As the General Election fast approaches and the countdown to 8/8 begin in earnest, a significant block of voters and how they will vote in the presidential election is the subject of feverish speculation and even palpable trepidation. The Muslim vote is both highly coveted and is still up for grabs. The two principal presidential candidates President Uhuru Kenyatta and his challenger Raila Odinga and their surrogates are pulling the strings with a view to getting the lion share of this vote.
It is estimated that Muslim voters hover around the 2.5 million mark, with 450,000 in North Eastern, 200,000 in Upper Eastern, one million in the Coast, 300,000 in Nairobi and 500,000 others distributed throughout the rest of the country. The question is, whom between the two biggest presidential candidates will get the lion’s share of this vote, and what factors will influence or come into play on how Muslims casts their votes? Are the Muslim voters homogenous or are different regions influenced by different local and national consideration and factors? Are the candidates equally posed or is the Muslim vote tilted in favour of one candidate?
It is important to consider how the Muslim voter casts his/her vote during elections. Two important characteristics of the Muslim voter must be kept in mind. First, tribal consideration, the oxygen of the average Kenyan voter is not an important factor. Secondly, this is the only group that has some religious consideration in casting their voters to two Christian candidates, who have different views and policies towards the Muslim community.
The contest for Muslim votes will be one between the promises made to them by Raila Odinga and the unfulfilled promises or realities of how the community has been treated by Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto in the past five years.
Local, regional and national factors will weigh heavily in influencing voting patterns. An important fact here is the need to appreciate that the voting patterns of the Muslim vote in urban centres like Nairobi and Mombasa vis-a-vis those of the far-flung areas like Mandera, Moyale and Lamu are different. Different considerations come into play in different localities. For instance, Northern Kenya voters will be heavily influenced by wild promises and money. Those at the coast and urban centres, on the other hand, will be more calculating and are ideologically predisposed. The former will predominantly tilt to Jubilee while the later will vote for the Nasa camp.
Grievances on how the Jubilee government treated them are an important factor for Muslims in both northern Kenya and the coast. These regions are both ravaged by Muslim radicalisation of the youth and the high-handed response by the Jubilee Government has not helped matters. Whereas, like all Kenyans, Kenyan Muslims are victims and have actually been disproportionately affected by Al-Shabaab attacks, the Jubilee Government principally sees all Muslims as a Fifth Column in the country. The constant antics and attacks by Commissioner Marwa are a true testimony of how the Central government views Muslims.
In this regard, the extrajudicial killings of Muslim youth by security forces are very important consideration for the Muslim voter. The number of Muslim youths killed by security forces varies widely according to a number of sources. However, organisations like Muslims for Human Rights (Muhuri) and Human Rights Watch Africa put the numbers at between 600 and 1000 in the last eight years.
Initially, a specialised department within the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) predominantly carried the killings. Lately, however, in a major change of policy, the Jubilee government has authorised, at the highest level, the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) under General Charles Mwai to supplement the role of the DCI in extrajudicial killings. A number of accounts have emerged in the past six months showing the role of the MDI in extrajudicial killings in Nairobi, Lamu and North Eastern. According to multiple intelligence sources who confided in the Nairobi Law Monthly and who requested anonymity (see story on page…), MDI now plays a bigger role in extrajudicial killings than even the DCI.
The Joho Factor
Many Muslim voters who have lost loved ones, will be influenced by the extrajudicial killings in Northern and Coast regions of the country when casting their votes. This is also a very important factor in Nairobi, where many Muslim voters are expected to vote against the Jubilee presidential candidate on this account alone.
The Joho factor is another critical factor. He is the first politician since the coastal preacher Sheikh Balala in the early 1990s to have galvanised the Muslim community as a political force. Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho is now seen by the…
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