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Kenya: Kenyatta May Be Forced To Compromise with Odinga

Following the boycott of Kenya's election re-run by the opposition, can Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga work out a deal?

27/10/2017 13:45 SAST | Updated 27/10/2017 13:45 SAST
Thomas Mukoya / Baz Ratner / Reuters
A combination picture shows Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga, presidential candidate for the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition, and incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta casting their votes during the presidential election: Kenya 8 August 2017.

We are in unchartered terrain in Kenya, and on the African continent. This is the first time that an African nation's supreme court has successfully annulled the results of an election -- the Kenyan vote held on 8 August. In the re-run, just over a third of eligible voters went to the polls, after the main opposition leader called for a boycott .

The results are not in yet, but Uhuru Kenyatta is obviously going to win. How will the controversies surrounding the election affect his legitimacy? Throughout the continent, a number of African leaders have been elected in contested polls, and I don't think Kenyatta wants to join that club of leaders who don't care whether they were legitimately elected, or how they were elected.

This certainly puts him in a difficult position -- he is now reportedly proposing a kind of compromise with National Super Alliance coalition leader Raila Odinga, because Odinga has already been the prime minister, and he has been part of negotiated compromises in the past. But what can Kenyatta offer him in terms of a compromise, to convince Odinga to accept the results of the re-run?

Kenyatta has very few options apart from inviting Odinga to be his Number Two as vice-president or prime minister. It really creates a very tricky situation. However, this is interesting in terms of the the judiciary -- which played such an important role in annulling the first election, demonstrating that the courts still have a strong role in Kenya.

Kenya is such an important economic and transport hub in East Africa that there will be pressure on the country to get back to work.

The political violence that we have seen is not the normal election violence, which usually involves clashes between the police and protestors -- something that can be seen in many countries during election time.

But the violence in Kenya this time round was unusual, in the sense that a member of the electoral commission's management team, Chris Msando, was killed a few days before the first round. Then we witnessed the pressure placed on some of the supreme court judges, who said that they were almost too scared to continue presiding over the proceedings relating to the postponement of the elections.

The political violence between factions is really concerning, and in the long run, there will be pressure from the business community -- in Kenya and internationally -- to move on, and for Kenyatta to instigate some kind of reconciliation, because there are still so many divisions in the nation.

Kenya is such an important economic and transport hub in East Africa that there will be a lot of pressure on the country to get back to work -- but it's going to be very tricky.