See also Phil's Tit bits on referendum results
If you can read and understand English just try and read Kenya’s new constitution again. This time carefully and then when you are done, tell me if Kenyan politics can remain the same—whatever crafty thing the political class tries to do next.
Indeed the mystery deeply bothering me just now is how the highly intelligent political class rallied behind this very constitution that will for sure come back to haunt and destroy them. Were they drunk for all those months that they traveled country-wide drumming up support for the document? Did they not read carefully what they were supporting?
Even more interesting is how Kenyan politics has changed so quickly over the last few months (even before the new constitution is implemented) as so dramatically illustrated by the voting patterns countrywide for the proposed document.
Many analysts have argued that the reason why Ukambani stood so firmly against the proposed constitution had to do with them listening to the church. I come from the area and I can tell you that is NOT true. The truth is much more complicated than that. For starters there has been a backlash brewing against Vice president Kalonzo Musyoka in Ukambani for a very long time now. (Interestingly in Kalonzo’s own constituency of Mwingi North Yes won unconvincingly with 24,489 votes against 14,780 for “No”).
I happened to be in Machakos town in 2008 when Kalonzo made the ill-advised decision to celebrate his Silver Jubilee in politics and his being appointed vice president in the town. It is instructive that he did not hold these celebrations in his constituency or even in Mwingi or Kitiu but in Machakos which is very far from his constituency. Even then, the way locals in Machakos were talking you would have been convinced that they were preparing to stone the man to death. The main cause of all these anti-Kalonzo emotions had something to do with the fact that in his long political career he has done nothing for his people on the ground. Something that nobody would dare point out in the Kanu days.
Another factor that influenced voting patterns amongst the Akamba people is a factor that applied right across the country and is a pointer to what we should expect in 2012. More so under the new constitution. It seems that the era of Kenyan voters voting as a block and without thinking very much has ended. Slowly but surely the days of tribal chiefs are on their way out of Kenyan politics. We saw the same thing in Eldoret North where the area MP William Ruto used every trick in the book (including a lot of white lies) to get the voters to turn against the new constitution. Well a sizeable amount of his constituents voted yes. Almost half of them. That is very telling indeed.
What should make politicians really scared is the fact that the new Kenyan voter is young restless and very unpredictable. But they will mostly base their final decision on merit.
But even before Kenyans voted in the historic referendum on Wednesday the signs were already clearly emerging that Kenyan politics would never be the same again.
Let’s revisit the last YES rally at Uhuru park last weekend. Two prospective presidential candidates to me looked like they were really struggling with Kenya’s new politics. The first was ODM’s Musalia Mudavadi. He gave what appeared to be a good speech and quoted the founding father of the Tanzanian nation the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. To be honest I enjoyed his speech myself in comparison to some of the other crazy remarks some politicians were making. But the crowd at Uhuru park yawned and fidgeted. It was an excellent speech BUT to the wrong audience. The Kenyan voter is today extremely young and restless and has little time for intellectual discourses or ancient history, even if they are well read (haven’t I learnt that lesson the hard way right here in Kumekucha with my love for Kenyan history? These days I have to carefully package history into current affairs.)
The other politician who was clearly struggling was Kalonzo Musyoka. He learnt from his mistake of last time and tried very hard to use Raila to ride on the mood of the rowdy youths at Uhuru park. The effort fell flat on its’ face and made him look weak. Too little too late. The voting patterns amongst Kalonzo’s own Akamba people and even right in his own constituency a few days later just went on to confirm what everybody saw at Uhuru Park.
It is instructive that the two politicians I have mentioned from both sides of the political divide are former KANU diehards. It seems that those who thrived on Kanu’s rubber-stamp-and-kneel-down-before-the-king politics are going to have no place in the new Kenya. Thus it is hardly surprising that whispers within ODM have it that Musalia greatly disappointed and failed completely to step into the Captain’s shoes when he was incapacitated recently. A growing number of supporters of the party are now of the view that he should be replaced and the party should get another “stronger” character to the position.
In the same breath if PNU are interested in making an impact in the next general elections then Kalonzo Musyoka should not feature anywhere in the 2012 line up. Get me very right here because I am NOT being personal. Just ask yourself the simple question; what does he have to offer? What will he bring to the table?
So the new politician in Kenya has got to package their message just right for young voters who are now the majority and who quickly and easily get bored. At the same Uhuru Park rally one politician despite his advanced age managed to do just that. Prime Minister Raila Odinga used his infamous soccer analogy and almost brought the house down. Some silly visitors to this blog continue to insist on painting me as a Raila sympathizer and supporter which is just not true (ask Phil and he will tell you how often he gets upset about what I frequently write about his beloved captain here. Still you have to give it to our Phil for always being consistent about his political leanings right from the time I first met him in 2005 when this blog started.)
Hate him or like him, the truth of the matter is that Raila’s speech at Uhuru Park was highly entertaining while beautifully driving the political message home. I myself rolled on the floor in laughter when he reached the part where the ball was passed to Bishop Wanjiru and then she slipped and fell and got injured so seriously that she had to be carried off the pitch. He was of course referring to the recent misfortunes of the Bishop where she lost her parliamentary seat in a court petition.
To some folks who think that they have gone to school, the whole charade looks childish and unbecoming for a whole principal and member of the executive of the republic of Kenya. To the voters it was hilarious and no doubt many who may not have made up their mind about the draft constitution at that point were influenced to vote in a manner that pleased the entertaining PM a few days later. For instance in the PM’s home province of Nyanza the support for a new constitution was overwhelming. 1,174, 033 people voted YES which represented a total of 91 per cent of the votes cast. Only a paltry 101, 491 representing 8 per cent said NO to the new constitution. You really can’t argue with those figures can you?
Good people, whatever the flaws and shortcomings of the new constitution, you can be sure of one thing. Kenyan politics has dramatically changed forever. Prepare yourself for the entry of some very new kids on the block.
P.S. My estimates of the win that the YES side would get turned out to be off the mark. I had said 85% having adjusted it from my earlier 75% of the total votes cast. Other pollsters put the figure at around 60% and they too were wrong. It turned out that the correct figure was somewhere in the middle at about 70%. But then polls are not always accurate to the exact percentage. Not only that, politics is usually very fluid and many politicians facing certain defeat have won elections just because something changed on the ground just before voters went to the polls. It happens all the time and it happens all over the world. I know for a fact that there were a lot of dirty things that went on in the Rift Valley in the last few days (remember the man who said on TV that he was voting against the new constitution because it limited land ownership to 10 acres and he had more than that and didn’t want to lose his land?)
Anyway, I know I have many enemies here insistent on splitting hairs because for some reason they see me as a threat (my advice to them is to concentrate on the more serious threat to their game at the moment—namely our new constitution). However the point to be noted is that despite the noise NO fellows were making about “rigged” polls, Kumekucha and the other pollsters were absolutely correct about the sentiments of the people on the ground. I am delighted that once again my faithful readers have been able to prove that I indeed have my fingers constantly on the pulse of the Kenyan nation and the people on the ground and that is one of the reasons why some important people I know always take notes when reading my posts here.