Kenya’s Politics Soothed as Dialogue Agreed to – For Now

Riot police detain a supporter of Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga [File: John Muchucha/Reuters]

Kenya tends to a fractious, slow-moving, mutual equilibrium of non-cooperation between the government and the opposition. Still despite the toll political strife imposes, Kenya has made significant gains.

The January Election led to a number of court cases as to electoral wrongdoing – a feature of all post-election periods. Opposition International takes a strong stand on the right of opposition candidates to access the courts to determine if an electoral law has been violated. Having commissions adjudicate disputes, in essence, themselves, does not provide adequate safeguards. The courts grind slowly, but exceedingly fine. However no court can provide a systemic reform of the electoral system. Courts do not have in their power the right to make fundamental decisions in lieu of the legislature.

It is therefore reassuring to note that the government has dropped charges of disturbing the peace against opposition leaders. In tandem Rail Odinga and other, opposition leaders called off the next planned rally and agreed to take part in a dialogue with government ministers and advisors.

As encouraged by the Kofi Annan Institute, Kenya may find a solution to electoral mistrust. Opposition International asserts the need for empirical analysis of voters’ list and voting returns at the poll level, then more training of election officials might help. Key is restoring the misunderstood and maligned scrutineering system, still embedded in Kenyan electoral law.

“Kenya’s top prosecutor has dropped charges against four lawmakers over anti-government protests, a day after the opposition leader suspended the demonstrations, their lawyer says.

The charges were withdrawn on Monday after Raila Odinga announced he would embark on dialogue with the government after weeks of chaotic street protests.

“The case has been withdrawn … for the sake of peace, dialogue and justice between the accused persons and the state,” lawyer Danstan Omari told reporters. ….”