We can heal Kenya via political maturity, inclusivity

Written by on 28 April 2022

Robert Greene is the best-selling author of The 48 Laws of Powers, a collection of empirical knowledge distilled through the funnel of political wisdom spanning 3,000 years. The book opens: If you manage to seduce, charm and deceive your opponents, you will attain the ultimate power.

In Kenya, the elusive political inclusivity has been perpetuated by leaders who give party interests priority at the expense of the nations. Party structures have roots in founding leaders and their communities.

On May 14, 1960, Kanu was founded and had its roots in central Kenya. When Daniel Arap Moi took over its leadership in 1978 after assuming the presidency, it became associated with his Kalenjin community. This scenario has been replicated henceforth with party formations to date; they are regional rather than national. This means we truly have never had a genuine state formation.

Parties are like nationalities that share the same culture, language experience and beliefs while Statehood is a geographical political entity in which people have come together to establish the rule of law, equity and egalitarianism for all.

Through hindsight and the need to create cohesiveness among the political class, President Uhuru and former Premier Raila Odinga, mooted the formation of political coalitions without stripping constituent parties of identities. This new law would amend the Political Parties Act by introducing the concept of coalition parties, outlining functions of parties as well as changing the criteria of accessing the Political Parties Fund. The bill after passing in Parliament, was signed into law by the President on January 27.

It’s from this development that Kenya currently has two dominant coalitions going into the General Election—Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Alliance with Raila as the flagbearer and Kenya Kwanza Coalition under Deputy President William Ruto. The Political Parties Amendment bill 2021 was a political masterstroke that was intended to cure the lacuna of inclusivity in the current political dispensation by giving voice to small parties which represents the interest of the 43 tribes.

The bill can be equated to what Julius Nyerere had done in Tanzania many decades ago. Ujamaa, the Swahili for ‘extended family’ was a social and economic policy developed and implemented in Tanzania by President Nyerere (1922–1999) between 1964 and 1985. Nyerere set out his policy in the Arusha Declaration of February 5, 1967. This policy was akin to the collectivisation programme introduced in the former Soviet Union by Joseph Stalin in which villages were established for farming purposes. The villages were amalgamation of various tribes in Tanzania thereby created a homogenous society devoid of tribal divisions.

Even though this policy was more economic-oriented based on African socialism and has been criticised for the wanton poverty it inflicted on Tanzanians, it united the country across ethnic lines. It left Tanzania untouched by the “tribal” and political tensions that affected the rest of Africa.

Conversely, coalitions according to this law will ensure their formation is not tribal but rather ideology-based; An association of citizens with an identifiable ideology or programme that is constituted for the purpose of influencing public policy or nominating candidates to contest elections.

This has set the tone for the beginning of political maturity whereby in the future, one will belong to a coalition party not because of the tribal connotation but its manifesto. It might not explicitly manifest itself in the current coalition outfit, but it is a step in the right direction.

In Ethiopia, if a politician tries to bribe a voter, they will be shunned. Ethiopia is arguably the only African country where politicians don’t use handouts to influence the voter. This is political maturity. On the contrary, in Kenya, to even connive the idea that you want to run for the presidency, you need to have the irreducible minimum of Sh1 billion. This is political plutocracy (exclusivity).

In Kenya money is the blood that runs through the veins of the political system and the situation has become so bad that one must rent a crowd to address a political rally in certain parts. Bribery and corruption have been normalised to the extent that a certain politician who has been given the appellation ‘the thief’is glorified by his supporters who call him “Mwizi Wetu” (our thief). Moral probity is an element that needs to be inculcated in the electorate so they will understand if a politician gives you handouts to rise to power, once in power they will ensure they raid the public coffers to recover the same money dished out.

Political maturity and inclusivity will be fully achieved when we elect leaders irrespective of tribe or creed. That the benchmark for electing the said leader will be a person of high calibre and integrity.

In 1987 the presumed front runner for the Democratic presidential election in the US, Gary Hart, was discovered to having extramarital affair with a woman named Donna Rice which ended his candidacy. The common denominator was about Hart’s fundamental character, and whether a man like him should be president.

The day Kenyans will have similar scenario instead of gloating over Mwizi Wetu, we would have attained political maturity and inclusivity. Whether poor or rich will be judged by the voter not through the content of their wallet but character.

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