All Eyes on the Ballot: Kenya’s Presidential Elections›By leadership project // Monday, March 4, 2013
Earlier this month, the Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Johnnie Carson, made the remark that “choices have consequences,” with regard to the March 4th elections in Kenya. He was interpreted by many to be referring to the two candidates who have been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) – Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto – and the detrimental effect their being elected could have on Kenya’s diplomatic relations worldwide and their ability, if elected, to rule effectively while under a cloud of indictment. Similar remarks by European Union envoys have led to accusations from Kenyan officials that they were inflaming an already volatile political situation and illegitimately interfering with a sovereign nation’s domestic affairs.
The Kenyan reaction to these comments is, to some extent, understandable. Strained diplomatic relations are not the only, nor even the most worrying, consequences Kenya may have to deal with in the wake of its elections. The Kenyan government’s first obligation is towards its people, and recent experience has shown that the humanitarian and economic ramifications of a troubled election can be devastating. The aftermath of the electoral battle between Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki in 2007 resulted in 1,200 deaths, and hundreds of thousands more displaced, in a period of intense violence linked to the closely contested vote. Local businesses and foreign investors who are vital to Kenya’s growth faced huge losses, and prices of household goods increased by 20-30% in the weeks following the election, even in those provinces not directly affected by the violence.MORE
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