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Vital lessons for Kenya from US election

By Alberto Leny
Tuesday, November 10th, 2020
Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden. Photo/AFP
In summary

Last week’s historic elections in the US offers crucial lessons for Kenya as we enter a critical period in our political calendar en route to the 2022 General Election.

The US elections, in which a record 145 million voters cast their ballot, was a remarkable display of democracy, highlighted by the cardinal principles of accountability and transparency.

Demographics and justice were the determinant factors in the protracted elections, which played an important role in deciding who was to become the next leader of the superpower.

Racial divide

These two factors are proving to be identical to the current situation in Kenya where the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), has started eliciting divergent views, that call for serious analysis and retrospection in the light of what has transpired in teh US.

Donald Trump was ousted from the White House by a strong coalition of minorities after majority backing from white voters, propelling him to more than 70 million votes against President-elect Joe Biden’s 74 million plus votes.

Biden’s victory and Trump’s loss was a reflection of the great racial divide that exists in the US, akin to the negative ethnic diversity constantly played out in Kenya and amply demonstrated in elections often marred by violence.

Such a scenario was imminent in the US, when white supremacists armed themselves in response to Trump’s inflammatory divisive rhetoric of “stolen votes” and “fake news,” only tampered by an extraordinary wave of support for Biden’s peace and unity call.

That Trump is contesting the election results in court when he has clearly lost is enough testimony of the character of the man described by his predecessor Barack Obama as only thinking of his ego and not the health and welfare of citizens. 

His handling of the coronavirus pandemic that has left 240,000 Americans dead was a major contributor to his being fired from the most powerful office in the world. 

Trump and his Senate allies bulldozing his preferred nominee to the Supreme Court amid the election, was strongly opposed by Biden’s Democratic Party.

Trump’s legal challenges have suffered setbacks in federal courts and he is unlikely to get the justice redemption he lamely craves for.

Kenya must learn vital lessons from the US poll where transparency and accountability prevailed in in their independent conduct. 

Candidates and political parties were clearly detached from the actual electoral administration process.

Courts were the last recourse to any disputes and they dispensed justice swiftly and fairly. 

That is as it should be. Leadership should absorb this vital lesson for our Judiciary and the Independent Boundaries and Electoral Commission appointments, to let them remain truly independent as the final arbiters of our democratic and human rights affairs.

Instant protests

Politicians and political parties need to respect the doctrine of separation of powers between the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary.

BBI discussions must be all-inclusive, prepared to listen to the views of everyone, so that consensus can be reached on contentious issues before the referendum.

Recent protestations from some quarters that their issues have not been considered in the report, fortifies demands for a national peace conference to deliberate on the BBI report for final validation of its contents, to the satisfaction of all communities in our diverse nation.

There should be no debate on the need for this conference as a national priority. [email protected]

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