15. Of heartbeats, sneezes and the stars

By Kap Kirwok

January 5th 2013

This is the year of heartbeats, sneezes and the stars. It is the year of anxiety and uncertainty. Which means it is also the year of ecstasy – potentially.

There are many moments that will quicken your pulse but let us just review two and explore hypothetical scenarios.
It is the day of the ruling. No, I don’t mean the ICC cases – those won’t be due for a couple of years. I mean the ruling in the case challenging the eligibility of UhuRuto to run for office. All sides have argued their points. It is a matter of hours now before the Supreme Court rules. Will UhuRuto pass the Chapter 6 litmus test on leadership and integrity as required by the constitution? Hearts are beating hard in the chests of millions, harder in what used to be Central and Rift Valley provinces. No one wants to sneeze lest they upset the delicate alignment of the stars and invite bad luck.

The atmosphere is charged, thanks to pro- and anti-UhuRuto politicians who, earlier as the case progressed, had done their best to poison the discourse. One side argued, “The sovereign will of the people, (not that of a few non-elected judges), should be allowed to prevail. The people are above all institutions.” The other side countered: “But it is the same sovereign will of the people that brought forth the current Constitution! Until the same sovereign will of the people change the constitution, they must accept to abide by it as it is.”

As the arguments were hurled back and forth, the Chief Justice, Willy Mutunga, got caught in the crossfire. Some argued that he was being used by Western powers, the USA in particular, to block UhuRuto from power. The Chief Justice was forced to take the extraordinary step of issuing a statement. “I urge politicians and activists not to mislead the public. The Supreme Court rulings are not made by one person. Each judge, including the President of the Court, is independent and has only one vote.”

It is the day after the ruling. The Court ruled that UhuRuto are… (someone sneezed) ineligible to run for office. This triggers isolated riots which are quickly suppressed. UhuRuto call a press conference and address their supporters. They urge calm and promise to announce their next course of action in a few days. Uhuru, looking unusually pensive, concludes his statement by saying “There comes a time when the nation is more important than an individual.” (George Saitoti smiles in his grave).

But the ruling could go the other way; giving UhuRuto the green light to proceed, in which case the nation faces another moment of heartbeats, sneezes and the stars.

Fast-forward to the day after March 4 2013.

The elections returns are substantially in. Results from a few swing counties are awaited. The race has been tight and tense right to the end. Even though the CORD presidential candidate has been leading in all opinion polls, voter turnout, undecided voters and ‘acts of God’ could deny him victory.

The margin of undecided voters has been a source of uncertainty. In every opinion poll, the margin has remained stubbornly high. Did these voters, in the last minute, break for CORD or Jubilee? Did many of them decide not to vote altogether?

To add to the uncertainty, freak torrential rains have been falling in many parts of the country, especially in parts of Nyanza and Western, causing floods and cutting off roads. It is feared voter turnout in these areas has been affected. In contrast, results already received show high voter turnout in areas that were projected to vote for the Jubilee Coalition candidate.

Hearts are pounding. Everyone is afraid to sneeze. The fate of the nation seems to lie in the stars.

The trickle of the election results from the swing counties suddenly turn into a flood. In less than one hour, all results are substantially in. The verdict is clear. The winner, by 51 % of the national vote and above 50% in more than 24 counties, is … the Jubilee coalition. There is a chorus of sneezing in the CORD Coalition.

But then again, it could be the reverse – barring no floods and voter apathy – the CORD coalition triumphs.

There is, of course, the chance that neither Jubilee nor CORD will garner enough votes to achieve an outright win, and that the winner will only be determined in a subsequent run-off.

Whatever the outcome, one thing is certain. It will be a rocky year marked by confusion and fights over the exercise of power and access to resources as we transition from a central to a devolved system of governance.

It will only be rockier- for years – if the Jubillee coalition triumphs.

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