Archive | January, 2013

POLITICAL TRIANGLES, MANEUVERS AND A DEMOCRACY WAITING TO RIPEN

6 Jan

By Javas Bigambo, Consultant – Interthoughts Consulting

Kenya is headed to a major historical and vivacious election. The major battle formations have already shaped up, and the thirst for balanced political arithmetic has led to formation of political triangles christened “alliances”, all in the name of the people and the country.
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No, I am in no way contending against alliances, rather, their character. The character of the political alliances is coloured in the hues of betrayal, impunity, political survival, false courage and the absence of real love for country. In fact, everything we see is anything that rancor, prejudice, ignorance, tribalism or self-aggrandizement could suggest. Look at the original alliances and see the big picture. CORD strongly stringed with Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetangula; Jubilee with Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto and formerly Musalia Mudavadi; Pambazuka with Eugene Wamalwa, Nocholas Biwott and Cyrus Jirongo, Eagles with Peter Kenneth, Raphael Tuju and Wamalwa lurking in the horizons. All these alliances are maneuvered and stringed along a known triangle, familiar twists, the hoopla getting to their heads, known histories and quests and the triangle of appetites in the name of ambition, survival and conquest, setting Kenya’s pre-election politics as fluid and agonizingly malleable.

But it scarcely helps it either by Kenyans displaying their love for politics by taking similarly tribal triangles and angles, and embracing copious fury laced with political convenience. Like politicians, it hurts the country the more when voters prefer and utilize loose tongues on the frenzy of the safer tribal inhibitions, the preferred tribal identities and the attendant passions. Yes, our collective memories are short. It is the malignancy of despair, poverty, apathy and hopelessness that drove this country to the bloodletting post-election violence of 2007/2008 through the triangle of anguish between the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya, the voters and the presidential candidates at the time. The politicians were the ones holding the remotes, and cheekily controlling them, after which, they have since struggled to hide their complacency and moral cowardice by feeble attempts to condemn violence and call for peace.

Now our political yoke is heavy. While the political history of Kenya should shame our collective conscience, it must no more be lost on us that every generation must have the courage to explore reason and on which strength, act devoid of prejudice or self-interest even to the interests of a generation that shall come after it. It is in this breadth that nearly all members of the 10th parliament must not hope to retire in peace. They have energetically let this country down, and made every effort in their power weaken the Constitution. True! The 10th parliament has suffered the vanity and ridiculous presumption that it has every right and freedom to overturn constitutional timelines, specifications and even to water down vital pieces of legislation. It has done so with very perilous audacity.
So it is incumbent upon the people of Kenya, burning with anxiety to dispose of the 10th parliament with equal interest. It cannot be ignored that the challenges of the present time are many, the choices are stark and the times so dire, that it must be ridiculous for Kenyans to sin by silence at a time when they must use all they have to protect and preserve the Constitution.

Hitherto, only the Constitutional Implementation Commission (CIC) has demonstrated passionate consistency in defense of Kenya’s katiba, the real vanguards in ontology. One, for instance, would wonder what good do most commissions serve starting with the national Cohesion Integration Commission (NCIC) and the moribund Truth Justice and reconciliation Commission (TJRC). The civil society has similarly largely remained like chicken – toothless, full of cowardly feathers and only clucking from the distant fences as long as the donor funds can encourage them. What absence of patriotism is this? True patriotism is so wanting in Kenya, so much to the extent that millions are ever ready to trade the little sense of it with tribalism. Of course I know that patriotism remains that elastic, elusive, contested and unattended concept within the academic intelligentsia and political operatives. With competing interests, the civil society has succeeded in self-censoring, without self reproach, and now soar the orbit of deafening silence at a crucial time when Kenya needs voices to protect it. Moving forward, it may be vital for us to philosophize over concepts such as tribalism, ethnicity, patriotism, nationalism and private interests.

Why would NGO operatives, parliamentarians and constitutional commissioners coyly expediently wax lyrical with honeyed prose that is merely long in theory, yet the practice and results of it all remains short in substance, pale, symbolic and distant like Vasco Da Gama’s historic pillar at the coast. Perchance Kenyans need to lower their sights from the high skies of initial great hopes of reforms earlier anticipated at the dawn of a new constitutional era. Instead of being the vanguards of constitutional reform and implementation, top NGO operatives are now hawk eyed to capture Constitutional Commission offices as commissioners.

The discourse on Kenya’s constitution implementation is the rough path that very few are willing to brave. To start with, political institutions and leaders are the architects of poor implementation of the constitution and the weakening of enabling laws for expediency’s sake. This is closely followed by state capture by status quo enthusiasts and loyalists who would give anything to hamper reform in governance and ensuring that only the wealthy, the connected and those willing to bribe their way up get ‘high profile jobs’. In fact, a spot check reveals that such connected people once they clear their stint at one constitutional commission they quickly find their way in other constitutional commissions, and they gladly continue serving the underlying interests of those who facilitated their move into such offices.

Writing in Political Culture, Governance & the State in Africa, Abdalla Bujra and Samuel Lando postulate that there exists a resilient culture to water and nourish a “despotic and exploitative system of governance in Africa” in all successive governments. This is true. The steamy reform experiments are always quickly thwarted or infiltrated by “dark forces” that would automatically wince whenever there is an ostensible effort to open up platforms and spaces of governance and reform. It is clear even to the average eye that the same challenges and difficulties that faced the wave of democratization of the 1990’s are the same anti-reform patterns and agitators forcefully emerging to frustrate constitutional implementation in Kenya. They are the forces whose spite for a better Kenya, enthuses them to a legislative and policy play of Ping-Pong in the triangle between the legislature, executive and the judiciary. Luckily, the judiciary presently seems to be breaking off into celebrated independence to the chagrin of both the executive and the legislature.

Don’t get me wrong. Constitutional implementation in Kenya is not the magic bullet that shall provide bread and honey to all the denizens in equal measure. No. In fact, by handing themselves the whole package and weight of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, in a way, Kenyans willingly put a millstone around their own necks. The ultimate cost and pressure of financing the devolved system of government and the many unnecessary constitutional commissions formed and related structures is an unavoidable bill of poverty for Kenyans in the long run. The unpleasant imminent rise in taxes and cost of living is going to be particularly irritable, and the despicable margin between the rich and the poor is going to be the disgrace of the century. It is easy to wonder whether Kenya’s struggles through reform and governance are in any way endogenous or a spiraling function of the African geopolitics and the by-product of neocolonial global capitalism and international power play. To this end, though Kenya prides in being a pacesetter in democratic practice in East and Central Africa, I am quite reluctant to consider it a mature democracy. At best, Kenya is an infant democracy, a democracy waiting to ripen.

The author is a consultant at Interthoughts Consulting and can be reached through jbigambo@interthoughts.co.ke