Last week’s by-elections in Kabuchai and Matungu constituencies in Western Kenya and several wards across the country had been touted as a precursor of what Kenyans should expect in next year’s general elections.
The high stakes in the elections were flamed by the infamous Tangatanga campaign teams backing the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), a recently-unveiled outfit associated with beleaguered Deputy President William Ruto.
Weeks to the elections, Tangatanga-backed UDA supporters had already started deploying their most famous campaign strategy-violence.
As voting day approached, UDA went all out intimidating and threatening rival camps. The media was awash with the ‘hustler’ party’s representatives chest thumping how the hustlers of Western Kenya were going to teach the region’s dynasties a bitter lesson.
And therein lies the problem; In a democratic state like Kenya, voters must be able to exercise their key democratic right to vote in a free and fair atmosphere to get true representatives of their choice.
However, what was witnessed in Kabuchai, Matungu and the various wards turned out to be a “flee and flare” event courtesy of Ruto’s Tangatanga acolytes.
On polling day, violent pro-UDA youths stoned cars, lit bonfires and chased away their candidates’ opponents. Tangatanga leaders went ahead to beat up election officials and rival party agents. The violence would lead to the arrest of several “wheelbarrow” lawmakers.
This political intolerance and deep hatred towards the so-called dynasties by the hustler camp does not augur well for 2022.
The violent scenes witnessed in the by-elections mirror the same occurrences that characterised the run-up to the 2007 contest between the incumbent Mwai Kibaki and his main challenger Raila Odinga.
The violent campaign season went on unhindered and the anger and incitement exploded into what became the deadly post-election violence. It is therefore not amusing that one of the architects of the 2007 violence, William Ruto, is angling for the presidency next year.
Despite being charged with war crimes at the International Criminal Court (ICC), Ruto and his team seem not to have learnt any lesson from this and have been consistently beating the drums of war.
The fact that they still lost in the by-elections despite intimidating and heavily bribing voters shows that they can expect the same outcome in the presidential race next year.