Wednesday, October 08, 2014

On politics and the ICC

There is a whiff of the theatrical to the choreographed temporary handing over of power by Uhuru Kenyatta to William Ruto. And it is all fine. They are, after all, politicians and they are very good ones when they get what the Americans call optics right. Mr Kenyatta is embattled at home; his Jubilee manifesto is almost in tatters because of an avaricious Parliament and equally avaricious county assemblies. The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is determined to nail him for what it alleges is his key role in the post-2007 general election violence. So in his address to the Joint Sitting of the National Assembly and the Senate President Kenyatta did what every politician with his feet to the fire do: he deflected, he dissembled and he misdirected. And he did it in style.

There is this trope in discussing public affairs against the "politicisation" of matters. Those who cleave to this idea misunderstand the vital importance of politics in the life of a nation. Without political actors, political acts or politicisation of affairs, the only solutions available to the people involve arms, violence, bloodshed and death. It is through politics that we can mediate the diverse differences that threaten to rend asunder a nation. It is how different coalitions, factions and interests are brought to the same table to iron out their differences. Politics works when it is not taken as a zero-sum game where for someone to gain another must lose. It is through politics that priorities are set and it is through politics that meagre national treasure is expended for the general well-being of the people.

The world of the management consultant is about efficiency: efficient allocation of resources and efficient use of resources. Efficiency is not a bad thing in and of itself. But a nation is not a commercial enterprise where the logic of efficiency would deny resources to "low potential" areas and concentrate them in the "high potential" ones. This was the rationale for the Sessional No 10 of 1965 and its effects have lingered long after the conclusion of the fifth five-year plan. Northern Kenya is bereft of modern signs of development: regular electricity, piped water, educational facilities, public safety and the like. Part of this general underdevelopment in Northern Kenya can be attributed to the poor employment of politics to mediate between the need to protect the upward trajectory of development of the high potential areas with the acute need for massive dollop of resources for the low potential areas.

Therefore, those who refuse to acknowledge the place of politics in the governance of a nation are also the ones who are likely to turn a blind eye to the privations of the ones they would purport to speak for in their world of efficiency. Every government must make a choice about what to do with the parts of the nation that have been left behind. Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Toroitich arap Moi made the wrong choice time after time. Mwai Kibaki attempted to change things but his tenure was marred by abuse of office by his underlings and massive graft. Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy have the opportunity to move beyond the management-speak of efficiency. If Messrs Kenyatta and Ruto perfect the art of politicisation there is hope yet that they will deploy their political skills to finding solutions for the most intractable problems facing our young nation. 

Mr Kenyatta's case at The Hague and Mr Ruto's trial have proven to be political problems for which they must find solutions. If they cannot solve the PEV Problem, they may yet find that their government fails on every front. The dead laptop project can be traced to their PEV Problem; politicians and public officers do not have confidence that the President and Deputy President have their minds fully committed to seeing through the Jubilee programme. And because they have been careful enough that the opposition cannot raise a ground t remove them from office they are in a political half-life: until the ICC is tamed they cannot move their agenda forward; and because they are yet to find the political solution for the ICC they cannot put their minds and their skills to moving their agenda forward. Therefore, while we may deprecate their political successes so far, it is time we prayed that their ICC problem is resolved soon so that we can see whether their plans for Kenya re for the better or not.

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