Referendum vote brought us closer to the fourth president of the republic of Kenya. He'll be a lot younger than most analysts want to believe.
The referendum had some fascinating pointers to help observant Kenyans look into the future and spot trends and other things that we are likely to see in the 2012 elections. Already we know that the next general elections in Kenya will be held under a brand new constitution but the referendum also clearly told us that we have some brand new voters and voting patterns that will NOT produce the kind of results we have come to expect from the Kenyan electorate for many years now.
Let me just list some of these key pointers here for your quick perusal
i) Era of Moi politics is well and truly over
For me the most delightful thing about the referendum was that it proved beyond any doubt that the era of Moi-style politics is truly over. There is no doubt that president Moi was the leader of the No camp and the tactics used by this group are the kind that would have assured them victory just a few years ago. The Uhuru park bombing was supposed to swing the public mood in the opposite direction so that Kenyans should have quickly lost all appetite for a new constitution if it meant regular blood-shed of this kind. Instead the bomb which killed at least half a dozen Kenyans only increased the resolve of most Kenyans to get a new constitution. And after all as John Githongo quite rightly points out, constitutions are usually written in blood.
Secondly Moi has always thrived on spreading lies and using scare tactics on unsuspecting ignorant Kenyans and during the referendum both Moi and Ruto used lies to turn some Kenyans against the proposed constitution. Moi has repeatedly told Kenyans that the new constitution allows Military personnel to picket and go on strike (what constitution in the world can allow that?). William Ruto’s most effective lie was the one where he convinced many Rift Valley farmers that the new constitution would limit land ownership to only 10 acres per person. While it is true that many votes were gained in this way, in the end the vast majority of Kenyan voters saw through the lies and scare tactics and firmly rallied behind a document that will change Kenya forever. This is very scary to those politicians who have always thrived on the ignorance of voters. And quite rightly so because we are going to see some shocking results in 2012 (or sooner).
ii) Referendum confirmed reality of young restless voters
For better or for worse the baton has been passed on to the younger generation of Kenyans. These voters will quickly abandon party lines if there is the slightest reason for them to do so. We saw this happen in the Matuga by-election with devastating consequences. Matuga is an interesting constituency because it has a voter profile that is very different from the rest of the country in that the majority of registered voters are senior citizens. These people firmly rallied behind the incumbent Ali Mwakwere. The vast majority of the young people were solidly behind the ODM challenge to Mwakwere. However at the very last minute they abandoned their candidate and voted for Mwakwere. The reason was that their candidate was boring, had zero charisma and hardly gave voters any reason to vote for him apart from the fact that he was an ODM candidate. We saw the same devastating trend played out right across the country during the referendum. Many conservative older Kenyans voted against the draft but the youngsters of Kenya had no doubt on their minds what they wanted. Interestingly even youths from many churches across the country defied their church leadership and voted YES. Woe unto you if you are an old boring candidate in 2012. Woe unto any candidate in 2012 who will quickly find out how unpredictable the young and restless can be.
iii) Vote confirmed Ruto’s reduced influence in the Kalenjin Rift Valley
Clearly a lot has changed in the Rift Valley since 2007 and William Ruto’s influence has reduced considerably. Hardly surprising for thpose who understand the Kalenjin community. These guys have historically been known to very quickly and emotionally shift their stance. This is the community that put its’ own leader to death for making a prediction that they would be defeated by the coming race of the White man. The name of that leader was Kimnyole the Nandi leader (Orkoiyot) who is best remembered for the amazingly acurate prophecies that he made one of which he died for. He clearly predicted the coming of the “devils” who would subdue the Nandi community and rule them. The Nandis recognized the British as the “devils” that Kimnyole predicted would rule them and fought them vigorously in a vain effort to ensure that the prophecy would not come to pass. Kimnyole was stoned to death on suspicions that he had caused famine in the land. However the real reason was that his prophecy on the Nandi being subdued upset powerful tribal elders. But before he was executed he summoned his sons and made them promise him that they would never accept any positions of leadership amongst this crazy community. One of his sons, Koitalel Samoei, did not keep that promise and is today considered the greatest leader and Orkoiyot that the Nandi ever had. One of his achievements is that his military genius enabled the community to resist the well armed Colonialists for 11 long years which has to be a record unmatched in the entire British empire of the time.
But back to my main point here. The significant thing here is that prospective MPs, Senators and governors will not need to get a Ruto nod to win elections in the region. The situation could of course dramatically change if Ruto stands trial at the Hague.
iv) Referendum proved that it will be very difficult to rig an election in Kenya in future.
Not many people came across some leaked confidential projections produced by retired president Moi at the No secretariat that showed the No side would win by a very slim margin of about 3,839,877 votes to the Yes camp’s 3,753,994. The breakdown is fascinating and brings out Moi’s specialty in rigging elections that saw him easily rig both the 1992 and the 1997 general elections in his favour. The idea is to come a close second in some areas whiole accumulating votes in other regions where you are not popular. But these extra votes tend to add up. In the Moi projections for the referendum the No side won ONLY in Eastern and Rift Valley while the Yes team won everywhere else and yet the No side still emerged victorious. With the new system of transmitting results directly from the 27,000 polling stations countrywide, rigging elections in Kenya will not be so easy in 2012. A great relief to most Kenyans.
v) Voting patterns excited Raila Odinga handlers BUT…
Raild Odinga handlers would like to think that the person who should get most credit for the YES win is their man. A neutral young prospective presidential candidate for 2012 recently told me that the vote proved that Raila would be the man to beat. I disagree. In my view things were a lot more complex than that and there were numerous different reasons why people voted YES as is the case with the NO votes. Even in Luo Nyanza there were many different reasons why people voted YES and not simply because Raila said so, as many would like to think. Folks I keep saying that era is well and truly over and those who doubt will be shocked in 2012. What the referendum voting patterns told me is that a young charismatic Kenyan with no clear relation to any particular tribe in Kenya will have a great chance to win the presidency in 2012 against all odds.
Even those who consider themselves superior to "stupid" Africans learnt a lot from Kenyan referedum vote