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Of Kenyan politics and ‘it is our turn to eat’ mentality

By Sadik Bashir:



Today, as is usual with my weekends, I woke up to read some of the digital editions of the Kenyan dailies. Two articles actually caught my attention: Sarah Elderkin’s and George Kegoro’s which I read in that respective order.

Elderkin’s was a continuation of a previous one she wrote for the Standard, and both articles were on Eurobond. It is then that it emerged to me that there seemed to have been a pattern with these scandals and elections in Kenya.

The first of these major scandals that happened in the last three decades was carried out at the dawn of multiparty politics in Kenya. Moi, for the first time, had to run in a real election against a motley of opposition candidates. Well, he won and in the subsequent election, too.

The second of these scandals was the infamous Anglo Leasing that tarred what would otherwise have been an excellent presidency – relative to the two previous regimes – of Kibaki. This was also, for some reasons, conceived at the later stages of Moi’s presidency. The same was thus executed during Kibaki’s first term. At the moment, we have Eurobond which seems to have been conceived and carried out during Uhuru’s first term.

Incidentally, the evidence points to a pattern where, once someone is elected into office for the first time, they then have to steal to both recover the expenses incurred during the previous campaigns as well as fill the largest war chest imaginable, yet, for the next battle. Though Moi’s seems to have been an exception, he nonetheless was running for the first time in a real election. Interestingly, since both Moi and Kibaki won their second terms courtesy of their incumbency status, I see Uhuru winning in the next elections just like his predecessors. With that, I now believe that even if Raila is elected president, this same pattern is most probably going to continue.

Well, one of the aims of the new Constitution was to mitigate the zero-sum game that was our presidential elections. Unfortunately, with weak institutions and supposedly independent organs of government that all act at the behest of the presidency, the presidency still continues being a much sought after institution with almost imperial like powers.

What is more, the populace seems divided along tribal lines: Talk to any typical Luo and their verdict would be that money was stolen in this still unfolding Eurobond saga. On the other hand, talk to any typical Kikuyu and they will tell you that nothing was stolen. I know, while this applies to the vast majority of members of the two ethnic communities mentioned, many times we come across the likes of David Ndii and others who put the nation first. The rest, depending on which side of the bread of our self appointed tribal leader is buttered; we respectively follow either of those two camps.

With that, it becomes hard to fight against corruption and move this country forward. What do we need to do then, change the Constitution, as once before suggested by David Ndii, and have a presidency like that of Switzerland – a toothless bulldog type one? Increase the presidential term and limit it to a one term period? I do not know. Not being a political scientist, I know this is not my domain but something still needs to be done to mitigate against these scandals in the future.

Unfortunately, even at the lower levels of government, the same applies. We will make all kinds of noise against politicians we don’t like (because, unfortunately, they come from the wrong ethnic communities) and wax lyrical about those whom we espouse their ideals (because, fortunately, they come from the right ethnic communities) – as if theirs were higher noble causes worthy of our support. But at the end of the day, a politician in Kenya is going to remain the never-do-good filthy scumbags they have always been – without exception. While I seem to also have given up, I now believe our emancipation is not going to come through politics. We have to look for the same through other avenues. And, with that, I certainly would not mind a so called benevolent-dictator – a la Lee Kuan Yew – as long as we economically grow and prosper and move this country forward.

In the meantime, we can continue either celebrating or whining because we got or didn’t get contracts. That seems to be the speciality of most Kenyans I come across. So, in as much I seem to have given up, does it mean I am going to give up on politics? Far from it. I will continue partaking in my civic duties and you can start pitching your cases to me (now that everyone and their elder brother is going for an elective post) – I may or may not support you, and I know it does not really matter. If you are well-intentioned, this should also not stop you from dipping your hands in the murky waters that is Kenyan politics. Well, you never know what you can turn out to be.


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