One of Kenya’s leading economists has said he is “sick” of being asked whether the country’s general elections next month will trigger violence. He added that people whose sole interest in the polls on 8 August was whether or not there would be clashes were setting a “very low bar” for the country. Kwame Owino, chief executive of Kenya’s Institute of Economic Affairs, told the Guardian he was fed up with people only asking him for a prediction as to whether there would be unrest after the country goes to the polls, as there was after the 2007 elections, which resulted in more than 1,000 people being killed and 600,000 displaced from their homes. “We are hung up with 2007 and 2008, which were very specific circumstances,” he said. “We have the view that anything that doesn’t lead to violence is acceptable. It’s not.
“I’m tired of this idea, will the elections be peaceful or not? That’s not the only result that we expect. We have a very ambitious constitution, so to simply say that we have a result and we have no violence, that’s setting a very low bar for ourselves. I think we should be more ambitious and say we’ll have a peaceful election, we’ll have a legitimate presidency, we’ll have a successful transition, because there’s also the parliamentary elections. We expect to reach the two-thirds gender goals that the constitution has set for us [which demands one-third of positions in parliament are filled by women], all that.”
Next month, Kenyans will be electing a president, a parliament and local politicians, including county governors. The two main rivals for the presidency are the incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, the country’s former prime minister, who also ran in 2013 against Kenyatta, and in 2007 against Mwai Kibaki. Odinga alleges both elections were rigged.
Fears about violence mean that in every election year the economy suffers a drop in growth of about one percentage point, as foreign and Kenyan investors wait to see what the result will be and how it will be received.