Kenya is an African country, thousands of miles from Guyana. However, we have much in common as well as some important differences. Despite the huge distance that separates our two countries we have had many close contacts.
A lot of the similarities stem from the fact that we have some historical commonalities. We were colonised by the same metropolitan power, Great Britain. Some of the same tactics were used to divide and rule us. In Guyana’s case, the racial diversity of the society was the main instrument used; in the case of Kenya tribal differences were used to achieve the same objective.
Both of our countries still suffer because of these divisions first used by the colonialists. It was, therefore, only natural that during the fight for independence our leaders forged a close unity with each other. The PPP and Cheddi Jagan were at the forefront in giving solidarity to the independence movement in Kenya.
The Kenyan comrades reciprocated. In 1963 Jomo Kenyetta sent greetings to the PPP’s 11th Congress. In part he said: “… I send you my and my people’s best wishes for the success of the conference. British Guiana and Kenya are both fighting for freedom. You were on the verge of freedom when the clock was put back. I admire the courage and perseverance of the people of your country; they are again within sight of freedom. I wish British Guiana good luck in its endeavours.” He went on to add, “… I hope and wish that very soon both our countries will be free of all foreign shackles…”
In May of 1963, Jomo Kenyetta won the elctions that eventually led to the independence of that country.
Cheddi Jagan was among the first to send his congratulations and best wishes to Jomo Kenyetta.
Both our countries won their independence, but not without serious damage done by the colonial masters. One of the legacies was corruption and the rigging of elections. In all these cases a great fight took place to ensure that we rid ourselves of this scourge.
In the case of Guyana, we made great strides due to the relentless struggle of our people and support from the international community. However, in the 2015 elections a reversal took place.
Here is where we see the major differences of our two countries. This relates to the institutions to guarantee democracy.
The PPP/Civic took an Elections Petition to the court. This was done more than two years ago.
The Elections Commission went to court to quash the hearing of the case. The case was not heard promptly. It took a year for it to be heard. The court disagreed with the Elections Commission and ruled that they would hear the case.
That was the first step. One would have thought since the court had ruled that they would have heard the case at an early date. That is not the case. Up to the time of writing no date has been set to hear a case that is so urgent.
The experience of democratic countries is quite different. Trinidad and Tobago for instance, held its elections after Guyana and an Elections Petition was made opposing the results.
That case was heard expeditiously and ruled on very quickly.
Kenya held their elections on August 8, 2017. The opposition in Kenya took a Petition to court. The court heard the case very quickly and in one month ruled that the irregularities were so great that it could have materially altered the outcome of the elections. They ruled that new elections must be held in a month.
That decision by the Court of Kenya is historic.
In my view, it is good for democracy. It shows the importance of the separation of powers in the functioning of a democracy. In this regard, Kenya has become a beacon of hope.
Unlike Kenya, the court in Guyana has not even set a date to hear the Elections Petition.
This by itself is sending a bad signal. After all, they see and hear of the many constitutional violations of this APNU+AFC regime. The comments by the President on the ruling of the Chief Justice in relation to the list of names submitted by the Leader of the Opposition for him to choose the Chairman of Gecom is a case in point. Another, is the way they are ordering the constitutional commissions ‒ the Public Service Commission and the Police Service Commission.
Kenyan society has many problems. However, the events that have unfolded there and, are still unfolding, offer hope that the conditions would be created for the development of a vibrant democracy, one in which their people would prosper.