Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Political magnanimity is the only way

Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka were on the ballot on the 26th October, 2017 when the fresh election ordered by the Supreme Court on the 1st September was conducted by the electoral commission. Mr Odinga had announced that he would not participate in the election and neither he nor his running mate campaigned at all for the fresh election. The day after the fresh election, Mr Odinga announced the formation of the National Resistance Movement, NRM, and urged his followers and supporters to boycott companies and their products because of their association with the Jubilee government, its members, supporters and followers.

Between the invalidation of the presidential election on the 1st September and the dismissal of two petitions challenging the result of the fresh election on the 20th November, much blood has been spilt in Kenya. The victims have been the poor and the perpetrators have mostly been policemen. Incendiary language by members and supporters of the Jubilee Party as well as of the NRM have heightened tensions, with the latter accusing the former of using national security organs to entrench "dictatorship" in Kenya and the former accusing the latter of undermining the peace, unity, stability and security of the nation.

Meanwhile, though Government has settled matters with Kenya's nurses who were on strike for almost half a year, university staff are still on strike on account that their dues, hard won after a previous strike, have not been settled by Government. No one knows when the strike will end and whether the lecturers' demands will be met; after all, Government spent an additional unanticipated twelve billion shillings on the fresh elections, money that was raised by drastically reducing allocations to all public institutions. Increased taxes loom menacingly over the horizon because of this.

What is clear, though, is that there are those who will take advantage of the fraught politics of the country to advance their own agendas. Like a senior member of the Jubilee Party who has fervently, and hysterically, advanced the proposal for "benevolent dictatorship", in which the wise and enlightened president will eschew the finer points of the Bill of Rights -- because democracy is a stumbling block -- in order to accelerate our economic development along the model pioneered by the Asian Tigers. He isn't so much interested in development per se so much as the violent suppression of men and women who have refused to bow down to the inimitable logic of the superiority of one ethnic community over all others.

Among the members of the NRM, a self-styled "general" has emerged as a vocal voice of the NRM cause. It isn't lost on keen observers that the bombastic and uncouth bully is a failed politician who had a spectacular falling out with Mr Odinga. His rudeness and oftentimes misogyny rubs even people who would agree with him on political issues the wrong way. During the run-up to the 8th August election, he had nothing but unflattering things to say about Raila Odinga and all who surrounded him deeming them as corrupt among other unproven allegations. His dwindling political fortunes have proven to be his Damascene conversion to all causes dear to Mr Odinga's heart.

We are confronted by a Jubilee government that enjoys unparalleled advantages: it enjoys a majority in both Houses of Parliament and controls a majority of Governor's offices and county assemblies. If its previous behaviour during the life of the Eleventh Parliament is anything to go by, little inspires confidence that its tyranny of numbers will be used for the national good. It is almost certain that the national debt will continue to careen out of control, the misuse and abuse of national security organs will become more brazen and more and more public servants will down their tools in frustration. "Business as usual" will bring us nothing but grief.

No one expects magnanimity from the Jubilee's electoral winners but it is sorely called for. The first step is to acknowledge that the NRM has genuine grievances and that Raila Odinga is the NRM's unchallenged leader. For sure minnows like the Third Way Alliance have a stake in the political arena, but it is foolhardy to build them up as some sort of alternative to the political constituency commanded by the NRM. The only way out of this political morass are negotiations between the ruling alliance and the NRM, while taking into account all the outstanding political questions of the past fifteen years, including the recommendations of the TJRC report and the Ndung'u report. We have kicked the can of political myopia long enough down the road. It is time to settle our political problems once and for all.

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