Sunday, December 05, 2010

A new way of looking at Martha

CLE seminars tend to be as dull as ditch-water, but yesterday's was the bomb! Martha Karua, Ahmednasir Abdulahi and Chacha Odera made presentations that compelled participants to re-think some of their dearly held notions of what it takes to be a practicing advocate or a politician. But it is Martha Karua's presentation that makes for thoughtful reconsideration for it brings to mind the haste with which we take to media reports about politicians. In our defense, in the absence of credible or reliable alternative sources of information, we are compelled to make up our minds based on information that is disseminated by the print and electronic media.

Hon. Karua made her presentation on the challenges that young lawyers in practice will face, especially in drawing the distinction between their work as advocates and their work as activists, something that the estimable Chacha Odera elaborated in his usual erudite way. She pointed out that when she entered private practice, having served as magistrate for six years, the practice was predictable: you could always tell the chances of the success or failure of a matter based on the reading of the facts and of the law, regardless of the professional competence of the Judges or Magistrates before whom that matter would be listed. However, 10 years after she started practicing, it had become impossible to predict what would take place in the courts as the judges had become less than honourable and the biggest cash-filled brief-case determined the success or otherwise of a matter before them. All this is now moot; it is in her responses to specific political questions that the good lady from Kirinyaga kept the hall in thrall.

Responding to questions regarding what she knew, when she knew it and what she had done since Gidion Mbuvi's public travails became fodder for the media, she defended him as an articulate and intelligent young man. She pointed out that the allegations made against the Member for Makadara were only made after he had beaten establishment figures during the recent bye-election. I must admit that I was among those who called for a fuller explanation of Hon. Karua's role in the whole saga, and I am now satisfied that even if Hon. Mbuvi is found to have transgressed the law, she cannot be held liable for the actions of the Hon. Member for Makadara.

In her presentation, Hon. Karua has raised pertinent issues that demand our full attention and consideration. In the absence of middle-class professionals from the rank and file of political parties, what do we expect when the likes of Gidion Mbuvi are nominated and proceed to successfully contest elections? If we are so appalled by the manner in which they conduct themselves, it is our responsibility to join and influence the manner in which political parties are managed. She pointed out that political parties in Kenya are usually vehicles for the rich party leaders, where they make all the decisions because there are no voices among the rank and file capable of articulating or advocating for alternative party policies or activities. And she is right.
If the middle-class residents of Buru Buru were card-carrying members of NARC-Kenya, and if they actively participated in the affairs of the party, and if further still, they actively participated in the bye-election, the chances that a chancer without a political background being elected as their representative in the National Assembly would have been reduced significantly. He may have carried the day, but he would have been compelled to tailor his rhetoric to suit the needs of this vocal middle class bloc with a view to satisfying their demands or speaking to their needs as residents of the constituency.
In the end, the fact that they have chosen to take such an apathetic approach to political participation is the reason why their attempts at outrage at the exploits of Mike Sonko ring hollow. They are to blame for the situation in which they find themselves and it is their responsibility to reverse the trend. We cannot have it both ways - we cannot keep to our old, hands-off ways when it comes to politics and then turn around and complain that crooks of all shades are dominating the political arena. To bitch about Sonko's election, we must participate in the political process: join parties, participate in their nominating conventions and other activities, shape party policies, shape party ideology, and finally, vote every time an election is held. And if still it appears that there is corruption in the party, then we can truly state that the political process is beyond salvation. Until that day, we must live with the choices made for us by others.

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