Forget what the politicians are saying…2017 was a good year for democracy in Kenya. Just. True we were tried, we tittered then we triumphed. We were not short of prophets of doom. Even an over-enthusiastic rather juvenile Senator had warned of Armageddon. The world held its collective breath, some sent their reporters, well briefed and even with elaborate evacuation back-up plans. They warned, they watched and they waited. It never came. The naysayers had lost, and Kenya had triumphed.
As we enter 2018, despite the triumph of our democracy, nothing has changed politically in Kenya and nothing is likely to change in the foreseeable future. Jubilee is in power, legitimately or illegitimately depending on who you ask. This is not new. It has been in power for the last five years legitimately or illegitimately depending on who you ask, and even the category “who you ask” has not changed. Those who thought that Jubilee was in power illegitimately five years ago still do, those who didn’t, still don’t. Welcome to Kenya!
NASA are in the opposition, as they have been for the last five years, only beaten, broken and bitter. Both Jubilee and NASA are trying to redefine their roles in the eyes of their supporters and detractors, and two different dispensations have emerged.
Those in power are talking unity and development. Again, this is not anything new. In fact, it is the oldest KANU song in town. I am sure those of my readers who are old enough remember the umoja na maendeleo clarion call of Moi’s KANU. It took us nowhere. Those in the opposition have a new clarion call, “resist” and they have called for “people’s assemblies” and secession. The bigger question however is, how do we the people fit in all this.
Comparing Jubilee’s and NASA’s post-election dispensations, I am inclined to explore NASA’s position for progressive possibilities, since honestly speaking, umoja na maendeleo is so old and tattered a clarion call, it tells me that Jubilee is seriously suffering from a dearth of new ideas. They have been in power for 55 years, and we are neither united nor developed.
I particularly like the concept of the “peoples’ assembly”, but for completely different reasons from which it has been proposed.
Like I have said, nothing has changed. And nothing is likely to change unless we the people realize that electing politicians and releasing them to rule and steal from us for five years has not worked for the last 55 years, is not working and is likely not to work for us. We must rise to the new reality that we must continuously and vigilantly be involved and engaged in governance to hold to account those whom we have elected through every second and every minute of the next five years.
We have to realize that Kenya has moved from the era of subversion and agitation to the era of participation and accountability. My problem with the “people’s assembly” as conceived by Raila is that he bases it on his old politics of subversion, agitation and “reforms”. Do we need a people’s assembly? Yes. But its major purpose must be to enable people to participate in governance and to hold their elected leaders accountable. The first business of the “peoples’ assembly” must be to give life to the mutilated constitutional provision for recall of politicians. As easily as they were elected, we the people must have the power to as easily recall them tomorrow, if accountability calls.
And then there is the small matter of secession. If I lived in a country where I felt, rightly or wrongly, that my rights and opportunities were curtailed, I would want to have the right to explore other options, secession included. I therefore see nothing wrong in whoever is talking secession. We must realize that all over the world, secession and talk of secession are legitimate avenues for those who feel marginalized in all sorts of ways. Though it is a fairly new way of engaging in Kenya, it is common throughout the world from Uganda, Sudan, Nigeria, Chad, Libya, Spain, Britain, Eastern Europe, The balkans, Russia, China, Papua New Guinea, Canada and the list goes on and on. I feel that those reacting negatively to the call are doing so more from fear of the unknown. After all, the call for unity is as democratic as the call for secession.
I am always for new ideas. There can never be progress without them. Looking at the political landscape, we have the same actors, occupying the same positions and our post-election disposition is not far different from our pre-election one. For we the people, nothing will change unless we rise up to our role of engagement and participation in politics and holding our elected leaders to account every minute and day of the next five years. In realizing this role, NASA has proposed a workable participatory model. For it to make sense though, it must be divorced from Raila Odinga’s diminishing political fortunes and outdated politics of subversion.
Post-2017 election, I am more enamored to the NASA ideas for the possibilities of engagement, participation and accountability that they offer we the people. The last thing I want to hear is the old umoja na maendeleo KANU nonsense. The lesson for 2018 is that nothing has changed, and nothing will change unless we the people engage our political space to structure our participation and demand for accountability.
I am wishing all my readers, supporters and critics a prosperous 2018!!