A Triumph for the Nation: The Doom Sayers Who Predicted That Last Month's (March) General and Presidential Elections Would End in Disaster Have Been Proved Wrong. the Country's Citizens, Who Turned out in Record Numbers to Vote, and the Business Community, Which Had Been Holding Its Breath, Heaved a Sigh of Relief When the Polls Went without a Hitch. Wanjohi Kabukuru Reflects on the Mood Post the Elections
Kabukuru, Wanjohi, African Business
THIAGARAJAN RAMAMUR-thy, the regional operations and strategy director of East Africa's largest retail shopping firm, Nakumatt Holdings, will never forget Kenya's 2013 elections.
"For many years to come, I will always cherish the fact that I lived to see Kenya's 2013 General Elections," Ramamurthy says. "Like any other Kenyan, I had also looked forward to this day anxiously, particularly due to heightened degree of mature political campaigns that we were treated to in the days preceding this watershed poll."
Corning from one of the major investors in the region with its headquarters in Nairobi, Ramamurthys sentiments are no doubt an indicator that Kenya has passed its most crucial test.
The adage that if "Kenya sneezes all of East Africa catches a cold" came alive in the much-maligned and botched 2007 polls, which ended in bloody inter-communal post election violence. At the time, the regional economies were all badly affected as Kenya began a period of soul searching.
It is from this prism that the 2013 elections were being viewed and many did not trust Kenyans to cross this threshold. Fully aware of the stakes involved, and keen to get it right this time around, an elaborate process aimed at rectifying social inequality, political intolerance and enhance a credible justice system was put in place by the outgoing President Mwai Kibaki-led coalition government.
A new constitution with sweeping and broad-based reforms was passed in 2010 and its implementation process began in earnest. The events of late 2007 and early 2008 had cast a pall on the country's security agencies, judicial system and political class.
For the last five years, intense nation-building initiatives aimed at harnessing communal cohesion and the strengthening of the once-compromised public safety and justice institutions have been the hallmark of the grand coalition government that was crafted in early 2008.
The key component of the new constitution was mechanisms to ensure that future Kenyan presidents would preside over representative governments and curtail the bane of Kenyan politics, tribalism.
Under the new constitution, to be elected, presidential candidates would have to win at least 50%+1 of the overall vote and also secure victories in more than half of the country's 47 counties with a minimum of a 25% winning margin. This compels all presidential candidates to reach out to all of Kenya's regions and build alliances that will enable the country to not only become cohesive but ensure that the government is not an exclusive preserve of the country's elite.
It was with this in mind that politicians built cross-cutting alliances. Uhuru Kenyatta's The National Alliance Party (TNA) reached out to William Ruto's United Republican Party (URP), Najib Balala's Republican Congress (RC) and Charity Ngilu's National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) to form the Jubilee Alliance.
On the other hand, Raila Odinga joined hands with Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetangula to amalgamate their three parties - Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), Wiper Democratic Party (WDP) and Ford Kenya respectively into the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD).
This constitutional clause has seen erstwhile rival politicians reaching out and sharing a common podiums and cooperating on drafting their party manifestos. The bigger picture however is that this clause has finally allowed cohesion to evolve.
It was with these conditions enshrined in a new constitution that Kenyans went to the polls. When the final tallies came in, a staggering 86% voter turnout had been registered.
Ramamurthy found the experience little short of ecstatic. "United by our common aspirations as a nation, it was amazing to see the enthusiasm with which people came out in large numbers to participate in the democratic process," he says, "Clearly shaming the doom sayers, we also patiently, albeit tensely, waited for more than five days for the final tally of the announcement of the winner in the presidential race. …