Diaspora voteKenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has indicated that the next general elections will be held in August 2017. To a casual observer, that election time may sound far enough not to distract the country from current executive, legislative or judicial business.

Trust Kenyan politicians to always go against the grain. Political kelele in the country is currently at the all-time high. That is hardly surprising. There are altogether 418 members of Parliament of Kenya, which includes the National Assembly (350 members) and the Senate (68 members).

These honorable men and women will each take home a basic pay of around Kshs. 6m per year. This basic pay is supplemented with extra sitting allowances, a generous medical plan, a vehicle purchase grant, a mileage allowance and a low-interest loan to buy a home.

Together, they gobble up a whopping Kshs. 16 billion a year from the exchequer. In Kenya, politics is such a lucrative career. Diaspora community should note this. The fierce cut-throat competition for political office between opposing camps is therefore understandable. Democracy, like freedom, is not cheap.

Come 2017, all of Kenya’s elective offices, including that of the president and his deputy will be up for grabs. In the current clamor for political office, investments agenda in Kenya will most likely take the back seat. President Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto have tried to rally the country together by focusing on development agenda of their ruling Jubilee coalition.

That is because, barring the unexpected, the president and his deputy will run for the second term as a team. Without exception, all their lieutenants will face local inter-party and opposing party competition. The president and his deputy may crack the whip to keep their supporters on the same page regarding their development message. But, the jostling for power in the local arena may mean politicians will be pulling in different directions.

Deputy Governors will try to unseat their Governors. A number of Senators have expressed interest in becoming Governors. MPs are gunning for senatorial positions while new entrants (may be some from the Diaspora) will be seeking to become MPs.  This explains the current tug-of-war around the country. If this leads to economic slowdown in the months ahead, Kenyan politicians will be cutting the hand that feeds them.

The test for Kenya’s greatness will be how well her democratic institutions will handle the second most complex general elections since the launching of the new constitution. There is talk of at least three referenda taking place at the same time as the elections.

The greatest concern for Kenya watchers is that, there are those who, fearing defeat in the elections, may be tempted to promote the agenda of hate, stoking inter-communal differences. Such has recently been witnessed between Isiolo and Meru, between Kisumu and Nandi and also in Narok. And such violence has been the bane of Kenyan politics since the return of multi-party politics in 1992.

If unchecked, such forces have the potential to wreck the spirit of Tuungane Mikono, Pamoja Kazini, on which diverse communities seek to build a harmonious Kenyan society. A polarizing, Donald Trump-type politician who shoots from the hip would do a great disservice to Kenya’s delicate social fabric.

America has the luxury of such because the country has been independent for close to 240 years. If Kenya peacefully pulls to and through the next elections, the country will join the neighboring Tanzania in demonstrating that democracy in Africa, though expensive, is still the best form of governance.  Kenya must avoid the shameful South Sudan route of start-stop civil war and anarchy in the midst of plenty of natural resources. They say, once bitten, twice shy.

By Leonard Njoroge, Diaspora Messenger Media Contributor

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