In Summary

• A great number of lawyers from all over the country found time off their busy schedules to cast their ballot for their preferred candidates in the designated poll stations.

Lawyer Nelson Havi./FILE

Lawyer Nelson Havi./FILE

Perhaps Kenyan Electorate and Politicians can learn a thing or two from Lawyer Leaders and the Law Society of Kenya fraternity. The 27th February 2020 was a marked calendar date for majority of practicing Advocates in Kenya. This was a day for the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) to elect members for various positions and the most significant being the position of the LSK president.

A great number of lawyers from all over the country found time off their busy schedules to cast their ballot for their preferred candidates in the designated poll stations.

There were a total of 36 polling stations across the country and the elections were conducted by the national regulatory agency responsible for conducting and supervising referenda and elections, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Voter Bribery and Money Campaign

The contenders for the various positions used various platforms to reach out to their electorate colleagues; from social media platforms to live debates. This year saw a different campaign strategy for the aspirants in comparison to the previous LSK election where food was served and wine flowed.

Money had visibly been poured. For many, the pomp, glitz and glamour that accompanied the 2018 LSK Campaigns were questionable and condemned as something which should not be associated with dignified members of the society.

The Law Society of Kenya Electoral Code of Conduct envisages that it is indeed a breach of the code of any candidate and/or their supporters to directly and/or indirectly bribe and treat and whatsoever to influence and/or induce member or members of the Society to vote or refrain from voting.

 Electoral Violence & Rigging

Politics can be murky and violence is no strange phenomena in any highly competitive election. How commendable that there was no single case of violence in the recently conducted LSK Elections, whether; before, during or even after the elections! Elections are perceived as catalysts of violence thus it is absolutely praiseworthy to note how the noble conduct of the members aided the adjudication of a successful election.

As reported on Thursday, February 27th in the Online Standard Newspaper, the IEBC officials who conducted the exercise expressly reported the process as free, fair and devoid of any hitches in as much as there were prior allegations of electoral rigging from some Aspirants.

Tribalism, Negative Ethnicity and Party Politics

Tribe has always been a major determinant in any leadership position in Kenya. Kenyan Politics and Leadership have always been characterized by tribe since independence. Leaders have always used the politics of tribe or party politics to their favor at the expense of the electorate.

The LSK Campaigns were sober and without the divisive strategy of tribe. The leaders did transverse the entire country seeking votes and social media was the most commonly used campaign platform for all. How laudable that the campaign was not marred by the tribal card or politics of negative ethnicity! The question of political party was also not a key feature and the contestants maintained objectivity in their campaigns.

Mudslinging and Hate Speech

It is further commendable how the entire campaign process was devoid of hate speech. Propaganda and opponent maligning are tools of electioneering most often used with the goal of using mass communication to influence perception. Both hate speech and propaganda are powerful campaign apparatus which have been used effectively in national elections, both in Kenya and beyond.

Apart from pockets of abuse, provocative and inflammatory statements on social media among supporters, there was no reported case of hate speech. The said abuse should not in any way be okayed, as again, electoral campaign conflict is a tactic in political competition which undermines election security.

Concessionary Speech

Even before the final tally and official declaration of the LSK Presidential Elect, it was clear as to the emerging winner. It was thus not a surprise that President Nelson Havi secured the win with Maria Mbeneka coming second followed by Charles Kanjama and Ms Chiggai respectively.

Perhaps one of the most sterling deeds in the entire process was the acceding of congratulatory messages and written concessionary speeches of the opponents. In Mrs Mbeneka’s written speech, she applauded the President Elect for his win, thanked her supporters, commended both Mr Kanjama and Ms Chiggai for being worthy opponents, called upon members of the society to stand firmly behind the President Elect and other elected Council Members and gave her commitment to working with him for the progression of the society.

Both Mr Kanjama and Ms Chiggai also gave their concessionary speeches with almost similar sentiments. The same was replicated with contenders of the other various positions.

Congratulating your opponent in his or her win and conceding defeat is an honorable thing, for as Adolf Hitler said “Anyone can deal with a victory. Only the mighty can bear defeat.” Mr Evans Monari, a member of the Law Society and an Advocate who needs no introduction quips that as per his observation, the electoral process was above board. He further joins many others to congratulate Mr Nelson Havi and puts emphasis on member support of the elected as pivotal to the society’s governance and  instrumental to discharging the society’s mandate.

It shall be something to look forward to as to if the fabric will hold. Whether the bar shall be brave-revamped is a hope for all LSK Members and a thing to watch out for!

The above article appeared on the Star Newspaper on the 1st of March, 2020

Ms Juliet O. Nyang’ai is an Advocate of the High Court and Principal Partner at Juliet Nyangai & Company Advocates. She can be reached at Twitter Handle @nyangaij