Sunday, September 11, 2022

The Fifth is here - I have thoughts

The inauguration of the fifth is nigh so maybe things are far enough removed from the ruling of the Supreme Court in the presidential election petition that affirmed the victory of William Ruto that we can say a few things that may or may not matter. In my opinion, many of the pundits seemed to have infused the presidential election petition with supernatural powers, capable of transmuting the base metal of missing votes into the gold of a presidential election victory for Raila Odinga. Of course, this did not come to pass and so, they have now turned to parsing the language of the judges of the Supreme Court, especially that tart remarks about "hot air" and "wild goose chase" in respect of some of the lawyers in the case.

I take the position that though a presidential election is important, it is not so important as to form the foundation for overturning courtroom principles, especially the principles relating to standards of proof. I am not one of the lawyers who will claim with any form of credibility that the electoral commission was the paragon of virtue hen it came to the conduct of the presidential election. The antics of the Cherera Rebels and the violence at Bomas of Kenya are proof positive that the commission made many mistakes.

But notwithstanding the mistakes by the commission, the threats, intimidation and violence that the commission and its officials faced were substantial and we must acknowledge that the commission did a better-than-expected job in light of this. In short, the commission's performance in the presidential election as a mixed bag.

What many of us have missed in the sturm und drang of the presidential election petition is the seismic shift in political sensibilities witnessed in this general election. It used to be that the general election was defined by the presidential election, with the down-ticket races struggling to elicit any form of sustained interest. In 2022, the majority of political passions were expended in county elections, especially the election of governors and deputy governors. The issues of development have been devolved to such an extent that it matters a lot who is elected as a governor or deputy governor and whether or not the candidate has a keen understanding of the developmental needs of the people whose votes he is seeking at the grassroots level. The presidency, with its deeply entrenched reputation for theft, looting, grand graft and human rights abuses, is slowly receding in importance and one day, if devolution is not irreparably sabotaged, Kenyans will pay more attention to who is in charge of the county government than the presidency.

We have a sense of this by how ho-hum the presidential election campaigns were. Even with the active intervention of the incumbent president, large swathes of the senior ranks of the civil service, the national security establishment, the national corporate media, and leading figures of civil society, including leading lights of the Second Liberation, the leading candidates barely elicited enough passion to make the presidential election an election o remember. Indeed, it was plain that the favoured candidate could not persuade the people who were being manipulated to vote for him to actually vote for him in such numbers as to be significant.

It is rumoured that the national security establishment fed the favoured campaign with enough bullshit as to blind them to the goings on in the ground. The promise that "the Mountain is with Raila" came a cropper; even with the sensational allegations made in court, it is plenty plain that the years that the president-elect had spent in the Mountain had paid off in spades.

I have no sympathy for the losing presidential candidates. I especially loathe the opportunistic preacher-lawyer and the pro-weed candidates for their inability to transform their presidential election campaigns into principled articulation of hard truths about the body politic. Obviously, the lack of credible corporate media coverage hamstrung them on the messages that they could propagate but the fact that they didn't even try - dry, humourless, un-thoughtful manifestos were the nadir - is an indictment of them, and us, and a painful revelation of how far we have fallen when it comes to public discourse.

I also loathe the way in which the favoured presidential candidate lost the election. He surrounded himself with highly motivated charlatans who had no interest in his victory per se but were interested in electing a puppet they could control long into the future. His campaign's spokesman did everything in his power to paint himself as the incarnation of the late Sharif Nassir, Kihika Kimani and Kariuki Chotara, albeit with a law degree and multiple post-graduate degrees to boot. He spouted the most regressive and fatuous shit that it took great effort to remember that he is a professor of law. When the annals of history are written about this phase in Kenya's constitutional development, this presidential election and its dramatis personae will feature strongly in the "lessons learned" section, with grim warning for future populist demagogues and political opportunists of every shade.

I have no idea how the fifth will rule - he intends t rule, make no mistake. He has managed to maintain a high degree of information security thus far; few people know anything about the inner workings of his transition team. There are few leaks about the shape and form of his Cabinet; who he intends to nominate to senior ranks ion the civil service; how much leash he intends to give to State organs such as KRA, the National Police Service, the EACC and the DPP. I hope you are not one of the naive people who think that constitutional commissions and. independent offices are really, truly independent. In any case, Tuesday, 13th September, beckons. Let us hear what the new rais will say on the day.

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