For Kenya, things have changed and also remained the same
Posted Tuesday, March 12 2013 at 02:00
Going forward, the new constitution that ensures devolution of powers from the centre to the newly created counties is what will determine if Kenya has been born again.
Kenya is celebrating the election of a new President and a plethora of several leaders across the country. Looking at the run-up to these days of joy and sorrow, one may recall the words of French critic Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr. Wrote he: “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” which is often translated as the more it changes, the more it remains the same thing.”
When the eventual winners Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto came up with the Jubilee alliance, (Kenya will be celebrating 50 years of Independence this year) they bragged that theirs was the ‘Digital Team’. The old analog was supposedly ascribed to the main challenger Raila Odinga and his CORD alliance, made up of politicians born in the pre-independence era.
Then Jubilee hit the ground running. Motivated by the fact that its leaders were indictees at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for their alleged part in the violence after the contested election of 2007, they copied a winning strategy that dates back in the analog era.
The alliance put two populous tribes together: the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin. They then mobilised door to door, ensuring that people from these tribes registered in droves.
This not only gave Kenya a Kikuyu/Kalenjin president and vice presidential line up as it was up to 1978 with Kenyatta’s father Jomo and Daniel arap Moi at the helm, but it also meant that about half of the 14 million registered voters (6.1 million) were from these two regions. The new kids picked the tribal card and it worked.
Like Kenya mobilised against colonial rule more than 50 years ago with the famous Mau Mau rebellion, Jubilee benefited a lot from an attempt by the West to influence the outcome of the election.
Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Ambassador Jonnie Carson and many others called upon Kenyans and even threatened them not to vote leaders who were indicted and faced travel bans.
It appeared like they were trying to sponsor a stooge or a modern ‘Independent’ colonial governor.
Some Kenyans had other ideas about the violence that led to the indictments. Some like Miguna Miguna, a former advisor to Raila Odinga, claimed they gave the ICC evidence that Raila had a hand in the events of 2007 whose clarion call in some parts of Kenya was ‘no Raila no peace’ but that the ICC was not interested in charging him.
It is important to add that Miguna, author of Peeling Back the Mask, a book critical of Odinga was acrimoniously sacked by the latter and probably has an axe to grind.
A truck driver echoed the sentiments of several others who wonder why the ICC is only interested in punishing Africans. “Bazungu have killed innocent people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya, why don’t they also take them to the ICC?” he asked. The perception of racial condensations that predated the Independence era - leading to perceived selective justice - worked up sympathies that decided this vote.
But the West, ever fickle and pragmatic, is beginning to speak in tongues like it did during the cold war.
Kenya’s strategic importance in the war on terror and piracy in the Indian Ocean might mean re-considering the attitude towards Kenyatta, Ruto and the ICC. If the two prove to be compliant, history will repeat itself.
Kenya then went into the future by digitalising its voting system. Matters remained the same when it crashed along the way, leading to manual tallying and cries of fraud that have dominated most Kenyan elections since Independence.
Going forward, the new constitution that ensures devolution of powers from the centre to the newly created counties is what will determine if Kenya has been born again. Because of the voting patterns borrowed from the past, Kenya has always had a system of rewarding those who bring the government into power and punishing those who do not.
Will the centre stick to the rules and ensure that the counties are financed equitably to carry out their mandate thus ensuring a fair distribution of national resources and addressing the resource allocation imbalance that has dominated Kenya’s history? We hand it to time.