Sunday, March 31, 2013

Moving on.

The Supreme Court of Kenya has lowered the boom on Raila Odinga's chances at the presidency. Whether he retires from politics or not, Mr Odinga has done much to advance the course of civilised political discourse like no other man has done in Kenya over the past fifty years. Many will credit Mr Odinga with the gains made from the Second Liberation and we will forever be in his debt. Uhuru Kenyatta is set to be sworn in on the 9th of May. For only the second time in our history, power is being transferred peaceably. Credit, surely, must go to the armies of peace-makers in our midst who did so much to prime the nation for peaceful elections.

There have been counter-arguments from those who were determined to keep Messrs Kenyatta and Ruto, his running mate and deputy president elect, from the ballot and, after their victory, from the national Executive. They have attempted to paint a picture that does not resonate with the feelings of millions. They claim that in our pursuit of "peace at any cost", valuable "democratic space" is being sacrificed. They argue that the media has been muzzled, refusing or prevented from publishing stories that would put the lie that Kenya is not peaceful. They have argued that the Executive, through the ministries of information and internal security have done all in their power to control how people think and how they associate with each other. They refuse to learn from the lessons of 2007; it is only when people were allowed unfettered enjoyment of one right, free expression or free association, for example, that things went to hell in a minute.

Most Kenyans are of the view that the nation won on Saturday. When the Mutunga Court declared the election of Uhuru Kenyatta free and fair, and Raila Odinga swiftly endorsed the judgment of the Court, Kenya won. There were few incidences of violence and Kenyans were killed. But for the most part, the nation was unanimous that there was no need to set fire to others' homes or properties; there was no need to go after your neighbour with a panga or a simi simply because your candidate had conceded. (The editors at CNN must be weeping into their beers after Kenyans studiously refused to set fire to the nation on the 4th of March or the 30th.)

We are in uncharted waters, though. The president-elect and deputy president-elect are still indicted at the International Criminal Court. How they thread the needle of running a nation while undergoing trial in a foreign land is a question that we are yet to answer satisfactorily. Flippant references to e-mail and Skype will not suffice. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission spent billions of shillings on electronic systems that failed at the first instance. Will there be an audit to determine whether we got value for money? If not, whose heads will roll? Devolution is taking shape in the face of an assault on county governments by the national Executive. Will the law prevail or the interests of a few mandarins in the Office of the President?

Our fifty-year experiment with democracy is evolving faster than it did in the West or Asia or, indeed, in the rest of Africa. While the pace of reforms in the national government are slower than we expected, the place of the county governments will determine whether they are carried to their logical end or not. It is at county level that the needs of Kenyans must be met. Better schools for our children, better hospitals for us all and the faster growth of the economy and employment for the armies of youth out of university, technical colleges or secondary school. We must get it right or 2017 will be e difficult election year.

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