For all its flaws and risky outcome, Kenya's presidential election reveals a shift from tribal identities toward a better civic-mindedness. Voters did not want a repeat of the tribal violence after the 2007 election.
Whenever people rise above a personal bond to tribe and see themselves as citizens of a democracy first, it is worth hailing. Kenya’s presidential election last week comes close to earning such praise.
While tribal politics played a big part in the whisker-thin victory for Uhuru Kenyatta, it was Kenyans themselves who displayed a difference, with an assist from former United Nations diplomat Kofi Annan. Two years ago, they endorsed a new constitution designed to dampen tribal affinities in hopes of preventing violence.
This improved civic identity was best seen in the election’s aftermath. The loser, Raila Odinga, didn’t take his complaints about the vote to the streets as he did in 2007 after losing. Those protests led to more than 1,000 people being killed in tribal revenge. Instead, he recognized that the judicial and political reforms that resulted from that tragedy allowed him to place his trust in the courts to deal with his current claims of electoral violations.
“Any violence now could destroy this nation forever; that would not serve anyone’s interests,” Mr. Odinga said.
The election saw a record voter turnout – 86 percent – similar to the turnout in 2010 for ratification of the new Constitution. That document wisely distributes power in a nation with more than 40 tribes often at odds over resources such as land, especially in the Rift Valley.