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Kenyan elections underscore the importance of voting

The day preceding America’s presidential elections last fall, Communication Studies instructor Peter Morello asked students in his Media Ethics class to raise their hands if they were interested in participating in the electoral process. A handful did.

Morello then asked why students were not keen on participating in the election of their president.

One student said, “I’ll consult with my girlfriend to see if there is any need to go and vote. At the moment, I do not think this is a priority.”

As a native of Kenya, a country on the East Coast of Africa, where elections for the president are a life-and-death event, this ambivalent attitude by an American student toward participating in electing his country’s president was baffling to me.

Kenya recently concluded the election of the country’s president and, just like in 2007, when a dispute over a questionable vote tally led to bloodletting, the country is again tottering on the brink of yet another round of instability.

The Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, has refused to concede. He believes the elections were rigged in favor of his opponent, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta.

Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto are facing international crimes and crimes- against-humanity charges at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. They are accused of sponsoring the 2007-2008 ethnic violence in which close to 1,200 people died and about 700,000 were displaced.

The international community, led by America, warned Kenyans not to elect people facing such serious international crimes.

Although there is again a dispute, this time Kenyans did not carry machetes or bows and arrows to kill each other, partly because of fear and the trust in the judiciary. The aggrieved sought to reverse the election results through the Supreme Court under a brutally independent-minded, Canadian- educated Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga.

Perhaps there is a lot UMKC students can learn from the uncertainty that grips transitioning democracies every time elections come calling.

We should never take for granted the peace and stability prevailing in this country. People should take part in elections, and choose leaders who will effectively represent them.

During last year’s U.S. presidential elections, no business closed down because of fear of violence. There were few claims of ballot stuffing and manipulation of numbers to disadvantage the other candidate.

For the past several years, the U.S. Congress has been reduced to an arena of grandstanding and extremism. Good men and women should take part in elections and chose level-headed leaders, in order to end the gridlock that has become the epitome of U.S. Congress.

Americans should thank their Founding Fathers for formulating firm constitutional policies and institutions, which have guaranteed the country long-lasting peace and stability in election years.

However, the situation in Kenya is worrying. The sultans of status quo have in the recent past targeted the popular Chief Justice with threats of extra-judicial execution if his court ruled against the ruling elite.

National security has become the justification to suppress freedom of expression, and the country’s media has joined hands with the forces of evil to perpetuate injustice.

No one is sure if the Supreme Court ruling would be honored because the ruling class wants to keep power by hook or by crook.

The same situation is playing out in Zimbabwe, where 89-year-old tyrant Robert Mugabe, in power since 1980, has refused to fade away from the political scene.

Of course, I am aware of the 2000 election fiasco in which Al Gore was widely believed to have been cheated of the presidency, thanks to alleged manipulation of votes in Florida. The 2000 debacle tainted America’s image as a beacon of hope and democracy.

Yet, the nation moved on peacefully. It is hoped Kenya can do the same.

pmakori@unews.com

 

The day preceding America’s presidential elections last fall, Communication Studies instructor Peter Morello asked students in  his Media Ethics class  to raise their hands if they were interested in participating in the electoral process. A handful did.
Morello then asked why students were not keen on participating in the election of their president.
One student said, “I’ll consult with my girlfriend to see if there is any need to go and vote. At the moment, I do not think this is a priority.”
As a native of Kenya, a country on the East Coast of Africa, where elections for the president are a life-and-death event, this ambivalent attitude by an American student toward participating in electing his country’s president was baffling to me.
Kenya recently concluded the election of the country’s president and, just like in 2007, when a dispute over a questionable vote tally led to bloodletting, the country is again tottering on the brink of yet another round of instability.
The Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, has refused to concede. He believes the elections were rigged in favor of his opponent, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta.
Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto are facing international crimes and crimes- against-humanity charges at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. They are accused of sponsoring the 2007-2008 ethnic violence in which close to 1,200 people died and about 700,000 were displaced.
The international community, led by America, warned Kenyans not to elect people facing such serious international crimes.
Although there is again a dispute, this time Kenyans did not carry machetes or bows and arrows to kill each other, partly because of fear and the trust in the judiciary. The aggrieved sought to reverse the election results through the Supreme Court under a brutally independent-minded, Canadian- educated Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga.
Perhaps there is a lot UMKC students can learn from the uncertainty that grips transitioning democracies every time elections come calling.
We should never take for granted the peace and stability prevailing in this country. People should take part in elections, and choose leaders who will effectively represent them.
During last year’s U.S. presidential elections, no business closed down because of fear of violence. There were few claims of ballot stuffing and manipulation of numbers to disadvantage the other candidate.
For the past several years, the U.S. Congress has been reduced to an arena of grandstanding and extremism. Good men and women should take part in elections and chose level-headed leaders, in order to end the gridlock that has become the epitome of U.S. Congress.
Americans should thank their Founding Fathers for formulating firm constitutional policies and institutions, which have guaranteed the country long-lasting peace and stability in election years.
However, the situation in Kenya is worrying. The sultans of status quo have in the recent past targeted the popular Chief Justice with threats of extra-judicial execution if his court ruled against the ruling elite.
National security has become the justification to suppress freedom of expression, and the country’s media has joined hands with the forces of evil to perpetuate injustice.
No one is sure if the Supreme Court ruling would be honored because the ruling class wants to keep power by hook or by crook.
The same situation is playing out in Zimbabwe, where 89-year-old tyrant Robert Mugabe, in power since 1980, has refused to fade away from the political scene.
Of course, I am aware of the 2000 election fiasco in which Al Gore was widely believed to have been cheated of the presidency, thanks to alleged manipulation of votes in Florida. The 2000 debacle tainted America’s image as a beacon of hope and democracy.
Yet, the nation moved on peacefully. It is hoped Kenya can do the same.
pmakori@unews.com

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