International - As the Kenyan poll tallying entered its final hours on Friday, Prof Mahmood Mamdani accused the International Criminal Court, which had indicted the winner Uhuru Kenyatta for war crimes, of inserting itself into the election and re-ethnicizing the country's politics.
Prof Mahmood Mamdani, the executive director of Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR) at accused the ICC of polarizing Kenyan politics. He said historical ethnic divisions were worsened by the recent ICC indictment of some Kenyan politicians over crimes against humanity.
"De-ethnicizing of the Kenyan elections had taken place in 2010 during the Constitution-making exercise, but the re-ethnicizing of the Kenya politics began in 2011 with the announcement by the ICC that it was going to take the (Luis) Ocampo six in The Hague," Mamdani told a panel discussion on the Kenyan elections at MISR.
He said he appreciated that the historical ethnic problem in Kenyan politics was premised on land struggles. Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's founding president, won the presidential contest by the slimmest of margins with 50.07 per cent, just enough to avoid a run-off after a race that has divided the nation along tribal lines.
Uhuru and running mate William Ruto are facing criminal charges at the ICC. The two are charged with aiding and abetting the political violence that followed the election of 2007.
Mamdani said the ICC proceedings polarized Kenyans and it became an election issue used by the Jubilee coalition of Kenyatta to mobilize voter support.
"This side [which] presents itself as victimized, has been turned into a sacrificial lamb. But, you also know that this side was ready to fight to the end because there was no other option," Mamdani said. "Anyone who has fought wars knows that the better thing you can do is to put your enemy in a situation where they have no option, when there is a battle, it means either life or death."
Analyzing how the ICC indictment worked in favour of the Jubilee coalition, Mamdani said that Cord alliance led by Odinga made a political blunder by remaining silent and ambivalent about the ICC proceedings.
"Due to this, Jubilee managed to tap into the overwhelming sentiment of peace in Kenya. Sometimes you can vote in favour of the warlord if the warlord is most likely to give you peace. Jubilee reinvented itself as a party of grand reconciliation and presented Cord as the party of vengeance," he said.
However, the head of the department of Political Science and Public Administration at Makerere University, Dr Sallie Kayunga Simba, who was also a panelist, said: "There are no political parties that have clear political ideologies, this stifles the formation of well- articulated political conviction and makes it difficult to build strong institutions needed in the democratization of a society," he said.
Another panelist, Andrew Mwenda, backed Kayunga's point, adding that Kenyan politics, defined through ethnic contests, is high on political opportunism and patronage as opposed to service delivery.
"The makeshift alliances of powerful elites have trickled down to opportunism and the ordinary leaders tend to follow candidates based on ethnic affiliation instead of the capacity of candidates to deliver service," Mwenda said.
By Sulaiman Kakaire