters in the region.
“We will not only conclude the issuance of title deeds but also ensure that every land issue that is outstanding is sorted out with a permanent solution,” he said.
United States International University’s Prof Macharia Munene is of the opinion that the return of the ghosts of 2007 is not a good idea as they are likely to create a hostile environment for electioneering ahead of the polls.
“Not good. People, with open minds, should expect more promises and subtle threats, and, therefore, prepare for hard political times,” said Prof Munene.

ICC narrative

He argues that even though the matter is likely to influence the succession politics, it is too early to detect which of the two frontrunners is likely to benefit.
“It is going to have an impact on Uhuru succession, but it is presently hard to tell in which direction. There are two desperate men, each with a record of being very forceful, seeking Uhuru’s job,” he told the Sunday Nation.
Earlier on, the former Prime Minister had absolved his supporters from blame for the 2007 post-election violence in the country that resulted in deaths, displacement of persons and massive destruction of property after President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of the disputed presidential election.
Instead, the ODM leader appeared to point an accusing finger at the Deputy President with whom he is locked in a bitter presidential contest.
Prof Ken Oluoch, who heads the Political Science department at Moi University, argues that Mr Gicheru’s trial at the ICC could either benefit or hurt the DP.
“In 2013, the President and his deputy used the ICC narrative to their advantage and probably the voters at that time had just come out of 2007/08 and it worked effectively for them,” said Prof Oluoch.
“The same issue might not work effectively for Ruto come August because a good number of voters might not be in touch with the post-election mayhem…it can go either way, you cannot say that because it worked effectively in 2013, then it will favour him this year, 10 years is a long period of time… the matrices have changed, variable are no longer the same.”
With claims of rigging of presidential votes being the main cause of the 2007 skirmishes, allies of the DP have started whipping up emotions of their followers, alleging a scheme to rig the presidential election even as Dr Ruto says the deep state “cannot steal my victory”.

Presidential path

“We are determined to do a very rigorous campaign to defeat Raila by a wide margin so that the deep state cannot manage to influence the outcome. If we win by just a million or less, they can manipulate the outcome,” Bomet Senator Christopher Lang’at told the Sunday Nation.
On a campaign trail in Bungoma County early this week, Dr Ruto said he was ready to safeguard his presidential votes. The DP urged his supporters not to be worried, saying he will win with a landslide.
“They have been saying Ruto will not be on the ballot and since that propaganda has not achieved anything, they have embarked on a narrative that I will win but I will not be declared the winner. If you look at me, do you think my votes can be stolen?” he posed to a chanting crowd.
In Kenyan politics, the ‘system’, sometimes referred to as ‘deep state’, has come to refer to powerful bureaucrats, political operatives and tycoons bankrolling Kenya’s elections—a group Dr Ruto earlier last year said was working to stop him from running, or if he does, winning, in the 2022 presidential election.
In his boldest shot yet at the ‘system’, which is often said to be backed by the sitting government, Dr Ruto had likened the group’s roadblocks on his presidential path to a concerted effort to block him and President Kenyatta’s candidature in 2013.
“I just want to tell them: We are waiting for you. This system, this deep state we are being told about, we are waiting for it,” Dr Ruto.
“They (opponents) will come with the system, but we will be there with the people and God and we will see who wins.”
The issue of power sharing, which calmed the 2007/08 skirmishes, has also cropped up, with President Kenyatta insisting on the need to cure the winner-takes-all governance culture that has been blamed for dividing the country. –

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