, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 26 – When the post-election violence of 2007-8 broke out, spontaneous, orchestrated or otherwise, Jendayi Frazer was serving as the US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs in the George Bush administration.
When election related violence was once again witnessed two cycles later, she was once again in the thick of things, having been in the country throughout the electoral process.
And while recognising that one death, is one too many, Frazer is convinced there is reason to hope.
Unlike in 2007/8 when the then Electoral Commission as led by Samuel Kivuitu and the Judiciary appeared at a loss as to what to do, the institutions this time around, in Frazer’s assessment, had a trusted constitution on which to fall back.
“The difference in 2007/8 was no one had confidence in any of the institutions, whether it was the electoral commission, the courts or anything, there was no mediating force, whereas in this election, the constitution was the common denominator. And whether you believed someone was acting according to the constitution or against the constitution became the frame for having the debate and discussion.”
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and the David Maraga led Judiciary, in her view, showed strength in the face of the inevitable political pressure of a hard fought race.
“The political leadership is political leadership, and whenever you’re in a hot contest about running a country it gets nasty and I don’t know anywhere in the world where that isn’t the case.
“When IEBC declared Uhuru Kenyatta the president after the August 8 election, Raila Odinga was denouncing the courts and saying he had already been cheated in 2013 and he wasn’t going back to the courts this time. And Uhuru was Uhuru was saying if you take a petition the courts wil decide, the rule of law has to be respected.
“When the judgement was made against Uhuru, he had an outlash against the courts. He said he respected the rule of law and he respected the courts, but he thought it was a stupid decision effectively. But that’s what politicians do, the point is the institution is respected. That’s the most important thing.”
Talk of secession though, Frazer weighed in, not so positive, viewing it as a dangerous path to go down as would be denying the deep divisions the electoral process, has amplified.
“I’ve found because I was in Kenya throughout this election period, that people were living in two different worlds with two very different narratives, you have the same thing in the United States today and building that cohesion in terms of national identity and common purpose is what fundamentally needs to be worked on next.
“”So any talk of secession has to be really thought through very carefully because no state will allow its territory to break off. Territorial integrity is fundamental to every government and unless it’s through some kind of vote of a referendum, then you’re only talking about a violent process and that leads to civil war.”