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Robust political debates dislocating politicians from supporters

by Bedah Mengo NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- A majority are engaging in name-calling while others are issuing threats.

That is a summary of the happenings in Kenya’s political landscape as politicians engage in all manner of antics in the ongoing campaigns for the upcoming Oct. 17 repeat polls.

The Supreme Court on Sept. 1 annulled Kenyatta’s reelection in Aug. 8 polls and ordered fresh polls, citing irregularities and illegalities in the electoral process.

The order threw the country back to the campaign mode as the fault-lines were clearly drawn, with campaigns beginning immediately.

The battle is between Opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) headed by Raila Odinga and Jubilee Party led by the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Both Kenyatta and Odinga are holding slings, throwing stones at each other as they seek to woo voters to their sides.

On Tuesday, Kenyatta who addressed a joint sitting of Parliament during the official opening of the 12th Parliament used the opportunity to remind Kenyans that electoral contests are not mere competitions between two people but a sacred event where millions of Kenyans transfer their sovereign will to a leader of their choice.

"This is not just a choice between two individuals. Most importantly, it is the transfer of the people’s sovereign will to an office that is the symbol of our national unity; that protects our security, and is key to delivering development and prosperity," Kenyatta said.


Robust political debates dislocating politicians from supporters | Coastweek

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Moses Kuria [left], Kenyan Gatundu South Member of Parliament (MP) and Johnstone Muthama, former Machakos Senator are arraigned at the Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi. The two were on Tuesday charged with incitement to violence and released on 300,000 Kenya Shillings each after pleading not guilty to the charges. XINHUA PHOTO - JOHN OKOYO

He said Kenyans are gearing up to vote for their choice of president on Oct. 17 and the marks they will place on the ballot papers will represent far more than the desires of politicians.

Kenyatta cautioned that the choice Kenyans make must never again be sacrificed on claims revolving around issues that have nothing to do with the choices of the people.

"It must be understood that, marked ballot represents more than technology, more than computers systems, or even where it was printed," he told the lawmakers in an event which was boycotted by the Opposition and Judiciary.

On Monday, Kenyatta warned that even if Odinga is elected in Oct. 17 polls, his Jubilee Party would impeach him in three months.

"Today even if Raila is elected, how will he govern this country?


"What is he going to do?

"He does not have majority in parliament," Kenyatta told supporters in Nairobi on Monday.

He noted that his Jubilee Party controls both the National Assembly and the Senate and will easily oust Raila and even change the Constitution without consulting the opposition.

"In the National Assembly, we are only 13 members shy of a two-thirds majority, meaning we can even change the Constitution without a single member of NASA.

"We don’t need them," he said.

But in a quick rejoinder, NASA leaders branded Kenyatta’s remarks as reckless and desperate.

"What charges does President Uhuru wants to bring against Odinga?

"Those remarks are reckless speculation inconsistent with the conduct of the president of a country," NASA co-principal Moses Wetang’ula said on behalf of Odinga.

"I can assure you, Kenyatta, that Odinga is not going to commit any crime ...

"He is not going to violate the constitution ...

"He is not going to condone corruption," Wetang’ula said.

NASA legislators boycotted the Tuesday’s parliamentary session, calling Kenyatta a "lame duck" president who should not be presiding over such functions.

Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party and its affiliates has 213 seats out of 349 in the National Assembly and has 38 out of 67 senators, which means it controls both houses.

Both Kenyatta and Odinga have accused each other of entrenching divisive and tribal politics as fresh polls loom, with the leaders seemingly casting away their campaign promises and engaging in bare-knuckle politics.

Supporters of the two leaders, both legislators and the ordinary Kenyan on the street and on social media, are equally torn apart as they fight for them.

"Open the electoral commission server for scrutiny.

"Do not ask what we expect to find when we open up the server, let us open it and see," said Agnes Zani, a NASA Senator in a discussion on the divisive subject that contributed to the annulment of polls.

"NASA was not ready for the election, they tried every trick in the book to steal the polls but failed," countered Senator Kimani wa Matangi, who is allied to Jubilee as he dismissed the opening of the server.

A legislator from Jubilee and a former senator allied to NASA who were arrested Monday in Nairobi are set to be charged in court for hate speech.

On Social media, divisions among supporters of both Kenyatta and Odinga are as clear as day and night, with each side coming up with hashtags and propaganda to malign the other.

"The electoral commission is not an independent institution, neither is it a commission, I think it’s one of the parties which folded up to form jubilee," said Joel, a NASA supporter tweeting under the tag IEBC party talks.

"So NASA walked out of the meeting with electoral commission because Kenyatta was not there.

"Get serious, you cannot expect the president to attend such meetings.

"He has to run the country," said Njosh, a Jubilee supporter.

Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer in Nairobi, noted that the current divisions are not good for the progress of the country.

"With these divisions, talks of secession are gathering momentum as some people believe they do not belong in Kenya while others feel more entitled.

"It is a sign of pulling apart which are grounds for sowing seeds of discord.

"Whoever wins polls must unite the country and that who loses should held in bringing people together," he said.

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