Election Dramas Exhaust Kenya, Where Democracy Is Challenged

Distraught Kenyan schoolgirls huddled against an alleyway wall, trapped between stone-throwing protesters and police wielding clubs and firing tear gas in an outbreak of violence following Kenya’s disputed election that left national divisions more entrenched.

The girls scrambled to safety in a scene that captured the anguish of a flawed democracy facing protracted pressures unless Kenya’s rival camps can somehow accommodate.

The question of how the democratic institutions and relatively open society of this leading East African nation will respond is a bellwether for the continent, where democracy evolves in some places and authoritarianism takes root in others.

“This is not just about Kenya,” said Murithi Mutiga, a Nairobi-based senior analyst for the International Crisis Group.

“It’s about the idea of moving toward greater and greater political competition and freedom and against those that say, ‘Let’s privilege economic development and forget political liberalism for now.'”

Kenya is in a lull after a bruising election cycle in which an Aug. 8 vote was nullified by the Supreme Court because of flaws, and an Oct. 26 repeat vote was boycotted by opposition leader Raila Odinga.