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Friday, November 21, 2008

A Call to re-Engage the Electorate in Kenya

Guest post By Barry. O

There is something that has to be said about Kumekucha, whether you agree or disagree with bloggers on the site it truly is a great forum for debate and discussion. With that said, there are a number of issues that I have been waiting to discuss here but was mainly waiting to see if history would be with the election of Barrack Obama. Now that history has been made there are a few things that I took from the recent US election that I feel would greatly benefit the electorate in Kenya and indeed the country as well.

For the most part it still seems as though most Kenyans support leaders based on two main characteristics: tribe and personality. Going by the looks of things this has not augured well for Kenya. If I am a member of the Kikuyu community without ties to any powerful leader be it politician or businessman/woman, how has having a Kikuyu president benefited me? Have my living standards improved, does my family have better access to education and healthcare? The community where I live, is it now safer or do I feel more secure now that one of my “own” is in state house? What about employment are my chances of employment significantly better now that one of my “own” is in power? This is not to single out the Kikuyu people as the same question can be posed to members of the Kalenjin community or hypothetically by any other community that should happen to have one of their “own” ended up in state house. If the answers to the above questions are yes, then I must ask if you are content to succeed amongst those who suffer largely through not fault of their own but because one their “own” is not in power knowing full well that in the next election your circumstances could end up in the opposite direction(unless you manage to have your guy in power for 24 yrs!)? If you are someone who prefers a leader who all KENYANS can call “OURS” then let me suggest a few things.

One thing that I took a way from the US elections was that each candidate, whether it was Mc Cain, Clinton, Obama, Romney or even Palin had a record that could be identified, analyzed and evaluated against another. A great portion of this information was PUBLIC, that is to say that even a high school student with a keen knowledge for politics could go online or to the library and look up how each candidate voted on important issues or if the candidate voted at all. Most importantly perhaps, is that each candidate has a fairly identifiable ideology, be it conservative, liberal , moderate, republican or democrat. In Kenya we seem to just have parties and rhetoric. I can recall a few months ago before we were consumed by the waki report, a comment by Kiraitu where he said he and Raila had no differences just different ideologies. I asked myself what are those ideologies? Are they self evident, and perhaps I was just too blind to identify them? Back to US election analysis, because US politicians know that a record is important as well as having a message that resonates with the people it is extremely rare you find a candidate come from obscurity to make a bid to run for the Presidency. The reason for this is because the American voter has no record to evaluate that candidate, and if your record is without substance and thin, like say Sarah Palin your fate is quite often sealed the moment you announce you are running. We Kenyans need to be the kind of electorate that looks beyond rhetoric, let us know which MPs refused to be taxed, If the Waki report is brought to parliament let us know who voted for its implementation who did not and why who is alleged to have done what and why, who was not mentioned and why. Let those who wish to run for the Presidency explain to us how they have voted in parliament on other sensitive issues of the past, then we can have something to consider, evaluate and vote for or against.

When ODM was clamouring for Majimbo I really wish they had chosen another term, something simple like devolution of power or de-centralization. Kenyans would be much better off. In my eyes devolution would make becoming an MP that much harder. Councillors and local government would be strengthened and have more power to address local issues and based on how people performed in these roles would be a good indicator as to how they would perform as MPs or even President because now there would be an identifiable RECORD for voters to examine. Devolution would not mean each province would govern itself exclusively, there would be some room for Provincial authority but this would be subjected to the supreme laws of the Republic. Devolution would not mean the exclusion of certain communities in different provinces on the contrary each and every KENYAN could live where they pleased and own land by RIGHT. What it would mean perhaps, is that certain towns may determine through referendum that for example night clubs close by a certain time, schools in certain towns may determine which languages teachers are allowed to teach in and other unique laws provided that they were not discriminatory against any one community or tribe. I think if we had this in Kenya the electorate would no longer be held captive by tribal leaders who drive around Nairobi in expensive cars and lavish houses and only come home to visit or to ask for votes!

In closing I want to add my two cents to this whole Waki Report debate. As many people have commented and indeed witnessed, the post election violence of 2007 was one of the darkest days in Kenyan history and for us to act like we can just wish it away is not only immoral and foolish it is extremely insensitive to the innocent families who were victims and lost loved ones. I join Raila, Martha Karua, Mudavadi, Orengo, Kilonzo, Uhuru and others who have called for the full implementation for the report. I like many others Kenyans voted for ODM and even when the controversial if not fraudulent results were announced I saluted the call for MASS ACTION by Raila Odinga and others. Peaceful demonstrations should never be banned and disrupted in the violent manner in which they were by the police. At no time can I remember Raila or any other ODM member call for MASS VIOLENCE. I do not recall Raila calling for the forcible evacuation of Kikuyus or Kisiis. So if you fought for Raila and ODM, I am assuming you fought against election fraud and the POLICE who used live bullets, if the calls for MASS ACTION were misinterpreted than I think Raila should apologize for those who misinterpreted him and nothing else as far as MASS ACTION goes in response to the fraudulent election. If there is evidence that shows Raila incited violence by suggesting certain communities be evacuated from certain areas, than I would hope to see Raila and other names amongst those on Waki List. Even in Kenya you are innocent until proven guilty and given the fact that our MPs have the resources to hire the best lawyers in the land, proving their innocence in a Kenyan tribunal would be elementary compared to having to go before the ICC. By coming out and dismissing a report that has only made suggestions you make yourself seem as if you have something to hide in the court of public opinion. As to those threatening to quit parties over INDIVIDUAL stands taken on the report I would recommend that those people fight from within their parties as it is for the party’s ideals and philosophy that you are a member in the first place or is it the individual? I hope my ramblings have not stirred up too much and I have tried to be as non-partisan as possible I look forward to feedback positive and negative.

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Anonymous said...

there clearly were two forms of violence in kenya in Jan. there was the mass protests...the violence that we saw in kisumu7, kibera etc that wa spontanious and even when it took an ethnic dimension, it was much later and even then in a disorganized way that saw many many kikuyus and kisiis get refuge from Luos in thos areas.

Then there was the RV one. Much more sinister. According to the NSIS and Waki, had been organized MONTHS before the election and was aimed at ethnically cleansing the province of kikuyus regardless of the outcome of the election.

That is why Kalenjin leaders are the only ones scrambling around trying to get Kenyans to ignore the Waki report with all sorts of threats. they are mass murderers that are now scared their blood drenched hands will be brought to light.

Vikii said...

Barry, I don't know what to make of your post. I don't get exactly what you took from the US election, but the only thing to take from that, as far as I am concerned, was the committment by both the leadership and the general citizenry to uphold democracy, practice it as it should be practiced, repect the verdict of the majority and move on to serious work after polls close.

You talk of the American people looking seriously at the records of those running. There was nothing of the sort. If those records ever mattered to them, the President-elect would be Rudy Giuliani, McCain or Joe Biden. Instead they voted for an unknown quantity. How you can explain the election of Barack Obama using his record, I dont know.

Barack Obama, like all other politicians was elected because he practiced smart politics. He sat down before the 2004 Democratic convention, wrote a beautiful speech, worked on it really hard and went on to steal the show from the candidate at the convention. Being the intelligent man he is, the well educated fellow he is, he was able to craft a few good sounding slogans (even Bush's compassionate conservatism worked)and conducted a disciplined campaign that potrayed him as a little more honest than the other fellows. The 'personality' parameter you seem not to like is the biggest reason Obama is President. Barack has a worse voting record than any other US senator running for the Presidency. You need to look at how many times he voted "present" (they call that 'hiding in the toilet in Kenya) both at the state senate and the US senate.

Now, you really need to sit down and make a case for Majimbo or whatever you want to call it. All you have done in your defense of this notion of an idea is to describe how it works in the united States (little cities like Wasilla deciding to close their bars whenever). You have obviously forgotten that even the United states (I am assuming you are basing your argument on the appeal of their politics) has senators based in Washington DC. The actions of these senators has a far bigger bearing on the life of the average American than those in the local governments. Majimbo is not an entirely crazy idea, but it would make sense if those who advocate for it came up with ONE single thing a Majimbo system would do better and why.

The idea of people using referenda to decide their own little issues in their little villages is another fallacy. What our focus should be on is the strengthening of our democracy. They may do it in Carlifornia and wherever else, but for heavens sake they have democratic structures which attach some sense to the outcome of the plebiscite. Seek ye democray first and all other things will be added to you. What's the use of carrying out a poll that will be rigged or whose outcome will be rejected by the losers? Or worse still where people are hacked to death for voting in an 'undesired' way?

About Mr. Waki's report, you tell us you do not recall Raila Odinga calling on people to engage in mass violence. I have news for you; I have no recollection of William Ruto doing that either. And if I may remind you, William Ruto has the democratic right to belong to a party of his choice. That is the whole essence of democracy. Reminding him that his current party sponsored him to Parliament is holding him to higher standards than his peers most of whose first hobby is party-hopping.

Kimi Raikkonen said...

"...Devolution would not mean each province would govern itself exclusively, there would be some room for Provincial authority...
...I think if we had this in Kenya the electorate would no longer be held captive by tribal leaders who drive around Nairobi in expensive cars and lavish houses and only come home to visit or to ask for votes!.."

Please stop being naive. Devolution in the Kenyan context simply means transferring corruption, dictatorship and thievery from the National to the provincial level. Look at Mombasa for instance. The municipal council is controlled 100% by ODM, the majimbo proponents, yet the first thing they did once in power was to evict licensed Kiosk owners majority of whom also happened to be upcountry people from their plots. They then sold the plots where the former kiosks stood to Asians and there are no prizes for guessing where the payments went. If Majimbo or devolution or whatever you want to call it is implemented, the above actions will be ten times worse, probably leading to civil war. The solution for Kenya is to do away with political offices such as councillors and have direct election of Mayors only. The Mayors, now equivalent to company CEOs, can then have qualified professionals running various departments such as garbage collection, rate payments, water provision, sanitary and sewage management and other services expected of a municipality, just like a professional business. The Mayors in turn will be accountable to the National Executive whose job it is to ensure they do their jobs by having Mayoral elections every two years. The same principal can be replicated in County councils throughout the country. The idea is to remove toll stations for bribery and corruption as most corruption that affects common folk is at the local level. Majimboism is simply corruption at the local level.

Anonymous said...

Vikii I don;t think you have a clue about american politics, save for Mc Cain neither Biden and especially Giulliani had a chance at the presidency. Mc cain was non starter from the moment he mentioned he was pro- choice aloud, Biden who I like and admire, despite his foreign policy credentials, does not have a personality that resonates with the people. Mc Cain who has a respectable record, was a republican and given their favor amongst americans had no chance until he selected Palin, and once she was proven to be brain dead it was smooth saling for Obama. If you think Obama was elected soley because he can give good speeches than you really and truly clueless about American politics. He had a message and agenda that resonated with the people and took and important and unpopular stand (voting against Iraq invasion) that people supported in addition his stand on healthcare, foreign policy and taxes are some of the key reasons why he was elected by a landslide. America is not Kenya. which clearly you VIKII seem to think and that is why I proposed them as a model for us. Of course Obama practiced smart politics most credible politicians do, your response loudly sounds your ignorance through and through. The pessimism and ignorance is in part why Kenyans can't advance. Fortunately for you Vikii I'm sure somewhere one coward named Kalonzo is smiling...

Anonymous said...

correction I meant Giulliani was a non-starter over his pro-choice stand as a republican and his role in 9/11 has been greatly exaggerated. Vikii do some research...

Anonymous said...

Kimi I agree with you on the direct election of mayors, that is a form of devolution. As for corruption it is fully entrenched in our centralized system. Devolution will make things clearer even to the blindest of all, the most ignorant of us all (Vikii). Our current system is taking around and around like a circus. Kimi What genuine ideas do you have to solve our problems?
-Barry O

Anonymous said...

Vikii since I doubt you will do your research. Those democratic structures you mention in regards to the US are forms of devolution giving power to the states, that is why homosexuals like you can get married in Massachusetts and no longer in California. That is why, New York despite being as liberal as it is has had a REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR for at 10 of the past 11 years. What makes you think Obama has a "worse" voting record simply because he voted present in the senate and state senate if you know smart politics as you claim than you would understand why. As for senators being based on DC that your argument is again mute, because like our MPs they or at least how our MPs should act senators work to bring back goodies to their STATES just look at the former Senator from Alaska. But as far as state regulations go it is the governor and to a certain degree the mayors of the major cities of those states who have a major say in how those states functions. Please Vikii dig your head out of your ass!!

-Barry O

Anonymous said...

Barry o said
Those democratic structures you mention in regards to the US are forms of devolution giving power to the states, that is why homosexuals like you can get married in Massachusetts and no longer in California
Barry you can express your point without resorting to name calling, you can do better than that can't you?

Joe said...


This was a good discussion until you started calling each other names. Can't we be civil while putting our points across?

Barry O, i think you owe Vikii an apology.

Vikii said...

Barack Obama voted against the Iraqi war? I think it is yiu who needs to do some research. He was not even a senator! Come on they dont vote for or against a war at the state senate. He GAVE A SPEECH opposing the war. A roadside speech. And even if he had actually VOTED against the war, is that a record that stands out frm the rest? An instantial record of sorts?

Those telling me about what made Rudolph Giuliani, McCain and Biden lose, that's another discussion. All I did was to use them against this notion that a candidate's record mattered so much that Kenyans should be taking note.

I repeat, the American electorate may be a little more educated than the Kenyan one, but their choices for any elective office are emotionally guided pretty much like Kenyans. There is nothing to copy from them. They are equally ignorant.

About the insults, I will be back. Let me get my tutor first.

Taabu said...

Kenyans residing in the US WITHOUT the right to vote are aparently more American than the Americans themselves. What a cheap shot at a complicated philosophy? Well, it is a weekend and the louder the better. May the large decibels be transformed into quality.

e-change said...

Barry O,
we don't need to re-invent the wheel.the averaga Kenyan in the village is light years ahead of our politicians and every day those 2 legged dinosaurs keep waking to play catch up to us and our aspirations as far as the future of this country is concerned. your "call to re-engage electorate" should instead read "yet ANOTHER wake up call to all our duly electeds"

who does not know that we need more equitable distribution of resources among all 42 tribes of Kenya? who also does not know that through decentralisation a more devolved system of government would bring about a sense of greater government to meet the agenda and needs for the good of our people?

In essence all the Kenyan voter really needs is a BIG STICK to make our political miscreants sit up and seriously pay attention to the great expectations we've desired for generations. Barry aren't you tired of screaming yourself hoarse every 5 years yet tone-deaf political sabouteurs continue to hold our nation hostage to an irrelevant past as we helplessly watch everything we can but probably never will be hopelessly slip us by so slowly?

i am not saying there are no lessons to be learnt from the just concluded US elections- things like public access to political office holders track records and information such as party platforms on ideological views are definitely areas that need to be enhanced before the next elections in 20... however the challenges lying ahead not withstanding the Kenyan voter has been taken from one merciless ride to another by politicians whom we have never had any control or say over how they conduct our affairs in their name and how they distribute our resources for our benefit. We need to seriously think of how we can send an unforgettable message to those dunderheads in parliament that we are watching you; one wrong move and kwaheri

Anonymous said...

E-Change i appreciate your sentiments wholeheartedly. Vikii I wish to apologize for my foolish comments in response to yours. The question I am trying to answer is how we can educate and empower ourselves so that we can bring in fresh faces in the next elections,but not just fres faces faces, fresh ideas that lead to action and not empty rhetoric. One of the first steps I believe we have to make is to force these MPs to pay taxes....
-Barry O

KenyaLuv said...

Africans are just not socially evolved enough. We will continue to fight on non-issues like tribe and engage in self-sabotage(corruption,non developmental issues) etc. We need at least 100 years to mature. Sad truth.

Anonymous said...

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