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2013 KENYAN ELECTION

A BIRD’S EYE VIEW


I don’t have to be a political scientist to figure out the on- going political structure and behaviour in the 2013 presidential race in Kenya. This time the race is characterized by bizarre sceneries. The noticeable phenomena is the number of political parties that have been formed. By April 2012 only 24 parties had received their registration certificates while the other 22 were still processing theirs. The party formation can be classified into three categories:

1) The dominant major parties that are the Key Players.

2) The old and new active parties harnessing substantial support.

3 ) The small parties who are non- starters.

The major parties dominate the political platform and have a broad base of supporters, while the small parties are seasonal, emerging only during the elections and disappearing before or after the election. One wonders whether this is a demonstration of liberal democracy in presentation, or a mockery of democracy. Technically, the main objective of these non-starters is to form a powerhouse to strike a bargain with   (the key player party), and hopefully to be rewarded with positions in the government if the key player they are affiliated to wins the election. The other possible reason would be to make hey when the sun shines.

Since independence, party dominance trend has not changed. In 1963 Kikuyus and Luos (KANU, NPCP and KIM) voted together in the KANU ticket. KAMATUSA, (an acronym for Kalenjin, Maasai, Turkana and Samburu) voted on the KADU ticket. APP (African People’s Party) which was formed by the late Paul Ngei, just a few months before the election, was dissolved immediately after the election.  In 1963 3 out 6 parties won 95 % of the total votes. In August 1992, 3 out 8 parties, (KANU under Moi , FORD-Asili led by Kenneth Matiba, and FORD- Kenya led by  Raila Odiga won  81 % of the total votes.  In 1997, 3 out of 15 parties, (KANU led by Moi, DP led by Kibaki, and NDP led by Raila Odinga won 81% of the total votes.  In 2008 3 out of 9 parties, (PNU led by Kibaki, ODM led by Raila, and ODM_K led by Kalonzo attained 99 % of the total votes.

One common element in all the parties is the lack of a tangible Party Ideology and manifesto declaring how they are going to achieve their proposed goals. So far, not a single party leader has presented a budget outline on government income and expenditure including the modalities of funding the programs they are promising to initiate and accomplish.  It is the same old story with a different tune of “if elected as president I will do this and that”. The candidates have totally ignored the critical issues such as internal security, foreign policy, and corruption.

The present political phenomenon has produced numerous political vagrants who have been engaged in a high rate of political marriages of convenience and divorces. Since Political monogamy does not seem to be working, they have turned to political polygamy. Most of these non-starter parties have no political stance at all.  They just fly with the wind, whatever direction it takes them, looking for goody goodies for themselves. Today they claim to be liberals, tomorrow they are democrats, and the day after, republicans. They are not concerned about the mandate and interests of the people who elected them. They behave like a matatu that has no specific route, carrying its passengers to no particular destination.

The other common feature is tribal alignment resulting in solidarity and consolidation that has become more pronounced this time more than ever before. This political format has been triggered by the fear and mistrust some of the communities experienced in the 2007/8 violence. Tribal loyalty is another major factor in this attribute. Some of the party leaders have been anointed by their communities and treated as heroes or messiahs for championing their cause. This is understandable for there are dues to be paid.

At the moment, some of the tribes have realized too late that unless they unite and speak in one voice they will keep on being used to add up the math forever. Despite the tribal alignment the presidential aspirants still come from the key player parties or tribes. Therefore, it is a fact that some tribes have no choice but to vote across the tribal basis. From this perspective, it will depend on how the Kenyans appreciate or gauge the candidates. During the last USA presidential elections, most of the people interviewed said that although Mitt Romney had promised change and had good economic policies they could not trust him. They wondered how a fanatical republican could change overnight into a moderate democrat. Similarly, that is how I view the Kenyan situation.

Since no single presidential candidate seems to have a broad base support, tribal balkanization is the only eminent maneuver to gain the numbers. This arrangement prompts the equation of sharing the national cake (What do you bring in? And what is my gain?), in terms of “I or my community”.

The issue of holding personal grudges and perpetrating revenge among the presidential aspirants has been displayed publically, boiling over to tribal basis. In the past, all the tribes were united to fight a common enemy.  Now that the common enemy no longer exists, it is about “everyone for themselves and God for us all”.  The fear among some of the aspirants is that if the estranged opponent wins the election, they will introduce Anarchy “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” to settle the scores. People will be jailed, loose jobs, and property confiscated. Some communities have developed a habit of threatening and punishing other communities living in their constituencies for not voting for a certain candidate. This culture should not be acceptable in a civilized world. The individuals involved in propagating this culture need civic education on Constitutional Rights.

“Kenyan Constitution: Chapter V 70 —Whereas every person in Kenya is entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, that is to say, the right, whatever his race, tribe, place of origin or residence or other local connection, political opinions, color, creed or sex, but subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest.”

In this case the state has the responsibility to protect its citizens and should be held accountable for failure to do so.

The Kenyan constitution and ICC ghosts have complicated matters and thrown some of the aspirants and their cronies into total disarray to fight for their lives. I am happy that both institutions are very firm in stipulating and enhancing the rule of law. No more abuse of the law and no one is above the law as was in the past. Does “Hate Speech”, article 19 of bill 2007 sound familiar?  It seems as if Kenya has borrowed the 17th century “Hammurabi Code”  Justice for all and equal application of the law to all irrespective of one’s status.  One has to play by the rules of the game or face the repercussions. Thanks for the timely protection of the masses.

The Dynasty political hangover is still looming in the minds of some of the presidential aspirants. These politicians and their cronies have no idea that the era of Political inheritance and hegemony is a thing of the past in Kenya Mpya.  Because these cronies own massive amounts of wealth, they need somebody who can protect their wealth and influence, inside the government. They use their wealth to buy politicians and voters. It never worked in the last USA presidential election. They better consult with Mitt Romney who spent 3 billion of us$ yet did not make it! Wake up people, the time has changed. That was then, and this is now. That political era is long gone. Kenya should not revert to political anarchy (lack of political authority and philosophy). An individual’s power is in the right to vote, voice their opinions, and participate in the national decision making process. The public should be educated that selling their votes is tantamount to trading, in part, of their constitutional rights.

Fear of Economic and Political dominance by some of the communities is currently playing a great role in the 2013 presidential elections. It is no longer a secret that several politicians and communities are openly expressing themselves loud and clear. This factor has become very crucial and relevant to the present political election, as the Kenyan population has increased tremendously relative to the diminishment of the socioeconomic resources. Specifically, it is this factor that bears the bone of contention among the tribes.  In this aspect, the candidates have totally failed to address the issues of inflation (price of commodities), low cost housing, social health conditions, farmers etc., that affect the person at the very bottom.

Since independence, Kenyan politics and economy have been dominated and influenced at least by four communities. The major reason has been the demographics, resource endowment, and political supremacy which have been in their favour. So far, there has been a political monopoly by two tribes and that is why there is a national outcry for change. However, demographic change, time logs, human geographical mobility, technology and development, ethnic/tribal intermarriage and social interaction have revolutionized these conservative concepts into liberal thinking. In the past, the small tribes have been treated as nonexistent; mere numbers filling up the cracks. In other words, like security guards to be called upon whenever there is a mutiny against the ruling class.  Remember this popular statement once made by a politician ? “It is just a passing cloud”. Unfortunately, the cloud was so slow that it took 24 years to pass. Now that the oversight has been fixed by the constitution, Kenyans are curious to see how the spirit of sharing the national cake is going to be? Meanwhile, Kenyans are not able to guess because of the frequency in which aspirants and their parties are shifting.

Kenya no longer needs radical leaders who will plunge the country into civil war and economic catastrophe. Instead, Kenya needs a leader who will create a peaceful political environment that will induce local and external investment. A leader who will create a peaceful environment that will encourage all Kenyans to participate in other economic and social activities without fear or threats. Kenyans already know what they want. It is the politicians who do not understand what Kenyans want.

I do not think 40 million Kenyans can afford to suffer political and economic repercussions and be internationally isolated for making the wrong decision. There are many poor farmers and producers in other sectors of the economy who depend entirely on export as their income.  Kenya also depends largely on industrial import and if economic embargo is imposed against Kenya it will be very disastrous. Tourism is one of the industries that will be affected, not to mention the significant loss of revenue it contributes to the country. Kenyans will have nobody to blame but themselves for committing economic and political suicide. With regard to foreign investment, Kenya will suffer drastically if foreign investments are channeled to other countries. Finally, those development programs (especially in infrastructure), that have been funded by foreign donors will come to a standstill.

My fellow Kenyans, it does not matter whether the president comes from the North, South, West, East or central but vote wisely, vote smart. It is the responsibility of all Kenyans to educate their fellow Kenyans on some of the complicated issues, and their implications on economic, social and political manifestations. The leadership is about an individual who can best deliver the service to the country but not about ethnicity. The young voting generation needs to understand the Kenyan political background from independence to now, and where the country is heading.  Because of the present political configuration, none of the presidential aspirants seem to have a nationalist outlook and robustness in the caliber of Jomo Kenyatta, Tom Mboya, Algeria’s Ahmed ‘ Ben Bella, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and South Africa’s Nelson Mandela.

The difference is that these gentlemen sacrificed their lives for their beloved countries unlike our current presidential candidates who are sacrificing the nation (people, blood shed), for their own egos and interests.

 Richard Mutungi 

ONE ........ is ALL.   

Diaspora from Winnipeg, Canada

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