In the run up to next year’s scheduled general election, weekly opposition protests and the subsequent brutal crackdown, have deeply polarized the country and left at least three people dead and many others, including police officers, wounded. - Patrick Gathara, Why This Is Not An IPPG Moment
With customary hyperbole, Mr Gathara declares that Kenya is "deeply polarised." Polarisation (according to the online Cambridge English Dictionary, "to cause something, especially something that contains different people or opinions, to divide into two completely opposing groups") implies that Kenya is divided, right down the middle, between those who support the Government on the IEBC question and those who support the Minority Party. Like I said, customary hyperbole.
Based on the most common, and erroneous, assessments, there are forty two "ethnic communities" in Kenya. (I wonder if these forty two groups include the "mixed" offspring of an ever-expanding state of "inter-ethnic" marriages and liaisons or the Afro-Europeans, the Afro-Asians, etc.) So based on Mr Gathara's hyperbole, the Government (and the ruling alliance that forms it) are supported by twenty one of those ethnic groups and the Minority Party has the support of the other twenty-one. If that sounds absurd, it is because it is. And the absurdity could be extended to the political parties represented in parliament; all the registered political parties in Kenya; the various civil society and professional associations that play an active role in the politics of Kenya; and so on and so forth.
If Kenyans were polarised, as Mr Gathara posits, they would not wait patiently for the coming of each Monday in order to pour onto the streets fulminating for or against the IEBC; they would never leave the streets at all. No. Mr Gathara, Kenya is not polarised and it behooves you and your colleagues to call it the situation what it really is: a family squabble.
The press has managed to create the impression, especially among the consumers of their fare, that Kenya is divided along political lines, the pro-Government/ruling alliance versus the Minority Party/CORD coalition, an idea that refuses to acknowledge an important fact: few adult Kenyans are members of political parties that form the ruling alliance or the opposition coalition. In 2013, about twelve million voters cast their vote in the general election. Even under the most generous assessments of party membership lists provided by the Registrar of Political Parties, there is no way that registered members of parties will equal the twelve million that voted in 2013. (More importantly, 12 million Kenyans, save for some fuzzy maths, do not represent half the people of Kenya; at most, they represent about one-third, who couldn't polarise the country if they wanted to.)
Mr Odinga's CORD commands a sizeable following, but, to paraphrase the odious Mutahi Ngunyi, the numbers are tyrannised by the numbers of the Jubilee alliance. Mr Odinga cannot prevail in Parliament and unless he can marshall a persuasive legal argument, he cannot prevail in the courts of law. He is left with the only arena that has served him well: the streets. He has exploited the disaffection among a core of disaffected Kenyans - unemployed youth, mainly - and used them as canon fodder in his campaign against what he perceives as a compromised IEBC so far without luck. The disaffected are mostly on their own; white-collar and blue-collar Kenyans with steady employment will not be joining Mr Odinga's rabble when they have bills to pay. That is the second ground against the polarisation argument.
Words are important, if only to tell us what is and what isn't true. From the IEBC commentary, one could be forgiven for believing that the IEBC is either incorrigibly corrupt or it isn't; that Mr Odinga is sacrificing himself for the sake of a far election or cynically exploiting unemployed young people without pity for his own selfish ends. No one sees fit to remind Kenyans that Mr Odinga is not a paragon of virtue and his family's single-minded focus on the presidency has been utterly poisonous for inter-ethnic dialogue in Kenya. Kenyans too, need to be reminded that key members of the IEBC have been adversely named in a corruption conviction in the United Kingdom; their integrity is no longer assured. Finally, it is not a battle of ideologies between Mr Odinga and President Kenyatta (hence the polarisation hyperbole) but one of huge egos and wits. The "people" are merely the fig-leaf for what is a political quarrel among the sons of the founders of the First Republic. Whoever wins, as one Alien versus Predator poster had it, we lose.