Monday, July 02, 2018

Succession politics are here to stay

politics n. the activities associated with the governance of a country or area, especially the debate between parties having power.
It seems that Kenya's tabloid editors have conflated "politics" with the second Kenyatta succession. They pooh-pooh the "early 2022 campaigns" as if, in and of themselves, the campaigns are inherently bad. They also seem to have adopted the president's disapprobation of these campaigns, regardless of the merits of the disapprobation. No one seems to have asked the question though: why shouldn't politicians interested in the second Kenyatta succession not campaign for their preferred putative 2022 presidential candidate in 2018?

Kenya's politics are not unique in their obsessions with individuals, tribes or alliances. Kenya's politics are not unique in their failure to address public policies, the effects of poor governance or the outcomes of entrenched corruption. Kenya's politics has not been about policy, governance or anti-corruption for at least three decades and anyone that says otherwise simply has their head buried in the sand.

There are many things that are wrong in Kenya today. Daniel Moi, Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta either exacerbated them or studiously refused to do anything to ameliorate the suffering these things caused. What Kenya's presidents have done since Kenya became a republic is to cultivate cults of personality with a view to cementing their authority and clinging on to power at all costs. "Development" in all its iterations has not been a presidential priority if it did not assure presidents of absolute power at all costs.

Whether we like or not, and because of Kenya's poor recent history of presidential succession, the second Kenyatta succession is a ripe topic of political speculation and those intending to be on the winning side are going to exploit the inherent infirmities in the Jubilation to keep the subject alive regardless of presidential wishes. In pursuit of their agendas, they will use whatever political tools at their disposal, including exposing the corruption credentials of key members and the failures of the current regime to improve the economic prospects of many Kenyans. They will highlight the reasons why one person should not succeed the president and why another should. Regardless of how much it shifts focus from public policies and anti-corruption campaigns, the second Kenyatta succession will not fade into the background. It will be the organising principle of Kenya's politics till the matter is settled, one way or the other.

The fallout of the obsession with the second Kenyatta succession is not had to foresee. Elected politicians and senior members of the civil service will be compelled to pick sides, and with their choices, specific public policies will be pursued at the expense of others, which will in turn will affect the manner in which public funds are appropriated and spent. Economic development, such as it is, will not be the primary focus of Government, despite the lip service that will be paid to job-creation, a stable taxation policy, low inflation rates and rising consumer confidence. Who comes after President Kenyatta is the only subject that our political classes are capable of thinking through with some measure of clarity. They are not about to commit themselves to the hard task of doing what politics demands of them: governing.

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