On Monday, the Kenyan government allowed two TV stations to begin broadcasting again. While this is exciting, it is only the most recent development in the series of controversies that surround the most recent democratic elections held in the country.
On Aug. 8, 2017, Kenya held general elections that included parliamentary positions, devolved government elections and a heated competition between the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta against main opponent Raila Odinga. Kenyatta won the election with 54 percent of the vote but was challenged by Odinga’s claim that the votes had been tampered with by hackers.
On Aug. 28, two agents from Odinga’s party, NASA, were given permission to audit the results of the presidential election in conjunction with two agents from the ruling party. On the 29th, the closing statements were heard and the Supreme Court announced that a decision would be made on Sept. 1. All result forms from the election were submitted for scrutiny on Aug. 30, 2017.
On Sept. 1, the Kenyan Supreme Court nullified the results of the presidential elections based on evidence seen during the course of the trial. The parliament and devolved election results still stood. This decision made history as the first time a court had overturned the results of a democratic election within Africa. When the date for the re-election was changed to give time for reforms among the voting system, the Odinga ‘withdrew’ himself from the elections. However, the Kenyan Supreme Court claimed he did not properly remove himself from the election.
Re-elections were held on Oct. 26, Kenyatta was declared the winner of the re-election four days later.
The Supreme Court unanimously denied petitions by Odinga and the NASA party to challenge these results, leading Odinga to announce that he would inaugurate himself as the People’s President. On Jan. 31, 2018, a “mock” inauguration was held in the presence of lawyers to swear in Odinga.
The Kenyan government sent military and police forces to stop the live broadcasting of the mock inauguration and arrest attendees. On Feb. 1, Kenyan High Courts released an order for the government to cease and desist from its barring of Kenya Television Network, Nation Television News and Citizen Television from broadcasting.
On Monday, Feb. 5, Kenya’s Government allowed Kenya Television Network and Nation Television News to broadcast.
The attorney general Githu Muigai points out “The criminal law of the Republic of Kenya stipulates [the mock inauguration] is high treason. It is high treason of the persons involved, and any other person facilitating that process.”
Within the eyes of the Kenyan government, it’s not hard to see covering this event and multiplying the audience across the nation’s largest television networks as “facilitating.”
In a recent interview, Eunice Maruhi (’20), a Kenyan student who voted for the first time in the August elections, explained the personal effects the election was having on her beloved country.
Maruhi involves herself in the politics of her home country dutifully and therefore plays a valuable role in aiding her fellow peers to understand the complexity of this field. She emphasized that “the actions of the media were not to the interest of the country.”
She spoke about how much violence had been seen in the country surrounding controversial political events and saw that televising something identified as high treason could be to the detriment of the political conversation.
She criticized the role of country leaders by saying that the “media could have taken more constructive action.”
Many of the opponents of the re-election argue that it is responsible for putting the country in a place of instability and creating space for the “mock” inauguration to take place.