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How promise of change in Kenyans’ living standards helped Ruto – Amollo

Following the announcement of the result of the recent Presidential election in Kenya, Rodney Amollo, an Associate at Rachier & Amollo Advocates LLP, exclusively spoke to ZEBULON AGOMUO and DAVID IJASEUN on the exercise, his advice for Nigerians as they go to the poll next year, among other related issues. Excerpts:

There were lots of activities on social media before the election. How would you rate the level of social media involvement and what happened in Kenya during the election; the awareness and all that?

With respect to the general elections in Kenya, I will say that social media has played a very great role in terms of sensitisation and in terms of influencing the general mood of the public. And I will say that platforms like Facebook and Instagram have actually played a significant role in terms of subjecting whatever one posts through vetting or rather a verification process whereby whenever one asserts a particular position, you find that the same is flagged and then a disclaimer is issued that this particular post cannot be deemed to be accurate and truthful.

And I will also say that, unlike the previous elections, this time, I have not seen many posts regarding incitement; perhaps they have been reported, but I may not know. But generally, social media is not awash with posts regarding incitements or ethnic hatred as has been the case before.

There were reports before now, particularly in August 2018 that said Ruto was the most corrupt political leader in Kenya that time. Four years after the report, Kenyan decided to hand over the country to a man described as fantastically corrupt. So does it mean that Kenyans want to hand over their treasury to such a person? Or do you think that such a report must have been manipulated against Ruto?

Well, the Synovate report is a scientific report which I cannot basically dismiss unilaterally on my own accord. Be that as it may, Kenya is a democratic constitutional state. Despite the public being made aware of the character of one of the contenders in the name of Ruto, you will find that owing to its democratic nature, and given that the people manifested their will through the Constitution, this particular leader may just be a reflection of what the general public composes. However, be that as it may, the current situation is that his victory is being contested but still it goes to show you a lot that there are millions who are in consonant with his beliefs, the character notwithstanding. In this particular case, I might also cite, we have this Chapter 6 of our Constitution which talks of character and integrity in principles of governance.

That has been campaigned for and has been championed in various quarters incessantly throughout this period but what this election goes to show is that many Kenyans still do not hold this particular Chapter 6 in high esteem because this particular imminent parliament that is about to be sworn in has many individuals whose character and integrity have been impeached both in public and even in the courts with some even having previous convictions on record. So, I will say as a nation, we still have a long way in terms of sanitising our moral and ethical fabric as a society.

The incumbent president will be living a legacy of high inflation, high unemployment rate, huge debt, both foreign and local debt and economic inequality. So, what do you think should be the low-hanging fruits for whoever that will be stepping in as the next president and for him to pluck to hit the ground running in the area of the economy?

First and foremost, and I believe this is what may have propelled Ruto to victory; is the fact that he guaranteed Kenyans a change in their living standards which are currently at an all-time high and he has created an environment whereby people believe that he will be able to overturn the current living standards which are very high as well as reduce prices of the basic commodities and one other thing that he also promised was that he will stop borrowing loans which we hope, we still wait to see how he will achieve that, noting that we live in a developing country still dependent on the IMF (International Monetary Fund).

So, whoever will assume the position of power after Uhuru Kenyatta’s vacation will really have a tall order because many Kenyans have high expectations and they expect those expectations to be met in record time. So, this particular person who will succeed the current president will have at least two months to satisfy Kenyans, that they are up to the task before they start receiving backlash for not meeting those particular expectations. And so, it will not be a rosy affair for whoever will be assuming that role.

From what happened at the election. Can we say that many more Kenyans are becoming politically aware of their environment because even if you look at the voter turnout, it appears out of the 20 million voters registered, about 14 million turned out to vote? Could we say there has been an improvement or progress in the voter sensitisation and awareness in Kenya?

Voter turnout in Kenya was influenced by a myriad of factors. You know that Kenya consists of various ethnic groups, 42 or 43 in number. This particular election did not consist of one of the major ethnic groups, which is the Kikuyu. So, that affected the voter turnout in some way in which case the Mount Kenya region where the Kikuyu majorly dominated recorded an all-time low in their voter turnout.

Speaking of voter sensitisation, I will say that generally the IEBC had played its part in terms of civic education; on the need for citizens to exercise their civic duty in terms of voting.

However, factors such as not having one of your own haggling for the presidency really demoralizes the majority, especially those who are not from the urban elite from voting. I will say that we still have a long way to go in terms of that civic education in sensitising people that this voting goes beyond placing your ethnic compatriot with your position of power.

From what you saw at the election; what hope do you think the youths have in the emerging government?

Well, one thing I need to commend all the presidential contenders is that in their manifesto and in their campaign trail, they all undertook to consider the youths in the appointed positions in government, in positions of influence and power. That has been missing in previous elections whereby you find that the contenders tend to only favour their political honchos and henchmen most of whom are rarely the youths. However, this time the youth voiced their concerns which were heard and we have duty to hold whoever wins to account and to ensure that the youths are considered in their government.

Furthermore, the youths also have been factored in their manifestos, not only verbally but also in the manifesto, which is a sort of guarantee and is actually motivating.

Would you think that at any point, the incumbent government had wanted to manipulate the electoral process? For instance, four members of the electoral commissioners broke ranks and held an independent press conference, where they denounced the result, describing it as an opaque. Would you think that it was masterminded by the government in power to favour Odinga?

I would be able to sort myself on that with certainty. However, it is a question of law currently. Because as with respect to the question of fact, they have already indicated that they were excluded in the process leading up to the declaration. It is now left for the court to determine the consequences of that particular admission or confession by the said commissioners and the effect that those acts and omissions have on the validity of the declaration of the result as indicated by the chairperson of the electoral commissioner.

Some people say or have described the emergence of Ruto as president-elect as a new dawn in Nairobi or in Kenya. Would you say that is the true position on ground?

Each presidential contender had their own clarion call. The right honourable former prime minister, Raila Odinga’s clarion call was that of unity; uniting all the all the tribes in Kenya for a united purpose of prosperity.

That of Honourable Ruto was that of changing the economic model of the system of governance from top to bottom to bottom-up. So it depends on which side of the coin the voters were more affiliated with.

There are those who believe that the unity of the country, and unity of purpose supersedes that of the bottom-up economic model, that those who believe that the bottom-up economic model ought to take presidents over unity of purpose. So, for whichever side that has won, it is perceived to be a new dawn.

Read also: Kenyan Electoral Commission getting better every election cycle – Kanjama

Some people also are saying that the election has a message for leaders who believe in the imposition of their choice on the people. Do you read such a message from what happened in Kenyan election?

Yes, there are those who are of the opinion that given that the incumbent president, had over his support towards the Rt. Honourable Raila Odinga, then they perceived that that was a project of the government, but you will know that Raila Odinga has been all along a seasoned politician, a veteran politician who has been scaling the ladder without the support of the government and the president is on record as having indicated that he was supporting Raila Odinga in his own volition without coercing anyone and I think his point is validated by the fact that he totally ensured that he kept away from interfering with the electoral process.

And had it been that as a sitting president, he had wanted to impose the Rt. Honourable Raila Odinga as the next president; nothing would have prevented him or barred him from exercising his authority and power as a sitting president to interfere with the election.

So I think in his support, he was merely exercising his support as an individual and citizen entitled to exercise the political rights as a Kenyan citizen but did not essentially intend that the Rt. Honourable Prime Minister Raila Odinga was or had wanted him to be the government project and that notion is also dispelled by the fact that Honourable Ruto has been a sitting deputy president substantive constitutionally.

It cannot be said that whereas the right honorable Ralia Odinga was a government project, himself was under government project because he had government resources at his disposal and still earning taxpayers money as a substantive deputy president while charring equally government meetings.

What may be your takeaway from the election in your country?

My take away from the election in our country is that I would urge the government, or any government to create an enabling environment for everyone; be it the youths, the women, persons with disability, the aged, to be able to compete on an equal and fair ground that will encourage anyone whether you’re wealthy or poor to be able to be optimistic that they can all ascend to positions of leadership and that leadership should not be a preserve of the few who are mighty and wealthy as we have come to discover. So, we need to create an enabling environment to accord everyone an equal opportunity to rise to positions of influence and power.

Now, you know that Nigeria will be going for a general election next year. From what happened in your country, what may be your advice for Nigerians as they go to the poll next year?

My advice to Nigerians as they go to the poll will be first of all to ensure that they go to the poll and exercise civility. I will ask them to maintain peace after the election because there has never been a bad peace and there’s never been a good war as we have come to learn in Kenya.

The other thing I will add is that the Nigerian government should allow the Electoral Commission to exercise its constitutional mandate independently and without any interference from any individual or authority so as to lead to a free and fair credible process, which will not incite any public outrage or International condemnation.