Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Where is the change that they promise?

Somehow, we are in the quiet phase of the campaigns for the general election. The High Court has just ruled that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission can publish in the Kenya Gazette the new electoral boundaries created under the Constitution since August 2010. The International Criminal Court has set the dates for the trials of four Kenyans for international crimes for well after the general election, giving Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto and Joshua arap Sang the opportunity to stand in the elections. All presidential contenders have resumed their largely lacklustre campaigns after the burials of the late Prof George Saitoti and Orwa Ojode. And a mightily self-satisfied Miguna Miguna has published a tell-all book on his rise in Kenyans politics and the time he spent as the Prime Minister's advisor on coalition affairs, taking pot-shots at his former colleagues and generally making himself the nuisance we have all come to see him as.

Leading lights of Kenya's chatterati expected the campaign to be dominated by issues, but the likes of Tony Gachoka and his colleagues on K24's Crossfire have put paid to that dream. Instead, what Daniel Toroitich arap Moi set in motion in 1991/92 seems to have solidified into a permanent state of ethnic arithmetic and ethnic balancing. The likes of Uhuru Kenyatta and Raphael Tuju imagined that they would run presidential campaigns along the lines of the historic and history-making presidential campaign of Barack Obama, but they have all been forced to settle for the ethnic winner-takes-all approach that President Moi instituted once it became apparent that the Opposition would force him to repeal Section 2A of the former Constitution.

There are issues that must be addressed, but given the unusual coalescence of events this time around, it is all but certain that they will not. No one is in a position to publish a policy paper on the deepening youth unemployment, the skyrocketing cost of living, the yo-yoing of the Kenya shilling against world currencies, the continuing war against al Shabaab, the frequent terrorist attacks against the civilian population, the worsening crisis in basic and higher education, the burgeoning public debt, the resource-capture by foreign multinationals and the deepening distrust between and among Kenyans due to the perception that certain ethnic communities are "eating" while others remain starving. One is compelled to recall the policy documents generated by Peter Anyang' Nyong'o in 1992 in support of Charity Ngilu's presidential bid that year and one is forced to admit that until Kenya's population becomes educated and fully engaged in the governance of its country, policy will continue to play second fiddle to the politics of tribe.

In our obsession with the implementation of the Constitution to the complete exclusion of everything else, we have been sold a bill of goods. It seems as if we are more concerned with the form of the implementation and not with the substance. No one is questioning the increased creation of various commissions and authorities; the financial implications of creating so many new public institutions is lost on many seeing that we only wish to ensure that there is ethnic, regional and gender balance in the appointments of their members and not whether they are truly necessary for the successful full adoption of the 2010 Constitution.  Even in the enactment and amendment of legislation, our obsession is with the effect the legislation will have on the success or failure of our preferred presidential candidates' campaigns and not whether the legislation addresses specific problems or improves the lot of Wanjiku.

In the absence of any substance to the political rhetoric of the presidential campaigns, we are left to wonder at the shape and substance of the next government. We have no clue who the next president will appoint to his Cabinet, to senior positions in the civil and diplomatic services or what he or she will prioritise for the benefit of Kenyans. In the obsession of persons like the Gang of Seven to keep the Prime Minister from succeeding the President, we are left reading the tea leaves to determine whether the men and women competing for the ultimate political job in Kenya have a plan for pulling Kenya into the Twenty-first Century. The lack of imagination in this pivotal general election confirms what PLO Lumumba once quipped: the forest may have changed, but the monkeys remain the same.

They all fall, eventually

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