Many things can be true simultaneously. Chocolate is awesome; chocolate milk is an abomination. Pumpkin soup is food for the soul; malenge is the Almighty's punishment for bringing into the world things like Twitter. Political parties are the weak link in the political process; political parties must be strengthened in order to strengthen democratic norms. The solution for weak political parties is a combination of better statutory regulation and greater engagement by voters and politicians alike.
Many political party apparatchiks are bad at their jobs. They encourage the worst instincts of their political benefactors, who are quite often the owners of the briefcases in which the political parties are kept. The illiberalism experienced in Kenya's political institutions is but a manifestation of the illiberalism endemic in political parties. Whether it is on the question of gender representation or internal democratic processes, none of Kenya's parties is as liberal as they claim to be or demand of their rivals.
It is for this reason that the claim by the likes of Mr Makau Mutua accusing Mr Wafula Chebukati of dictatorial tendencies rings hollow. For sure Mr Chebukati has not conducted the affairs of the election commission during the presidential election of 2022 in a transparent or consultative manner. But he is only a reflection of the standards established and promoted by the presidential candidates he was supposed to shepherd to the end of the election period.
For example, when Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Alliance selected Ms Gladys Wanga as its candidate in the Homa Bay gubernatorial election, it was done in the face of opposition of other candidates in the party. When the United Democratic Alliance nominated Mr Rigathi Gachagua, it was in direct contradiction of the pledge made by its presidential candidate that the party would nominate a woman as his running mate. When the Roots Party of Kenya presidential candidate threw his weight behind the Azimio presidential candidate on the eve of the general election, he did so without consulting his running mate who had made personal sacrifices to stand with him in the general election. It is almost certain that he did not consult the rank and file of his political party. No one even knows who the senior members of the Agano Party of Kenya are given the prominence given to its leader. It'll take nifty googling to even recall the name of his running mate in the presidential election.
The same is reflected in all political parties. The effect of sun illiberalism are plain to see. Roads, ports and bridges built without consultation., transparency or accountability. Educational policies implemented without due regard to the real-world harm many of them cause to young and vulnerable Kenyans. Economic programmes are implemented without addressing the long-term effects of unsustainable public debt policies on the provision of public goods and services to the greatest number of Kenyans at the lowest cost.
Mr Mutua and his counterparts in the other political parties are largely responsible for entrenching the illiberal impunity that they cavil against in the pages of Kenya's tabloids. They should not be allowed to get away with it. They must be held to account for their part in the dysfunction in public institutions. Though they may have played leading roles in shattering the KANU hold on public affairs, they cannot be allowed to get away with entrenching KANUism in the political parties they founded or joined. If they are going to accuse the likes of Mr Chebukati of dictatorial tendencies, they must admit, publicly, that they had a hand in encouraging Mr Chebukati to see himself as Julius Caesar after the Roman general crossed the Rubicon with his army.