By: MAINA KIAI
What goes around comes around. This saying was ably illustrated when President Obama called out the opposition for seeking US support on governance issues, when just a few years ago, when they were in government, they were lambasting the US for raising very similar concerns.
While President Obama mentioned the opposition leadership, this also applies to the ruling coalition, who a few years ago were desperately seeking US intervention but now that they are in power, lambast and insult it.
This is one of the most frustrating aspects of our political class: When they are in power, they attack critics who call them out for their messes.
They act as though they will be in power forever and can’t stand being called out, even when it is obvious that their corruption, greed, and killings are hurting the majority.
But as soon as they leave power, they are the first to seek help and interventions from the very same people and organisations they were insulting and lambasting.
One reason for the arrogance of those in power is that they believe they have the election system so sewn up that they can never be declared the losers in the elections.
And they work mightily towards ensuring that the election delivers — and not necessarily fairly, freely or credibly — the results they want, one way or the other.
Yet, a democracy is known by the fact that it has clear processes with uncertain results, while an autocracy is known by unclear processes with certain results.
Today, for instance, the ruling regime can’t countenance the idea that the current IEBC should go, even in the face of the massive corruption — from Chickengate to BVR procurement.
The fact that the chairman of the IEBC is on record — in the Supreme Court — declaring his open bias against one candidate is not enough.
For to them in power, the issue is not the credibility and legitimacy of the election results, it is about the legality of being declared the victor, no matter what.
As we painfully know from 2007, this is the path that leads to divisions, conflict and tensions.
And as we should know from 2013, this is what leads to tensions, ethnic frustrations and massive corruption.
Let’s be clear: the relative calm after the 2013 election was as a result of the benefit of doubt given to the IEBC and especially to the Supreme Court that then acted as safety valves to calm tensions.
But for 2017, we now know the IEBC for what it is — in their chairman’s own words and with corruption galore — and the Supreme Court’s weak and ill-reasoned judgment destroyed its safety valve role.
In a way, we are in a similar position to 2006 after the first constitutional referendum, where the words and actions of the political class were so deep and divisive that it was clear we were headed downhill.
The decision to unilaterally appoint the commissioners of the Election Commission (ECK) was the final straw and protests were inevitable.
Conversely it was clear that the state would kill and maim peaceful protesters which then led to the violence and conflict.
Incidentally, the harsh state response to peaceful protests is the main reason that Syria is in a mind-boggling conflict that has midwifed the rise of ISIS.
In democracies, those in power govern on the basis that they could lose power.
Thus they are often careful not to vest too much power in the Executive as that can come back to haunt them.
But in Kenya, those in power work to accumulate as much power as possible — through security laws, centralised financial decisions and weakening devolution — despite the Constitution.
They should be careful. They should worry about the growing discontent in the URP wing, for instance, and imagine what would happen if URP suddenly ascended to power.
And they should worry, too, that their politics of exclusion, favouritism and corruption could lead to such vast discontent that not even a biased IEBC will help them.