The joy, exuberance and incredible hope spawned by last week’s election victories in Kenya is absolutely amazing! Get ready for the biggest party ever in Kenya!
The last few years have brought social and political transformations around the world but you would be hard pressed to find a more radical one than in Kenya.
Those who visited Kenya only five years ago would not recognize it, today.
There are 12-lane highways, potable water in some cities, the world’s largest tea-export industry and … peace and prosperity.
Something’s wrong, right?
No. Friday the nation of Kenya holds its biggest party in history: A party to celebrate the overwhelming victory of the election for a new constitution.
Kenya’s long struggle with the exogenous microbes of post-colonialism is, by this self styled official clarion announcement, OVER.
I’m taking some risk here, but I’ve earned the right. I lived on the Kenyan border during Idi Amin’s terrors, I had to tell Purdue Alumni that we couldn’t go as planned into Tanzania when the short war with Tanzania erupted in 1977, I had clients locked down in the Stanley when the 11-hour coup of 1982 was zapping bullets around the nearby Hilton, I heard the embassy bombing in 1998, I snuck in and out to get all clients out of Kenya after the horrible post-election violence of 2007…
And scores of smaller things like being in Kenyan jails and bribing officials to get into or out of the country.
Is this really, really over?
Well, yes, actually I think it might be. Global terrorism won’t go away: it’s closer to Kenya than anywhere: al-Qaeda lives next door in Somalia. But this is a part of every person’s life, no matter where you are in the world except maybe Antarctica.
And I think that we, as Americans, can enjoy a tiny part of the credit. It wasn’t so much a sea-change in American foreign policy, but it was a definite change under President Obama that gave a lot of money (which led to this burst of prosperity) and lot of transparent counsel to the crippled nation of Kenya trying to rebuild itself after the last failed election.
Click here for the VOA take on the election’s meanings.
In a “Gazette Notice” released today, the Kenyan Government published the final results of the August 4 election: 6,092,593 Kenyans voted YES and 2,795,059 people vote NO. The YES’ had it nearly 70/30.
And on Saturday, one of Kenya’s largest polling organizations, Infotrack Harris, said that 91 percent of Kenyans are satisfied with the results.
The poll shows the level of satisfaction very high across the entire country, including in the Rift Valley Province where a majority voted against the proposed law.
Infotrack Chief Executive Officer Angela Ambitho said, “88 percent of those in Rift Valley are actually satisfied with the outcome of the referendum. You actually see less satisfaction in Coast and Central and that may just be due to the fact that they anticipated that the speed with which implementation would take place would be faster.”
Wow. Peace and prosperity can never come fast enough.
There were losers; there are always losers, and frankly, I’m really glad these are the identified losers:
(1) William Ruto & Thugs
This is the current Minister for Education who led the “NO” campaign and who everyone knows is soon to be indicted by The Hague for inciting the election violence of 2007.
Kenya is an incredibly religious country as African countries go, and until now, I’ve felt that was more a good thing than a bad thing. But this time around the churches were near united in their opposition to two (of hundreds) of constitutional articles.
One “might” allow for legal abortions and the other creates some civil courts for very restricted litigation based on Islamic law.
I’ve written about this before, so won’t repeat the necessarily complex details, but suffice it to be said that I take the August 4 outcome as a near unbelievable boundary between what modern Kenyans feel is the division between church and state.
It does not mean that Kenyans aren’t as religious as they always have been. It just means that they’re modern citizens who have a lot more tolerance for one another than we do in our own country. If only we could master that here in the USA.
(3) The American Right
Did you read that, Right right? Yes, you did. The American Right poured in hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat the referendum. Righties in Congress even threatened the Obama Administration with legislation to inhibit our assistance with the election.
I’ve written about this, too, so won’t rehash here, but this is one of the most exciting outcomes for me personally as a liberal American who loves Kenya.
Any chance this presages our own November elections?
I really think this is fundamentally new page not only in Kenyan history, but possibly in all of Africa’s arduous history in the last half century.
No, I don’t like Nairobi’s traffic and the pollution is increasing. Its treasured wilderness is threatened like never before. But guess what? Rational people are in control.