Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Faking it till we make it

Elections matter. They don't matter more than the rule of law or the integrity of the executive, but they matter. Anyone who argues that elections are an expensive boondoggle for choosing political leaders and determining national priorities fails to take into account the problems of restricting political activity to the narrowest elite slice of the population of a nation. Elections matter because they are proof of the resilience or weaknesses of a political culture. In Kenya, both are in stark display in 2017.

The Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD), the Minority coalition in Parliament, has entered into an agreement with the Amani National Congress (ANC) to form a "superalliance" called the National Super Alliance (NASA) to take on the spawn of the Jubilee Alliance now finally known as the Jubilee Party (JP). I don't think it really matters what the manifestos of the NASA or the JP really are; no political party, alliance or coalition has ever even tried to live up to the lofty promises in an election manifesto.

I don't think that the alliances, superalliances, coalitions and agreements are seen by many as the ethnic vote-bank politics that have come to define election contests in Kenya as a bad thing. After all, even children and politicians with mixed ethnicities and mixed heritages are forced to choose the one they consider the "dominant" one, usually the one their father belongs to. Ethnicity, both positive and vile, infuses every aspect of politics and is enshrined in the Constitution in the anodyne phrase "the regional and ethnic diversity of the people of Kenya" which tells all you need to know about the place of ethnicity (code for "tribe") in Kenya.

What matters is that Kenyans are at least paying lip-service to the ideals of the constitution on multipartyism, pluralism, tolerance and the peaceful transfer of political power between one political regime and the next. In the United States they have a saying: fake it till you make it. Perhaps if Kenyans fake political liberalism long enough and hard enough, Kenyans might actually build a nation and political culture that espouses all the values and principles that make our ridiculously long-winded and dull constitution the most progressive and liberal in the world.

No comments: