Friday, March 08, 2013

Manage the pain.

Listen, when you get home tonight you're going to be confronted by the instinct to drink alone. Trust that instinct. Manage the pain. Don't try to be a hero.
The West Wing, Season 4, Episode 10
 Save for Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, the numbers have been a harsh verdict from the peoples of Kenya. Months, sometimes even years, have been spent by candidates trying to woo Kenyans to their causes. Peter Kenneth, the insurgent from Murang'a, came with a pledge to apply the managerial skills he displayed in the management of the Gatanga CDF to the national stage. Kenyans thought not; his margin of loss should be a cautionary tale for the so-called technocrat-politician. We may deserve an efficient and effective government, but we are easily seduced by the silver tongues of the true politicians.

Martha Karua promised to be the broom that would sweep the Augean stables that are Kenya's politics of all the muck that has accumulated in fifty years. Kenyans only remembered her hard-eyed defense of Mwai Kibaki's re-election five years ago. Many from the Mt Kenya region will never forgive her for insisting that Uhuru Kenyatta could not stand in these elections because of his indictment at the International Criminal Court. James ole Kiyiapi attempted to bring a professorial mien to the political arena. He is now punch-line. Kenyans do not want teachers to abandon their classrooms for the starry lights of high office. Paul Muite, despite his years in the trenches fighting the Second liberation wars that Kenyans are benefiting from should simply have tried to recapture his Kikuyu seat. Mohammed Abduba Dida is the only one who comes out looking good. No one thought he would prevail against the front-runners; he has acquitted himself well against established names and known political figures.

The numbers are brutal. They are even more so for Raila Odinga. All his sacrifices for the people of Kenya and all the cunning and conniving to get to where he is today, only to be upstaged by a person he considers unfit for office must surely sting. If the trend continues to the inevitable denouement, Mr Odinga could very well hang his saddle and retire back to Siaya. Since the attempted coup of 1982, Mr Odinga has built a political career that led only to one destination: the presidency. If he loses this his third attempt at the brass ring, he has no fall-back, no Plan B. He is done. He could attempt to be Uhuru Kenyatta's bete noir like Kizza Besigye is to Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, but that would be beneath him or the legacy he surely has from his years in Kenyan politics. If he loses, he should withdraw gracefully from the arena and leave the muck to Younger Turks with the stamina and cunning he has surely taught them.

Uhuru Kenyatta and, by extension, his running-mate William Ruto, must surely feel like the cats that swallowed the canaries. Should Mr Kenyatta be sworn in, their strategy will have paid off. They argued that their plight at the ICC was a conspiracy to keep them from the presidency. At least half of the voters who cast their ballots for them seem to agree. They argued that it was time for a generational change in Kenyan politics. Half the voters seem to agree. They promised change and it seems they will be given the opportunity to strut their stuff. There is nothing as heady as the adulation of millions of people. The two must take care not to let their victory go to their heads, for therein lies destruction.

Should Mr Kenyatta be elected Kenya's fourth President, our experiment with the ICC will be in for significant challenges. It is the only political crisis that could hamstring the nascent Kenyatta administration. How the two manage their indictments whole at the same time fighting such serious charges will either make or break this nation. They have the choice of fully co-operating with the Court or taking the path that Sudan's Omar el Bashir is determined to follow to its conclusion. One way or the other, Kenya is in for very interesting times. Of course, their legal maneuvres may yet scuttle the ICC trials. If this happens, then Kenyans will expect them to keep their campaign promises in some fashion.

But for the losers, their future is stark, especially if they did not have credible plans for the losses they are suffering this week. Their first order of business should be to salve their political wounds the best they can. I would advise them to have a large bottle of vodka on ice for they really, really need to manage the pain of their humiliating defeat.

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