Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta has won the presidential election in the East African nation of Kenya. Kenyatta, son of the first president of the country, Jomo Kenyatta, has come under fire from the International Criminal Court (ICC) as well as the governments of the United States and Britain.
Kenyatta, representing the National Alliance Party (TNA), won 50.07 percent of the vote, eliminating the need for a runoff. His closest rival, Raila Odinga, representing the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD), won 43.2 percent. Voter turnout was over 86 percent, illustrating the high level of interest in the poll. Odinga rejected the outcome of the election results and is challenging the electoral commission’s tallies through the courts.
The elections in Kenya this year were relatively peaceful. Five years ago in the aftermath of voting, violence erupted between supporters of runoff candidates Odinga and Mwai Kibaki, in which some 1,200 people lost their lives. An international team of negotiators from the United Nations and the African Union then led talks resulting in the formation of a unity government between Kibaki and Odinga.
This time around, both leading candidates pledged to maintain the peace. Odinga, although challenging the outcome, has said that his opposition to the official results will take place in the courts and not in the streets this time.
Kenyatta and his running mate, William Ruto, are facing charges before the ICC. Both men have denied the allegations and say that they will work to clear their names.
The ICC charges against Kenyatta stem from the unrest after the last election. He is accused of financing and organizing attacks on supporters of Odinga. [It was announced on March 11 that the ICC has dropped charges against another defendant in this case, Francis Muthaura, for lack of evidence, thus calling into question whether the imperialist court will proceed with its case against Kenyatta. —Ed.]
U.S. and Britain seek more leverage
The U.S. and Britain have both been accused of using the indictments against Kenyatta as leverage to intervene in Kenyan affairs.
The fact that the electorate in Kenya voted in favor of Kenyatta indicates a rejection of the ICC and the Western imperialists’ attempts to influence the voting. Kenyatta accused the British government of trying to shape the outcome of the vote by warning that any contact with his administration would be at a distance.
The U.S. and other imperialist states indicated that a victory by Kenyatta would complicate relations, even though Kenya has been a close ally of Washington and London in the neocolonial war being waged in neighboring Somalia. Kenya has over 2,000 troops in Somalia participating with the African Union Mission to Somalia, which is largely financed by Washington and coordinated through the U.S. Africa Command.
According to Alex Perry, writing in Time magazine’s online site, world.time.com: “If the result withstands Odinga’s challenge, a win for Kenyatta would represent the most stunning articulation to date of a renewed mood of self-assertion in Africa. Half a century ago, Africa echoed with the sound of anti-colonial liberation. Today, 10 years of dramatic and sustained economic growth and a growing political maturity coinciding with the economic meltdown in the West and political dysfunction in Washington and Europe have granted Africa’s leaders the authority and means to once again challenge intervention on the continent, whether it comes in the form of foreign diplomatic pressure, foreign aid, foreign rights monitors or even foreign correspondents.” (March 9)
Kenyatta said in his victory speech: “Today, we celebrate the triumph of democracy, the triumph of peace, the triumph of nationhood. We expect the international community to respect the sovereignty and democratic will of the people of Kenya. The Africa star is shining brightly and the destiny of Africa is now in our hands.” (March 9)
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson had said before the Kenyan elections that “choices have consequences.” Instead of scaring Kenyans into voting for Odinga, however, Carson’s remarks had the opposite effect, according to the New York Times of March 11, causing “widespread offense.”
The ICC has been severely criticized in Africa due to the fact that all of its indictments are centered on leaders and political figures targeted by the U.S. and other imperialist states. Kenyatta will be the second head of state facing indictments by the court, based in The Hague, Netherlands.
Republic of Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has been under indictment by the ICC for several years. He, too, has rejected the indictments as a tool utilized by Western powers against Sudan.
Most states in Africa and the Middle East, along with the African Union and the Arab League, have ignored the indictments against Bashir, who has traveled to numerous African and Arab states for international conferences in defiance of the ICC and the Western imperialist states, some of whom, like the U.S., are not even party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC.
An editorial published by the Zimbabwe Sunday Mail entitled “Lessons from Kenya’s Elections” said that “all indications point to the fact that this election will have far-reaching implications — not just for relations between Kenya and Western governments but also for relations between Western governments and the rest of the African continent.” (March 10)
The same article points out that Odinga has served as a mouthpiece for U.S. imperialist interests in Africa, attacking Zimbabwe and other states targeted by Washington.
Noting the significance of the developments in Kenya, the Sunday Mail stresses that “Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory sends a strong message to the bullies in Washington, London, Paris and Brussels that the people of Africa will no longer be intimidated by racist overlords. In spite of the International Criminal Court charges that dangled above his head like the proverbial sword of Damocles, Uhuru has gone on to win a tough election. It is a huge achievement.”
It will be interesting to see how the Obama administration proceeds in its relations with Kenya. The country’s strategic location and role within the region will continue to make it a focal point for imperialism. n