No, The Kenyan Economy Does Not Need Teargas

A recent demonstration by a section of the Kisumu people against the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) have left many Kenyans laughing. The demonstrations against the IEBC come after the Supreme Court nullified the Kenyan presidential results and ordered a rerun. Many people of the opposition party have been demanding reforms of the IEBC before the rerun. In one of the demonstrations, a speaker was quoted to say that they wanted teargas to be thrown at them. Yes, really. Someone actually said that. What is more? He said that a demonstration without teargas is not a demonstration and that they had paid for the teargas with their tax. Why would anyone in their right mind say that? Have they not learned from 2007? The economy took a huge hit and will do so again if fighting resumes again after October 26. Let us take a look at the history of elections in Kenya and what they do for this promising economy.

Historically speaking, elections have not been fair on the Kenyan economy. Since Kenya attained independence, the country has had ten elections and majority of those marred by violence. The biggest happened in 2007 when conflict resulted in excess of 1000 dead and at least 500,000 displaced. It goes without saying that the economy suffers negatively. In fact, with the exception of 1992 elections, where the economy grew by a meagre 0.2%, 0.5% growth for the 1997 and 2002 elections and a bit of improvement in 2013, the economy was negatively affected or stagnated. The most notable of these slumps was in 2007. Should Kenya witness similar conflicts, the economy would lose at least three points. As it stands, the growth is within the region of 5.6%, which is last year’s growth rate. It fell short of the predicted 6.0% but not by much. If the rerun creates violence, three points off would mean roughly 3.6%.

As it is, the tension has hit the economy hard. No investor wants to take the risk of investing money which could be lost if clashes were to occur. Most of them are taking the wait-and-see approach. They are waiting for the elections to pass. If it turns out well, they will invest. If not, they won’t invest here, probably in a different country. With Uganda’s economy looking the second most attractive in the East African region, they will go there where there is more political stability. The current drought and high levels of corruption have also affected the economy since Kenya relies too much on agriculture and cannot produce enough food for everyone. Agriculture is a major contributor alongside another adversely affected sector namely tourism. With all this tension in the nation, tourism numbers have dropped massively with the revenue also reducing. Combined with recent insecurity in some coastal regions by terrorist groups, the country has enough to deal with.

Keep in mind that these official figures are sometimes questionable. For example, Kenya’s economic improvement in 2013 is questionable, given it was another election year. Coming so soon after the 2007 clashes, it would more likely drop. Official figures have contradicted what most would perceive as common sense. Even experts have labelled the figures as suspiciously stable which at times contradict other sources. Is the government misleading us with these figures? Common sense agrees.

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. We do not need or want teargas like in 2007. I use the word teargas figuratively here to mean violence. Your precious town of Kisumu cannot survive it. The recent clashes before the ruling exposed Kisumu as a city that cannot produce enough food to sustain its residents. It depends on food from other towns. That is why people inciting violence like Moses Kuria should be punished extensively for such irresponsible words. What you need my Kisumu brother is for that teargas money to buy you food and supplies. What you need to do is pray that instead of Moses Kuria wasting state resources with childish words, pray that he does not and those resources get you the maize flour to your precious Kisumu. What Kenya need is for everyone to collectively say no to violence and vote peacefully so that we can all move forward. Come October 26, let us not necessitate the use of teargas.

Ferdinand Bada
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