Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A taste of things to come

The past two weeks have seen the tempers of party apparatchiks rise to unsafe levels because the women and men they intended to organise party "primaries for simply refused to follow their cues as and when directed to do so. These ungrateful women and men, instead of saying "Thank you" and doing as they were told, frequently defied their party bosses and invoked the names of "higher authorities" so many times that some of the nominations could not be held. As if that were not enough, ungrateful party members (if they could be called that) engaged in elaborate schemes to rig the results of the nominations contests by stealing ballot materials, pre-marking ballot materials, and misleading loyal party members as to the legitimacy of the entire process.

If you listened to party apparatchiks, not only would you believe that Kenyans are ungrateful, disloyal saboteurs, but that the very civilisation they were being offered by their party masters was being rejected out of hand and out of spite.

Kenyan politicians and their mandarins are bereft of fresh ideas. Nothing proved this as much as the image of grateful, pot-bellied members of the Jubilee alliance heading off to Beijing to undergo "training" int he management of political parties by apparats of the Communist Party of China and the minority coalition failing to call out the ruling alliance (made up of die-hard "capitalists") for its hypocrisies: how can the most pro-business political alliance in a generation yoke its nascent ideology to one of the most retrogressive and repressive communist political organisations in the world without batting an eyelid?

The nominations contests have unfolded predictably. Kenya is unofficially (and probably unlawfully) "zoned" with each coalition or alliance "controlling" a particular political zone that closely mirrors certain geographical areas. For example, ODM's zone is predominantly "Luo Nyanza" while Jubilee's zones include "Mt Kenya region" and the "North Rift". A nomination by your party in its "zone" is as good as a victory in the general election, or so the conventional wisdom goes and, therefore, the violence that has defined Kenya's elections since 1988 has been visited on these nominations on a very scary scale. On Tuesday, April 25, in Pangani constituency in Nairobi, a man was stabbed to death during a Jubilee nomination exercise. Few expect the violence and death to be confined to the nominations; the general election, in which multiple candidates from multiple parties will be seeking the same political seat, will see greater violence, whether or not the national government is prepared to crack down hard on offenders.

What remains clear is that Kenyan elections remain a zero-sum game: there are always winners and losers. The stakes are high; electoral victory does not mean that healthcare will suddenly be affordable for millions of Kenyans or jobs will suddenly be created for hundreds of thousands of youth. Electoral victory means an opportunity to participate in or influence lucrative billions-shillings public tenders and to use high public office for the self-aggrandisement that has come to define the Kenyan politician. What we are getting today is a taste of things to come in the run-up to the August 8 general election. God help us all.

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