Monday, May 22, 2017

To rotate or not to rotate?

In Kenya's constitution, there is the office of president and there is the office of deputy president. These, needless to say, are State offices. In the former constitution, there was the office of president, office of vice-president and office of prime minister. Those, too, were State offices. However, and this is important, the office of deputy president as well as the former officers of vice-president and prime minister, are not the same thing. They are not equal in status or power. The deputy president, vice-president or prime minister are not co-equals of the president. To suggest otherwise can only be with a malign intent.

Kenya has had four presidents: Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Moi, Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta. Jomo Kenyatta ruled as president between 1964 and 1978, Daniel Moi between 1978 and 2002, and Mwai Kibaki between 2002 and 2013. Uhuru Kenyatta has been president since 2013. Jomo Kenyatta, Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta are members of the Kikuyu while Daniel Moi is a member of the Kalenjin. It is not a hateful thing to say that three Kikuyu men and one Kalenjin man have been presidents of Kenya since 1964. It is also not a hateful thing to say that Kikuyu men have ruled Kenya for 30 years while a Kalenjin man has ruled Kenya for 24 years. These are plain, historical facts.

It is also not hateful to say that since 1964 Kenya has never been ruled by a Kamba, Luo, Luhya, Taita, Mijikenda, Meru, Embu, Kisii, Maasai, Turkana, Somali, Asian, European, Samburu, Ilchamus, Endorois, Chonyi, Giriama or any members of Kenya's other ethnic communities. By pointing out that Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Moi, Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta are Christians, it is not hateful to remind Kenyans that Kenya has never been ruled by a Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist, Baha'ai, atheist or a person who professes any of the other religions that are practiced or professed in Kenya. So too it is not hateful to point out that no woman has ever ruled Kenya or that all rulers of Kenya have been men.

If anyone accuses you of being antinational and antipatriotic for repeating these facts, you should be able to ignore your accuser with contempt because these facts are immutable. These facts are necessary for a national discourse on what national identity means to us in the twenty-first century and whether our national identity will ever erase our ethnic loyalties that are sustained by our unique languages, cultures, music, food, myths and mythologies. My Akamba are famous for their vibrant brightly-coloured dress while my Luo are renown the world over for their passion, heightened sense of fashion and an intellectual rigour that has taken its people to all corners of the world. My Maasai are the first thing foreign tourists think of when planning to visit our fair land and my Meru are known to be the only people who understand the ecology and economy of Miraa. All the best lawyers and accountants I know are from my Kisii and all the best dishes I have ever had were prepared from recipes of my Mijikenda. My peoples are everywhere -- except none of them has ever been president, the highest political office in Kenya.

It isn't wrong to discuss this fact and it isn't wrong to suggest that a member of my Endorois, long the victims of land-theft and forced immigration, should be allowed to govern this country and that such an opportunity should come via a rotational arrangement. That way, not just my Endorois will get the opportunity to be symbols of national pride and national unity, but so too will my Ilchamus, my Sengwer, my Basuba and my Pokot. Seeing the presidency as the just spoils of political competition is not the only way to look at it: it can also be seen as the only institution which, if shared justly, has the opportunity to unite us towards a common purpose. Before one of you freaks out and calls me a shameless anarchist, bear this in mind: in Switzerland or, as it is properly known, the Swiss Confederation, and whose peoples speak Swiss German, Swiss French, Swiss Italian and Romansh, has a president who only serves for a year and is elected by the Swiss parliament's upper house. You don't see the Swiss freaking out about that, do you?

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