Kenya’s term limits should be emulated

Kenya presidential candidates, from left to right; Raila Odinga, George Wajackoyah, William Ruto and David Mwaure Waihiga. PHOTO | NMG

What you need to know:

  • The issue: Kenyan elections.
  • Our view: The term limits also put incumbents at pressure to deliver so that they leave a legacy.  A case in point is Mr Uhuru’s desire to leave better infrastructure projects. 

Tomorrow is polling day in Kenya. Over 20 million will choose the fifth president of the region’s biggest economy to replace Mr Uhuru Kenyatta.

The outgoing leader, son of Kenya’s first president Mr Jomo Kenyatta, has been in power for the last 10 years having ascended to office in 2013.  

The Constitution grants two five-year terms for president, deputy president, and governors. 

The debate about the 60-year old’s legacy will last beyond his lifetime. First, Mr Uhuru is in charge of an extremely polarising election.

It pits his deputy president, Mr William Ruto, against former-foe-turned-friend Mr Raila Amolo Odinga.

Since the exit of Mr Daniel Arap Moi in 2002, Kenya has been on the brink of post-election crises.

The most significant of those was the 2007 violence after Mr Mwai Kibaki beat Mr Odinga in a disputed poll.

The disputed vote led to an eruption of politically-motivated tribal violence largely involving two of Kenya’s main ethnic groups, the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin, that saw more than 1,100 people killed.

Having run and lost the 2002 poll to Mr Kibaki, Mr Uhuru had now changed and backed Mr Kibaki five years later.

In 2013, Mr Uhuru -- a Kikuyu -- allied with Mr Ruto, a Kalenjin, and was elected president.

Both were indicted by the International Criminal Court for their role in the 2007-2008 killings but the cases eventually collapsed.

When Mr Uhuru beat Mr Odinga, a Luo, in 2017, the country was again plunged into turmoil which prompted the handshake between the pair in 2018.

Police had cracked down on opposition protests to deadly effect prior.

His victory having been annulled by the Supreme Court, he won a re-run after his then opponent Mr Odinga boycotted the process.

However, his pet political project, the Building Bridges Initiative, which aimed to expand the executive, was deemed illegal by the Supreme Court, and the will of the court won.

Kenya has demonstrated since 2010 that leaders come and go, thanks to the two term limit law. 

The term limits also put incumbents on pressure to deliver so that they leave a legacy within a given period of time.  

A case in point is Mr Uhuru’s desire to leave better infrastructure projects.  Under him, Kenya has delivered the much-revered Standard Gauge Railway, the Nairobi Expressway, electricity overage and many others.

Many countries in the region should look at this in awe and strive to be like Kenya.


You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.