Let the people vote

In the past three months, the world has witnessed a Kenyan election with a result – and an aftermath – of momentous consequence not only to our nation but also the entire African continent.

Today in Kenya, multiparty politics has triumphed and is irreversible. Yet less than a generation ago, our country laboured under a frozen political system leaving a stunted society and economy.

Across Africa, Europe and the world, many countries have undergone similar democratic transitions: though with a difference. Earlier this year Germany held an election that produced a divided result.

But no politician or party questioned it despite its complications. In Kenya, our “free, fair and credible” August election – as described by former United States secretary of state John F. Kerry – was unambiguous. Yet, those who lost decisively refuse to accept the outcome.

Instead of conceding, Kenya’s Opposition appealed the management of the election process to Kenya’s Supreme Court. To the surprise of most Kenyans, the international community and – more than anyone – the Opposition, the August election was annulled and a fresh one called.

I did not agree with that decision. But I accepted it, and immediately returned to campaigning, taking the case for a renewal of my mandate to the people of Kenya once again. This stands in stark contrast to Raila Odinga, my leading opponent.

Rather than grasp the opportunity offered by this new election, he has made no attempt to win votes. Instead he has sought to remove his name from the ballot, called for a boycott of the vote and appealed not to the people but to the international community.

This, of course, is the same international community he accused of “sanitised fraud” after they applauded the August election. That is not the only contradiction in his pronouncements since then. Indeed, every action the opposition have undertaken has been for a sole purpose – to not have a new election at all.

They seek to sow discord and delegitimize Kenya’s institutions and the vote on Thursday. They strive to force a path into power through a backroom deal in which they would hold office. But the votes of the people granted them no such right.

The mark of multiparty democracy is not that all parties have a place in government. Rather, it is that the makeup of government reflects the ballots cast. You can only win the right to hold high office through the democratic process. This is crucial, for if it were the case in Kenya = or anywhere else – that losing parties entered government after a vote regardless of the results, there would be little point in having elections.

I have every faith that this tactic will not wash with the Kenyan people. Kenyans have fought both for their independence and the right to elect a government of their choosing through the voting booth. We have a long history of rejecting those who seek to impose their governance upon us without our consent.

Equally inexplicable is that the international community would wish upon Kenya such a feeble version of democracy that ignores the will of the people. Far from supporting any move towards a coalition government, Britain and the United States publicly expressed “disappointment” and “regret” at my opponent’s actions. They have declared support for the upcoming election, which will proceed as planned. And besides my opponent’s name is still on the ballot – along with seven others – even when he has chosen not to campaign.

I have every confidence that the impasse in Kenya will be resolved by this new vote. Indeed, it is only through the act of democracy that such challenges can be addressed. But at the same time there is sadness in the decisions of my opponent. He fought for decades to make Kenya a multiparty democracy. His opposition to one-party rule and his devotion to winning democracy for Kenya cannot be questioned.

Yet impeccable credentials as a democratic freedom-fighter are undermined when, having lost the vote, a person believes he or she must be in government regardless.

Elections do not always reward those who think they should lead. Indeed, the true test of any democracy is not purely that citizens’ ballots are cast and counted – but that the will of the people is accepted and duly reflected in the government they choose. We cannot have it any other way.

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