Amos 5:24: Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream.
by Allison Schlack
For all fourteen and a half years I’ve been in Kenya, one thing has always been certain: corruption. Corruption in a very upfront form is a part of life, and honestly, there is often a feeling that anything is possible for the right price. We’ve watched and experienced this sort of corruption in everything from getting jobs and processing paperwork, to bribery at hospitals and airports, to counting votes in national elections. For most of Kenya’s people, it is a way of life. For those who keep up with major events in Kenya, it is easy to recall the mass violence, looting, and murders that occurred after the 2007 Presidential election, which many believe was rigged. Though the violence wasn’t nearly as bad five years later, people believed that the 2013 election was rigged as well.
|Kisumu on election day, as Kenyans showed displeasure at the heavy police presence. Photo by Tobias O., Ndoto Kenya staff member|
For those who live on the under-educated, unemployed, poorer side of Kenyan life, there is a burning sense of frustration, and hopelessness, and resignation. This is the way it has been and the way it will always be. Besides, whoever lends an ear to the ideas, disappointments, and dreams of slum dwellers? As this 2017 election approached, people secretly hoped and quietly shared the “what ifs” of change, but for the majority there was a resigned acceptance that history would repeat itself.
This election turned out like the rest. Plenty of inconsistencies, the murders of some key players, international intervention, and the announcement of a winner. Riots, violence, and protests erupted, but 2007 had prepared the government and police. Things were bad for a few days and then died down when police were brutal and the losing presidential candidate shared his plan to file a petition with the Supreme Court of Kenya.
The petition would highlight all of the inconsistencies and falsified results with plenty of details to back up these claims. The Supreme Court had two weeks to go through all the paperwork and hear from voices on both sides. On September 1st, the Supreme Court would issue its verdict.
|Celebrations in the street as the Court decision was announced. Photo by Allison Schlack|
The country waited for the 11 am press conference with bated breath. The anticipation was heavy, and yet this had happened before, usually unsuccessfully. As each judge read their opinion and the final opinion was issued by the chief justice, shouts of joy rang out in Kisumu, because for the first time on the African continent, a court had nullified an election and mandated a new election take place. It was shocking and beautiful and many, on both sides, were in disbelief.
In Kisumu, a stronghold of the opposition party leader, shouts of joy, honking, vuvuzelas, and dancing in the streets seemed to break out spontaneously around the city. At one point, every major road near my house was packed with thousands of people celebrating. After watching the press conference, I came down the hallway in my house, to find my dear friend Mary kneeling in prayer.
|Mary in a prayer of thanksgiving in Allison’s home. Photo by Allison Schlack|
This is a very complex political issue, not easily explained in a few paragraphs. But for the millions of Kenyans who have lived for decades feeling oppressed, unheard, or overlooked, it was a monumental victory. For all of Kenya, and by extension Africa, it is monumental as well. This is the first time in a long time in the Kenyan political arena that justice has won. I kept saying to people, “We are watching history unfold. These justices will be whom our young children study one day at school. Justice has gained a foothold.”
|Supporters of Raila in Kisumu were overjoyed by the Court’s decision. Photo by Allison Schlack|
A courageous group of judges appeared unswayed by bribes, threats, or coercion. They examined the evidence and made a ruling. We all sat in disbelief, jaws ajar. Could it be? Could there be a new election in Kenya? The answer is yes. Per the constitution, a new election must be held within 60 days. We now wait and prepare for the momentous moment. This is a day I will never forget, for justice rolled on like a mighty river…