Monday, June 25, 2012

No Messiah Yet.

The idea that any of the presidential contenders speaks for me is ludicrous. When was the last time they allowed a simple thing like hunger or ill-health to fester for days at a time? When they hunger, as Prof Anyang' Nyong'o was wont to remind us, they will spend thousands on a single meal for themselves. When they ail, even if it is a mild flu, they will check themselves into Nairobi's finest medical establishments or swan off to South Africa, India or the United States. While I must scrounge and save every single penny I earn in order to prepare for the day when the responsibilities of fatherhood and family weigh heavily on my shoulder, these men and women can count on the ever-open purse of the Government of Kenya, to monetarily smooth the way for their scions' education, basic or otherwise at institutions of learning where proteges are not lumped together like sardines in a can.

If they can claim with straight faces that they understand my pain whenever I am humiliated and my life gravely endangered when I ride the death-traps that are Nairobi's PSV's, or when I have to grovel at the feet of my pitiless landlord, mama mboga, butcher, water-meter reader, garbage-collector, watchmen and pastor demanding his ten percent tithe, then they would be better off challenging the Americans to the Best Actor Oscar than standing for election to succeed Mwai Kibaki in 2013.

Not one of them lost a step when burying the late Prof George Saitoti or the late Joshua Orwa Ojode, speaking out of the sides of the mouths about "honouring the legacies of their lives" and playing it straight with each other. Despite the fine declamations at the late politicians' funerals, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto remain in the cross-hairs of the ICC Prosecutor and their trial at The Hague-based International Criminal Court may have been postponed to accommodate the general election but it will not be cancelled; Mutava Musyimi is still determined to make it easier for Old School politicians to keep playing games they have perfected since 2008 on the ability and capacity to cross the floor of Parliament without facing any sanction; Aden Duale sees nothing wrong in labelling his erstwhile colleagues in the Orange Democratic Movement as "wakora" while he flirts shamelessly with William Ruto and Isaac Ruto on the inaptly acronymed URP. All of them have failed to take the brave step of reminding the thieving members of their class that the Consolidated Fund is not the MPs' piggy bank but a national resource that is to be managed with prudence and foresight, or to prevent them from treating the Constitution - Kenya's "mother of all laws" - as a list of suggestions to be taken or ignored at will whenever it suits their fancy.

They have all utterly failed to offer Kenyans a vision of the possibilities that Kenya could seize and the future it could enjoy. [Possibly] vast oil and water quantities lie beneath the barren land in Turkana but the obsession of the politicians is how the spoils from this bounty may be shared among themselves. The Chinese and a host of other investors are jostling to put money down for the LAPSSET Project but the politicians have singularly failed to even attempt to find a solution to the Coast Land Question that is the principal bugbear of the Mombasa Republican Council. Meanwhile, scores of Kenyans are added to the growing statistics of death and injury on our shiny new highways of death, but our contenders refuse to hold their constituents' feet to the fire by laying the blame where it must - reckless drivers, reckless pedestrians and reckless Kenyans.

Prof George Saitoti, perhaps due to the shock of the event or the manner in which the Professor of Politics sprang the matter on him, mangled the Queen's English on his way his "There come a time" Speech. Now is such a time and it is time that Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, Raila Odinga, Martha Karua, Raphael Tuju, Musalia Mudavadi, William Ruto, Moses Wetangula, Peter Kenneth, Mutava Musyimi, Uhuru Kenyatta, Cyrus Jirongo and the rest of them started atoning for their grave sins against Kenyans by withdrawing their candidacies to succeed Mwai Kibaki to State House. Their energies are best spent reversing the mess that has been left behind by their wayward charges, including the fat pay-cheques they saw fit to award themselves. When the history of Kenya is finally written, and this period is placed in the proper historical context, none of the candidates will come out smelling of roses; more like the deposits in Dandora.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

This not the revolution that MPs wanted. That is a good thing.

We did not get rid of the KANU hegemony only to have the National Assembly assume the mantle that had been yanked off Rais Moi's shoulders in 2002. Kenyans have demonstrated an almost zen-like capacity for patience with their elected representatives. In a spectacular show of philanthropic magnanimity, Kenyans have time and again allowed its elected representatives to behave as if the Consolidated Fund was their personal bank account, to be dipped into whenever and wherever they felt that they were running a bit low on cash. The manner in which they have used the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, 2012 to advance their selfish ends may be the straw that finally breaks the camel's back.

Kenyans suffered in the period between 1982 and 2003 at the hands of their government, especially the overmighty hand of the Executive as personified in President Moi and from the fecklessness of the National Assembly that acted as a rubber stamp for all that the Executive deemed to be in its interests. The supine form that the Judiciary assumed during this period made a bad situation worse by endorsing the acts of the Executive at every turn, handing down judgments against men and women arraigned before it on trumped up charges with gay abandon. In 2002 Kenyans began a revolution that removed President Moi, peacefully, from power, denied him a back-door into the Executive; this revolution culminated in 2010 when Kenyans overwhelmingly ratified a new Constitution. The gains made since then are slowly being reversed, not at the hands of the Executive, but that of the National Assembly.

In 2010, after almost a decade of disappointment from the National Assembly, Kenyans endorsed a Constitution that sought to corral Parliamentarians from making off with the last of our taxes in pay and perks that were wholly undeserved. We insisted that regardless of their popularity, Parliamentarians (and leaders) needed certain minimum skills in order to steer this nation to the next level in its quest for development. Members of Parliament who had enthusiastically supported the draft Constitution have now, Janus-faced, turned around and rejected the compact they made with Kenyans and are determined to water down the prescriptions in the Constitution to suit their own ends. In the past week, Kenyans shamed the few MPs with a conscience into reversing the retrogressive amendments introduced to the Miscellaneous Amendments Bill, forcing their greedy, grasping, recalcitrant peers to appeal directly to the President and Prime Minister to reject the final version of the Bill and not assent to it.

Kenyans do not want to be held hostage by their elected representatives as much as they do not want to be held hostage by the Executive branch. Kenyans are witness to the reforms taking place in the Judiciary and they are hungry for more; they will endorse any law that reduces the capacity of Parliamentarians to draw from the national Treasury. They will endorse laws that compel their elected representatives to represent the peoples' views in Parliament. They will endorse laws that will reverse the decades of corrupt acts perpetrated by the members of the government, be they elected or appointed. Kenyans have declared loudly and clearly that they are no longer cowed by the trappings f power. They will speak truth to power even if it means cutting down their favourite sons and daughters to size. The faint glimmer of hope for a better future have been sighted. Kenyans have declared that they will remain vigilant and prevent their elected representatives from snuffing out the light.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Prof Mutua gets it wrong again.

In Prof Makau Mutua's opinion, Kenya is at a stage where the politics of issues is possible and so he calls the apparently blossoming relationship between Prime Minster Raila Odinga and Eldoret North MP William Ruto a poisoned chalice (Raila must shun Ruto or pay the political price, Sunday Nation, June 17, 2012). He warns the Prime Minister that not only will he lose the world should he choose to rekindle his romance with Mr Ruto, but that he will lose his soul in the bargain. Prof Mutua deduces that there is cabal surrounding the Prime Minister that is leading him down the wrong road and that these men and women do not have the Prime Minister's or the country's interests at heart. He advances the proposition that the general election will not be won on the basis of tribal mathematics, but in the way politicians and candidates address contemporary issues that affect the day to day lives of Kenyans, including, I suppose, such bread and butter issues as the rising cost of living and the continued unemployment of the youth.

It is dangerous to compare presidential politics in Kenya with what prevails in the United States Prof Mutua attempts to do. While the influence former heads of state wield in their political parties is great, it diminishes in time. It has been the case in the United States that the influence of living former presidents on general elections depends almost entirely on the performance of incumbent presidents. George W Bush is more or less out of the limelight; this is not the case for Bill Clinton, who has joined the fray in favour of a second Obama administration and helping the incumbent to raise millions of dollars for the fall campaign. In Kenya, however, President Moi continues to cast a very long shadow, hence Prof Mutua's reference to Moi's Orphans who included the incumbent President, the late Prof George Saitoti, and the wily Rift Valley kingpin, William Ruto. It is in the place of the ethnic community in the political calculations of presidential candidates that Prof Mutua makes fatal assumptions.

Right-thinking Kenyans would like to be seen as cosmopolitan and post-tribal inn their political engagements. What they do, however, speaks louder than their public posturing. In Kenya, it is nearly impossible for a presidential candidate to emerge from outside the existing Parliament. Today, all serious presidential candidates receiving inch-columns of newsprint are sitting Members of Parliament and the Cabinet. All of them claim, or would like to claim, the loyalty of their ethnic communities and to decide for them where to cast their votes in 2013. Not even Raila Odinga has escaped the ethnic maths that goes to crafting a winning strategy at the hustings. While he may have preached national cohesion and unity in his campaign so far, his surrogates march to a different tune, attempting to sabotage the ethnic engineering of the Prime Minister's opponents while ensuring that his is done surreptitiously. The Friends of Raila, just like the Gang of Seven, is an attempt to craft a winning tribal alliance that will send the Prime Minister to State House in 2013. It is time we accepted this and learned to live with it.

Until all Kenyans are sufficiently well-educated to think beyond the needs and wants of their ethnic communities, their view of the political world will be through the prism of their tribal cocoons. Even in cosmopolitan towns, Kenyans are unlikely to cast heir ballot for a person who is not one of their own. This is a phenomenon that the Prime Minister sees and accepts and is attempting to exploit to his own benefit. It will be political suicide for any presidential candidate to concentrate solely on the bread-and-butter issues that keep Kenyans awake at night at the expense of a simpler strategy of promoting the interests of your ethnic community while promising benefits to those communities that line up for you. The PM knows this and that is why his surrogates are making forays into traditionally hostile regions to make deals with the kingpins in those communities in the name of the Prime Minister. High-minded campaigns like those of Martha Karua and Peter Kenneth are bound to flounder, while those of Musalia Mudavadi, William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta place them in positions where they can challenge the PM on an equal footing. Should it become clear to them and their supporters that all is lost, it is almost certain that they will attempt to salvage some pride by allying themselves with the PM before it is too late. Daniel Toroitich arap Moi was the last candidate to run a truly cosmopolitan campaign; he could do so because of his long stint in power and the fact that he was cannier and more ruthless than the men and women who dared to challenge his hegemony. President Moi was the last true president of all Kenyans. Not even Jomo Kenyatta came close.

Therefore, the recent moves by the PM's and William Ruto's surrogates to bury the hatchet should be seen in the context of the politics of today. This move was going to happen sooner or later. The PM surely, must calculate that it is better to test the waters today rather than later in order to prepare Kenyans for the harsh reality that is Kenyan politics. Instead of condemning the PM, we must appreciate that he had no choice in the matter. What he does with the opportunities that come his way, whether he takes State House or not, will determine whether Kenyans will be able to live with a permanent tribalised political environment or whether they will surmount it for the sake of our collective futures.

Friday, June 15, 2012

What next for national security?

The deaths of Prof George Saitoti and Joshua Orwa Ojode reinforce the received wisdom that Kenya's national security establishment is moulded in the image of the politicians in charge. Sad as their deaths are, as we bury them, we must remember that the nearly stillborn police reforms are crucial from removing the over-mighty yoke of the Executive from security policy. There have always been powerful security policymakers in Kenya and in the deaths of the two, Kenya is now forced to contemplate a policy apparatus that is devoid of leadership that can be seen. The roles that the Commissioner of Police, the Commandant of the Administration Police, the Director of the Criminal Investigations Department, the Director-General of the National Security and Intelligence Service, the Commandant of the General Service Unit, and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of State for Internal Security and Provincial Administration play have continued to be invisible to the general public. It seems that the only persons privy to what goes on in the national security establishment are those who are tasked in keeping us safe from the dangers of the world.

The police spokesman, speaking after the disruption of the first Limuru 2B rally last month, stated that the police was acting on intelligence that the dreaded Mungiki was being revived under the guise of a political rally called to counter the GEMA rally earlier on.In the wake of the Assanand's House explosion, he stated that the police had intelligence that pointed to the involvement of al Shabaab terrorists operating in Nairobi. For a public that has decidedly turned its attention away from all that matters and concentrated its mind on the mundane question of who will succeed Mwai Kibaki in 2013, this is enough to satisfy its curiosity. For the rest, it is inadequate to explain what our national security policy means and how best it can be implemented in the face of overwhelming odds, from a dwindling revenue collection exercise to the increasing cost of living and poverty levels among the youth and the working classes.

The manner in which the Lady Justice Kalpana Rawal-led Board of Inquiry conducts its its investigations shall demonstrate the strength and resilience of Kenya's national security establishment as well as expose the weaknesses that are inherent in it. The appointment of the team, as is normal in Kenya, was shrouded in equal parts mystery and confusion. Even after two previous air traffic crashes that claimed the lives of Mwai Kibaki's ministers, it seems as if there is no plan on how to investigate such incidents. The aftermath of the Assanand's House explosion, as in the aftermaths of all other deadly explosions in Nairobi, it remains unclear who is in charge of the ensuing investigations, how and when foreign experts will be invited to participate, and more crucially, what the results of the investigations are. In the absence of a transparent and accountable process, even the Prime Minister's exhortations to avoid speculation will not relieve the public from engaging in bouts of conspiracy theories. And in our heightened state of ethnic chauvinism it is all but impossible to erase the stench of an ethnic conspiracy behind the deaths of the two; in the last three days, rumours of a burgeoning political alliance between Prof Saitoti and Mr Ojode have fuelled speculation that they were both murdered to prevent the Professor from making inroads in Luo Nyanza in his quest to succeed President Kibaki.

Nzamba Kitonga's Committee of Experts drafted into the Constitution a somewhat coherent national security structure, delineating areas of responsibility in order to streamline the process and delimit the powers of those who would seek to keep us safe. The CoE attempted to constitutionalise what is usually a dynamic and fluid administrative procedure because many Kenyans feared a return to the dark days of the Nyayo House torture chambers. In going to this extreme, the CoE failed to appreciate that national security matters tend to evolve and take unpredictable paths and they require public officers charged with national security responsibilities sometimes to act swiftly without taking into account the fine print of the Constitution. Even Barack Obama, the US President, in his zeal to keep the United States safe from harm, has taken to approving personally who will be eliminated by drone strike and who will not, something that the US Constitution or the laws of the United States did not anticipate when the US Constitution was drafted in 1776.

Mwai Kibaki's successor must perchance work with what he has and this means that in crafting a national security policy, it is time that we evolved from the over-secretive way national security is handled in the corridors of the Executive. In the absence of an effective press, the Executive must pursue a proactive public disclosure programme to ensure that Kenyans have the correct information at the right time in order to appreciate the extent to which the Executive will go to keep Kenyans safe. Even taking into account the need for secrecy, it is imperative to make Kenyans partners in the handling of national security matters by educating them fully on who is in charge, what powers they enjoy and what they can and cannot do, from the legal to the administrative. George Saitoti and Orwa Ojode were products of a bygone era and as we mourn their deaths we must be prepared to abandon their hidebound ways. By properly investigating their deaths and making the results of the investigations public, perhaps, in some small way, we shall be able to craft a more robust and responsive nationals security establishment that we can all have confidence in.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

What will we do?

It is time we admitted defeat in our efforts to reform the ruling classes from their myopic ethnic-tainted look at the political landscape. Regardless of the wishes of millions of Kenyans, what we have is a political class that sees everything in the un-rosy tint of one tribe eating at the expense of all others. Or one coalition of tribal leaders eating while the people they claim to be fighting for suffer from all the ills that have bedeviled this country since Independence. Their leadership, if it could be called that, has been the reason why illiteracy, disease and poverty have remained realities for large swathes of the nation. Images of starving children, or children taking their lessons in caves or under leafless trees will not soften their hearts and persuade them to address the problems of the people. In their desire to control the destinies of millions, our political masters have forgotten that leadership is not for eternity but for a term, the presence of leaders-for-life in distant lands not withstanding.

The Gang of Seven, the United Democratic Front, the Wiper Democratic Movement, the United Republican Party, The National Alliance and the Orange Democratic Movement, among scores of others, are living proof that regardless of the lofty aims of the Constitution, the political landscape in Kenya continues to be shaped by men and women who see the masses as political pawns to be moved about the chess-board in an effort to seize and hold onto power and great material wealth. Looking at the leading lights of the political kingpins in Kenya, one is hardpressed to identify one whose great fortune is not as a direct result of his proximity to the levers of political power. While millions of Kenyans have to do with substandard public services, these men and women have the ability and capacity to ensure that their families enjoy only the best the country, and the world, has to offer. Their children attend the best national and international schools. They are treated in the best medical facilities money can pay for. The last time any one of them slept hungry was when they were participating in another Western-inspired 'diet'; millions of Kenyans are at constant risk of hunger because they can scarcely keep up with the ever-rising cost of living.

This weekend, the President, the Chief Justice and the Speaker of the National Assembly led their government colleagues in a charade aimed at hoodwinking the masses that peace was the government's aim. The lofty speeches aimed at cooling down the temperatures that were made at a five-star hotel in Mombasa are a cruel reminder that the peace that these men and women are seeking have nothing to do with the travails the peoples of Kenya suffer, but with the desire of the rich and powerful to protect their wealth and status in society. It is impossible not to conclude that our political, religious and financial leaders only wish to maintain the facade of stability with the view of entrenching their positions and not to give Kenyans a better life. Every atrocity suffered by innocent Kenyans is an opportunity for the political class to parade before the cameras to portray their status as first-among-equals.

As a people, we have been programmed to look at everything through the prism of entitlement. "My community is entitled to this because..." is the enduring leitmotif of our political culture. We parade our ignorance before the comity of nations every time we speak of the evils of one community or the innocence of another while ignoring the malgovernance of our nation at the hands of men and women who should know better and do better. Forty-nine years of Madaraka have passed by cruelly for millions of Kenyans and all they have been programmed to think of is elections and nothing else. The promulgation of a Constitution in the face of such overwhelming odds has not reminded Kenyans of their duty to one another, merely the fact that "their man" has yet to taste the power that comes with the Presidency or some such powerful position. In our adamant refusal to see beyond the election of one man from one community to one position, we reinforce the foundations of inequality and venality on which the Government of Kenya is built.

The lone efforts of people like the Chief Justice will be in vain if all Kenyans fail to join in the efforts to reform their government and their society. The valiant efforts of lone MPs such as John Mututho are in vain when the basic frailties of the communities they are trying to help remain unaddressed. Reforms are not for the political and judicial leadership alone to address; every man must re-examine his place in the great scheme of things. Until that is done, until we can face the truth about ourselves and our leaders, all the great constitutions in the world and all the Willy Mutungas of the world will not rescue us from the catastrophe that lies down the road. We faced choices in 1964, '65, '69, '92 and 2002 and we consistently made the wrongs ones. Will we do so again in 2013?

Peter Muthoka is the Canary in the Mine-shaft

It is the brave contrarian who suggests that despite the now well-documented and tragic failures of the political class it is not wise to seek the professional services of the champions of the private sector. Indeed, an examination of this months edition of The Nairobi Law Monthly should not only reinforce any smidgeon of suspicion one may have harboured against the so-called captains of industry throwing their hats in the political ring, but it must demand an examination of the ever-blossoming relationship between government mandarins and private sector friends bearing gifts.

This month's cover story not only raises questions as to how an agency like the Kenya Airports Authority could enter into such a lopsided agreement with Peter Muthoka and his Transglobal Cargo Centre Ltd. It is by no means the only transaction that requires closer scrutiny; one must struggle to remember that despite the irregularities of the Anglo-Leasing contracts, Kenya is still making payments for a mysterious naval vessel that must surely have set records for the length of time it has taken for the ship to be launched by its builders. The suspicions that surrounded the concessioning of the Kenya-Uganda railway have never been cleared up, even after Roy Puffett and the criminally incompetent Sheltam Corporation exited the picture. Goldenberg and its bastard offspring remain a blot on our national conscience; its perpetrators continue to walk free, cocking-a-snook at every single one of us.

Except, perhaps, for a tiny elite whose careers began and flourished in foreign lands, the majority of the so-called professionals throwing their hats into the political ring, making promises as to the proper government of the counties, we seem to have forgotten, or are wilfully ignoring, the fact that many of them before they became private-sector champions began their careers in the government. It is not just captains of industry; lawyers, doctors, economists, teachers, accountants, engineers...there isn't a professional occupation in this country that does not have the fingerprints of the government all over its establishment. It is a trend that was established in the 1960s and 1970s; looking at the careers of the likes of  Duncan Ndegwa and the late John Michuki and the establishment of billion-shilling companies such as Transcentury and Centum Investment, one is struck by the naivete of those Kenyans labeling these private sector privateers as our political messiahs.

Of the three elements of a free society, Kenya barely satisfies. For all its flaws, our rulers rule with (barely) the consent of the people. But the concept of the rule of law remains a cruel joke on Kenyans and the transparency and accountability fostered by a free, fearless and independent press remains a promise unfulfilled, save for the valiant efforts of outfits like The Nairobi Law Monthly. Before we begin laying the burden of carrying forward the reforms that this nation needs on the shoulders of the professionals from the private sector, let us be sure that the interests of the private sector and the interests of Kenyans mean one and the same thing. Otherwise, we will substitute one pack of hyenas with another. I can almost hear their demonic cackling.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Dr Mutunga's and Mr Odinga's versions of reforms

It is a rare thing to agree with my senior Charles Kanjama and today is one of those days. When he states that none of the Second Liberation stalwarts is indispensable in the reforms being undertaken in Kenya's body politic and the governance of the nation, he acknowledges and reaffirms the centrality of the active participation of the people that lends legitimacy to the individuals championing reforms (No reform champion should be presumed indispensable, Standard on Sunday, June 3, 2012). He argues that the canonisation of the living tends more often than not to lead to anti-democratic results and we run the risk of losing faith not only in the champion but also in all that he may have stood for.

In Kenya, sadly, reforms today are equated with the sacrifices of the few at the expense of the many, especially in the realm of political reforms. In this, Raila Odinga and Chief Justice Dr Willy Mutunga are being championed by their supporters as being indispensable in the reforms of the State and the Judiciary respectively. It is argued that without the two, the process of reforming these key institutions will be set back for a generation at least. Even with the hyperbole surrounding their place in the Second Liberation, it is imperative to remember that they are not just men, but flawed men at that. A study of the rise and fall of Nancy Barasa, the suspended Deputy Chief Justice, shows why it is imperative to institutionalise the reform agenda rather than lay it on the all too frequently feeble shoulders of the popular individual.

Dr Mutunga and Prime Minister Odinga demonstrate the different and differing paths to reforms that may be pursued. While the Chief Justice is properly lionised for his efforts to reform the administration of justice in Kenya, especially by his leadership and personal sacrifices in the dark days of the Nyayo Era, he is demonstrating that reforming the Judiciary is not a one-man show, but that it can only be achieved if the key stakeholders in the administration of justice play their roles as well. In contrast, by his very actions, the Prime Minister continues to demonstrate that he is the key to reforming political activity in Kenya; by the utterances of his acolytes and supporters, the impression is being created that if Raila Odinga does not succeed President Mwai Kibaki, the country will be set back for a generation as impunity is further entrenched in public life.

While Dr Mutunga has set the stage for reforming the very infrastructure of the Judiciary, Prime Minister Odinga has failed to seize opportunities to reform party politics in Kenya. The only difference between the Orange Democratic Movement and all the other political parties lies in the personal popularity and charisma of the Prime Minister and not in the quality of its governance, its manifesto or its constitution. But the differences between the Judiciary as it was until the promulgation of the Constitution and the appointment of the Supreme Court are plain to see, especially in its efforts at greater transparency and efficiency.

No doubt Dr Mutunga and Mr Odinga are flawed heroes of Kenya's Second Liberation, but in apparently accepting that he is not indispensable to the reform agenda, Dr Mutunga sets the stage for the complete overhaul of an institution that is widely reviled and feared in Kenya. In what is bound to be a short tenure, Dr Mutunga intends to leave a blue print for the improvement of the quality of justice dispensed in our hallowed halls of justice that will stand us in good stead for generations to come. Mr Odinga, on the other hand, in concentrating on the consolidation of his political power at almost any cost has failed to articulate a different vision for the conduct of politics in Kenya, instead reinforcing every negative stereotype that he have of the political elite.

By failing to lead the democratisation of ODM, Mr Odinga fails to assure us that if elected President of the republic he will pursue a different course. One of his recent statements speaks to his intentions. In calling for a tough anti-terrorism law, Mr Odinga did not even bother to articulate whether terrorism was a law enforcement or military problem. Instead, what he called for was for the State to be granted ever greater powers to violate the civil liberties of Kenyans in the name of national security. Before we place the government of Kenya on Mr Odinga's shoulders, let us be prepared for the consequences of dubbing him our messiah. The same goes for those attempting the canonisation of the likes of Musalia Mudavadi, William Ruto, Uhuru Kenyatta or Kalonzo Musyoka.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

49 years of Madaraka and things remain the same

In Kenya, it is not an ideology that moves the people to engage politically with one another; instead, it is the personality at the head of a political outfit. Calling them parties does a great disservice to the political party traditions of developed democracies. What differentiates Raila Odinga from Uhuru Kenyatta or William Ruto or Musalia Mudavadi or George Saitoti is not the strength of his political message, even where he has a compelling one; it is the fact that he is seen to represent the aspirations of one of Kenya's forty-two or so ethnic communities. What motivates the men and women who swear fealty to Messrs Mudavadi, Kenyatta, Ruto or Saitoti is not the strength of these men's political convictions but the fact that as the apparent representatives of their ethnic communities they are articulating the aspirations of their people because no one else will or can.

When Musalia Mudavadi and, before him, William Ruto had a falling out with Raila Odinga, they claimed that it was because the Orange Democratic Movement had become a cult in which the Prime Minister could no wrong. They claimed that the party was slowly being stifled of dissent with Raila Odinga's voice being the only legitimate one. According to the two, despite their holding high offices in the party as deputy leaders, their views were being ignored and that they had found it impossible to inculcate a culture of democracy in the party. Their decision to leave, and to lead ODM MPs away from the party, they claimed further, was in response to the continued reluctance of pro-Odinga party functionaries and officials to ensure that all voices in the party received their fair share of attention and consideration. At no point did they claim that they disagreed with the party leader's ideological stance or his political philosophy. The reason, perhaps, is that there is none to disagree with.

Between 1969 when the Kenya People's Union was banned and 1991 when Section 2A of the former Constitution was repealed, Kenya was a one-party state with no need for an ideology or a unifying political philosophy other than the whims and caprices of the President who was also the Chairman of KANU and all its organs. President Jomo Kenyatta used the party as a personal weapon to reward or punish its members. He used the structures of the party and the state to control the fate of millions. It became a vehicle for personal aggrandisement; in his reign, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and his family became fabulously wealthy. As did his successor, Daniel Toroitich arap Moi, whose twenty-four years in power can only be remembered for the Nyayo Philosophy of peace, love and unity; this was not a political philosophy or an ideology. Had the party been democratised in 1991 and all voices permitted an equal chance of being heard, perhaps the past twenty years would have turned out very differently.

What we have experienced since 1992 has been the steady decline of the concept of the common good. What we have today is an extreme version of what Mwalimu Julius Nyerere of Tanzania termed a "man eat man society" writ large in the political arena. The political calculations that Raila Odinga and his rivals engage in in obsessive detail boils down to the unity of ethnic communities in order to guarantee the ascendancy of one man to the highest pinnacle of political power in Kenya and not the nurturing of an ideology that may survive its author and that may give the people a rational basis for determining who will and who will not rule the forty-two ethnic communities. In forgetting, or ignoring, why political parties exist, all presidential candidates mouth the platitudes that Kenyans want to hear but not what they need to hear. Their message has consistently been about themselves and not the people they claim to represent. It is the theatre of the absurd.

When Kenyans line up to cast their ballots at the next general election, they will not care whether the men and women they cast their votes for are capitalists, communists, socialists, Christian democrats, conservatives or liberals; all they will care for is whether 'their man" (or woman) will get the chance to eat and through him, their chance to eat, vicariously or otherwise. It is for this reason that despite lofty credentials as champions of the Second Liberation or as holdovers of the KANU Era that these men and women are wholly unfit to lead. When one of them is eventually elected as Kenya's fourth President, it will be a cruel irony that despite their claims to democracy or the common welfare of all, they all intend to rule as Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Toroitich arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki have ruled.

As by law established

The members of my profession, the ones with a pompous sense of importance, tend to use phrases whose value has diminished greatly since the ...