Photo by: Henoc Kivuye
In 2007, over 1,200 people were left dead in the chaos of Kenyan elections, and in the 2013 elections, after days of vote recounts, Uhuru Kenyatta will be the new president of Kenya. The recent election was decided by close margin, but some Oklahoma Christian University students feared a repeat of the violence that happened in 2007.
“I was worried that the election violence would be repeated,” said senior Rodgers Odundo. “I kept calling home and everything was fine. I hope it stays like that – peaceful.”
Kenya is one of United States’ strongest allies on the African continent. And since its independence in 1963 from Britain, the nation has been on a road to recovery.
Kenyans, not wanting to repeat the election violence of 2007, prayed that they would forget tribalism and come together as one nation desiring peace. Eight candidates ran, with the most noticeable opponents being Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga.
It was also the first time in Kenya’s history that presidential candidates debated live on TV on issues concerning the nation. Although the elections were overall peaceful, some issues surfaced due to poor planning.
Before the elections of March 4, 2013, President Barack Obama, also of Kenyan ethnicity, encouraged the people of Kenya to demonstrate a peaceful election.
“After the turmoil of five years ago you have worked to build communities and pass a new constitution,” Obama said, according to a White House press release. “Kenya must reject intimidation and violence and allow a free and fair vote. Kenya must settle disputes in the courts and not in the streets.”
There are thousands of Kenyans living abroad who were unable to vote. The only Kenyans eligible to vote were those in the nation and any East Africa nations.
Oklahoma Christian is home to several Kenyan students.
“It’s a disappointment that people in the Diaspora were not able to vote,” Odundo said. “We are still part of the country and we should have voted. This is something they should look into next time.”
The Kenyans in the Diaspora, especially in the United States and Europe, went to court to resolve the issue, but it was too late for any of them to vote.
“I was in the committee to organize and help Kenyans in the Diaspora vote, but because of poor planning, none of Kenyans in the Diaspora were able to vote,” assistant men’s soccer coach Tom Odhiambo said.
Other issues arose with the voting process itself. The Kenyan government had new electronic voting machines, but they were defective; votes had to be counted manually, which only put the country in a state of anticipation.
“The electronic voting machines were supposed to run smoothly, and they did not,” alumna Cherity Obudho said. “Votes had to be counted manually, which only put Kenyans in a state of suspense. I am excited that Kenyans proved to other nations we do it peacefully, because many people were anticipating violence.”
On Friday, March 8, Uhuru Kenyatta, son of the former first Kenyan President, Jomo Kenyatta, was declared the new president-elect after winning more than 50 percent of the electoral votes. Although he won, it was only by a margin of .07 percent.
“I am shocked that Kenyatta won, but I am happy we have change,” Obudho said. “Kenyatta will have two terms in office before next general elections. He promised Kenyans to change things in the Kenyan government. And that really excites me because now we will see if he keeps his promises or not.”
However, his win creates controversy. Kenyatta is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity for his involvement with the 2007 election violence; Kenyatta’s trial is set for July in The Hague. Kenyatta denies all charges.
“Being wanted by the ICC is not something that is going to be easy,” Odundo said. “Kenya needs the European Union for funds and business. It will be a little hard to have a president who has been charged with crimes against humanity.”
After being declared the winner, Kenyatta stated that his win was the will of the Kenyan people, and international leaders should not mingle with the affairs of Kenya.
According to the New York Times, Kenyatta said, “we recognize and accept our international obligations. However, we also expect that the international community will respect the sovereignty and the democratic will of the people of Kenya.”
Many wonder if Kenya’s relationship with the United States will diminish after electing a man wanted by the ICC.
Kenyatta promised that his trial will not hinder moving the nation to the next level of economic development and working together with the Kenyan people to make Kenya into a better place for its citizens.
“We have made big steps toward democracy,” Odundo said. “We are a growing economy competing with other prosperous countries, and we are moving to the next level … maybe someday Kenya will be a First World country.”