In August, Kenyans went to the polls whose presidential results were declared invalid, null and void by the Supreme Court 21 days later.
Across the world, the ruling by the Supreme Court was hailed as a major step forward for the country.
The New York Times, for instance, said “the Supreme Court has done a major service to democracy and the rule of law.”
In Kenya, however, the ruling became the signal Jubilee was waiting for to put the country on the road to authoritarianism.
It gave Jubilee the excuse for declaring a holiday of everything that matters; democracy, justice and fundamental freedoms and liberties.
Dictatorships are usually products of deliberate and carefully executed actions that lead to the creation of a superhuman out of the leader.
The Jubilee administration is on a tested path for instituting dictatorship. Immediately after the ruling, President Uhuru Kenyatta declared war on the four judges who upheld the petition calling them crooks and likening them to coup leaders. The President has announced his intention to “fix the Judiciary” after new elections. It is very clear he will go after the four judges. The president and his entourage also began to use the minority ruling as a basis for changes to election laws.
At the same time, the State has also used the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to investigate the Registrar of the Supreme Court Esther Nyaiyaki whose “crime” was to deliver a scrutiny report of election results ordered by court.
In the days after the ruling, we have witnessed a campaign to paint the Opposition as an enemy of the nation and agent of external forces just because we have sought free, fair and credible elections conducted in accordance with the laws and the Constitution in line with Court ruling. Inventing local and foreign enemies is a well-known path for would-be dictators.
The administration has also continued with the crackdown on individuals and institutions that it started in the run up to the polls and which saw civil society organisations like the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and the Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) crippled in August.
Throughout its tenure, Jubilee has persistently referred to civil society as “evil society.” The crackdown was therefore premeditated.
Jubilee has initiated a process to have Parliament change election laws and reduce the powers of the chairman of the IEBC.
The ruling party’s MPs voted to reduce the publication of the Bill on amendments to Elections Laws from 14 days to one day. The Bill and its quick passage was chilling in its similarity with what happened in 1982 when Kanu proposed and approved a constitutional amendment to make Kenya a de jure single-party system within one afternoon.
The developments in the National Assembly are certainly instigated by the Executive and represent a merger between party and state as happened in 1980s with the consequence of consolidating dictatorship. Subsequently, the division of functions between party and Executive changed. Parliament, the ruling party and even the Judiciary all became part of the Executive. That pattern has started again.
The use of Parliament to attack and tame the Judiciary for the Executive also has chilling similarities with what happened in August 1988 when Parliament amended the Constitution to give the President unrestricted powers to dismiss judges of the Appeal Court, the highest court in the land then, and the High Court, where civil litigation begins and also gave the police wider powers of detention.
The amendment represented yet another step toward placing greater power in the hands of the President and the then Kanu ruling party.
Then as now, it was a hurried job that started with declarations and warnings to judges at public rallies that Kanu was more powerful than any other institution in the country, including both Parliament and the courts.
The Bill was published on Thursday and approved unanimously by Parliament in less than two hours the following Tuesday.
It gave the police the authority to hold without charge for up to 14 days people suspected of capital offenses, increased from the previous time limit of 24 hours.
This past week, Kenyans witnessed police unleash unprecedented violence on university students whose only crime was to picket in support of a Member of the National Assembly who was once their leader.
The arrest, release and re-arrest of the MP, Babu Owino, was stark reminder of the 1980s when Kenyans were arrested on made up charges and held incommunicado for months sometimes ending with death and disappearance of the suspects.
Jubilee is also creating a police and militia state. This country has seen the Jeshi la Mzee, Mungiki, Ngoroko, among other militia groups before.
Today, Kenyans are seeing Jubilee dress members of the Mungiki militia in police regalia in defence of the State.
Thugs of State, that is, groups of mean looking men, dressed by the State in police uniforms to terrorize and kill innocent citizens are becoming fair game for the regime.
The use of militia in State operations brings to memory the Tonton Macoutes during Haiti’s harsh rule under François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, and his son, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier that ended in 1986.
In a nutshell, Kenyans are seeing the emergence of standard practice for closing down an open society as happened in the 1980s.
However, many Kenyans still assume it targets only those pushing Jubilee to account and others have nothing to fear.
The truth is that everyone is in danger. For now, it is a perfect case of what anti-Nazi pastor Martin Niemöller, wrote: “First they came for the Jews.” The rest will follow.
A very small band of patriots stands between us and a return to tyranny. Only a collaborative effort will stop Jubilee from turning the Supreme Court ruling into a gift from God that gives the State the latitude to institute the dictatorial agenda it began immediately after assuming office.
By Raila Odinga,
NASA presidential candidate