Centralized Kenya Politics: Why Our Winner Takes It All
Our country stands at a perilous crossroad – with the Uhuru/Ruto duo convinced they have the right and legitimacy to rule – and a bitter and determined Raila convinced he has once again been robbed of his birth right.
We didn’t get where we are by mistake. Those involved in the current scrimmage unwittingly delivered themselves there, by design or via a carefully calculated skulduggery.
Kenyan politics are regrettably a do or die, winner takes it all affairs; in a society very much used to shortcuts and casual back of envelope arrangements; and where cheating and dishonesty have been normalised on an industrial scale. Without doubt, were Mr Odinga in Uhuru’s very position now, his language would not be that of a man seeking change and redress; but one convinced the voters are on his side; and he has the mandate to rule. If you doubt this listen to freely available YouTube clips of William Ruto in December 2007, and juxtapose that with his CNN interview last week. Many of our politicians are pathologically dishonest.
Unless we change the rules and laws of engagement, with the country rather than politicians in mind; we shall be back where we are in exactly 5 years from today should the Jubilee win be upheld and they carry on to 2022 – with or without Raila. That outcome is not inevitable. We could take action today or in the next few years to avoid that eventuality. That way we shall normalise our elections, reclaim our sense of nationhood and call ourselves Kenyan at last.
First we need to broaden our politics and democracy by creating and embedding in the constitution the Office of the Official Leader of the Opposition – with a salary, staff and security just below that of the president or his deputy. Mechanisms need to exist to ensure there is a healthy tension between the two and that they officially meet regularly in the country’s best interest (twice a month at the least). There should also be a well-structured shadow cabinet paid for by the taxpayer as an alternative government in waiting. Had this option been available to Raila or Uhuru, the bitterness and vitriolic anger we are witnessing from Raila would be less pronounced and bloody, and our country’s economy would not have lost the billions it’s lost on account of the present political morass. Such a move represents a justifiable cost that Kenyans must willingly bear. The alternative is our present quagmire.
Secondly we need to expand the Executive branch of government to include a Primeminister’s position with 3-4 deputies to ensure all the Kenyan regions feel a part of the government, whether they voted for the winner or the loser. An arrangement where some of these posts went to marginalised communities would represent leadership and courage, not tribalism. Those blind to the obvious fact that Jubilee has been somewhat a two community affair need to wake up from their hypocritical torpor. We are Africans; and by and large are a collegial people, for whom symbolism is psychologically important. If you doubt it, look at the voting patterns and you’ll witness that communities who felt represented by Jubilee voted for Uhuru and Ruto, while those who felt left out genuflected at Raila’s feet for salvation.
Thirdly the government needs to start thinking seriously about decentralising and relocating major operations away from Nairobi. It’s foolish that nearly all government headquarters are in Nairobi. With advances in communication technology, there is no justification for government agencies to be located in Nairobi. Why do we need the CID, Police, Immigration, Fisheries, Transport, Telecommunications, Teachers Service Commission, most Agricultural departments, the Army Headquarters all in Nairobi? Why can we not have every one of the 47 counties being the headquarters of at least one government body? That way our country will start feeling national again. Kenya Power, KenGen and Geothermal Ltd should be headquartered in Embu and Naivasha.
The Forestry and Wildlife departments should be in Machakos/ Makueni/Taveta/Nyandarua/Nanyuki and of course Fisheries squarely in Kisumu. Agricultural and livestock departments should be split between Nakuru, Kitale, Narok, Kisii, Uasin Gishu and Eldoret. The sugar bodies should be based in Western Kenya. Petroleum headquarters should be relocated to Turkana. Tourism bodies should be at the Coast. Far from making government expensive, moving agencies out of high labour cost Nairobi into low cost locations makes perfect economic justification. Such a move will also lead to new auxiliary sectors in those regions. It will also balance regional development in our country and decongest Nairobi! A win win arrangement.
Fourth our Media need to put its house in order. While the development of media plurality has been a good thing for our country, standards have awfully fallen and the Kenyan Media is not entirely honest and impartial. It has failed to adequately hold politicians both in government and opposition to account. Those who watched the presidential debate in July cannot disagree that Raila got away lightly. Those who interviewed him showed reverence, a casual bias and a reluctance to pin him down on issues such as corruption and poor governance which he’s consistently blamed on others; while they blatantly stink within his party and in offices he’s held in the past.
That President Kenyatta’s family own and control significant chunks of the media (Print, Radio and TV) further stifles impartiality and the media’s role in promoting governance and high standards in public life. Regrettably a worrying number of Kenya’s journalists are very poorly trained, poorly paid and susceptible to compromise. An independent and impartial media is paramount.
Finally, our police need to be retrained to see demonstrators as citizens rather than hooligans and bullet targets. No doubt Raila has diminished his stature by encouraging demonstrations without actively discouraging violence and destruction. In the minds of his opponents Raila wrongly remains a messiah of doom and violence. Demonstrations yes but destruction and death No. The nearly 50 Kenyans who’ve lost their lives since the August elections represent an unforgivable and painful stain on our collective psyche. No Kenyan should die in the name of politics.
Kenya’s many problems are peculiar and will require leadership, courage, painful sacrifice and unconventional actions. We must take bold, brave and unpopular sacrifices and choices in the short run – to preserve our country long-term. Doing nothing only postpones the inevitable and impending bloody and chaotic implosion whose aftermath will be catastrophic for us all. Leaving things as they are offers only a false promise.
By Alex Kamau.
The writer is a lecturer in the UK. © 2017 [email protected]