The ongoing government-backed crackdown on civil society players is yet another significant blow to Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who lost to incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta in last week’s election, analysts said.
The ongoing government-backed crack- down on civil society players is yet an- other significant blow to Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who lost to incum- bent Uhuru Kenyatta in last week’s election, analysts said. Over the past one week, the Non- Governmental Organizations (NGOs) Coordination Board has deregistered the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and Africa Centre for Open Governance (Africog)—some of the most influential civil society bodies, citing regulatory breaches.
The action has elicited global and local uproar over what some see as a clamp down by the government on dissenting voices. Government allies said some of the civil society organizations have been behind a push for regime change and were keen on backing ‘civil unrest’. At play, analysts said, is strategic power games by a coterie of opposition politicians, foreign governments and civil society actors who had bet on stopping the re-election of President Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto.
President Kenyatta comfortably secured a second term in office, going with figures by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), trouncing his arch rival Raila Odinga by over 1.5 million votes. Potentially, this has put a big dent on the former Prime Minister’s political career, in a contest that saw the President get 8.2 million votes against Raila’s 6.7 million. On Wednesday, Raila said he would move to the Supreme Court to contest the results. Analysts reckon civil society players could emerge a crucial cog in the Supreme Court battle, adding they were behind Raila’s presidential campaigns.
But unlike in 2013, it has emerged that Raila’s NASA was unable to capture the full support of the civil society and powerful foreign governments, a combination that has traditionally proved to be politically disruptive to the government in power in previous administrations. It has emerged that a growing number of Western powers were edgy to support a re-engineering of Kenya’s leadership through an ‘opposition strategy”, which they previously pursued for over a decade.
Since 2003, Raila has been embraced by the West as a safe pair of hands if he rises to the Kenyan Presidency. Raila was embraced as a counterforce to the growing influence of a new indigenous class of entrepreneurs challenging and even displacing Western interests in Kenya while forging new linkages with a rising China. He has, therefore, been the pivot of an ‘Opposition Strategy’ that the West has pursued in Kenya after the exit of President Daniel Moi in 2002.
This strategy has involved financial, strategic and logistical and diplomatic support to the opposition—mainly the ODM in 2005-2012 and Cord since 2012—to help it win democratic elections and replace what was then seen as unfavorable government. An emerging school of thought believes that the sections of civil society sympathetic to NASA were operating as a third force, a group led by Dr. Ekuru Aukot with the doyen of civil society Dr. Willy Mutunga—the former Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court— as a key player.
The group was ideologically pushing for a coalition of third forces involving opposition and civil society activists and churches to provide the alternative opposition to the government. The other actors in here include Boniface Mwangi, David Ndii, Professor Makau Mutua, George Kegoro and Maina Kiai. So, what was the role of the civil society organizations in the August 8 election.