King Charles III and President William Ruto

Britain's King Charles III (left) with Kenyan President William Ruto during the ceremonial welcome at the State House in Nairobi on October 31, 2023.


Always look ahead in politics and life

Everyone believes Members of Parliament are very busy. Indeed they are — attending plenary sessions, committee meetings, lobbying government officials and going to the ground.

But none of this takes away time from a very important but unspoken parliamentary tradition — sitting around parliamentary lounge and discussing politics.

This practice is so important that at times it supercedes attending actual parliamentary business. The mood there is always congenial.

Politicians will plot, reminisce and share “ ground information” — Azimio MPs will be laughing out so loud with their UDA counterparts that one will not believe how their transform once they get a public platform.

My most favourite attendee of these lounge sessions when I served in the National Assembly was long serving Eldama Ravine MP, Hon Moses K. Lessonet.

He had won that seat 3 consecutive times. He was a short, soft spoken, unassuming and humble person blessed with witty political epithets.

He had consistently defeated Hon Musa Sirma through sly strategies in a manner few would have thought possible. He had the uncanny ability to pick correct political signals.

One day Hon Lessonet described politics in a manner that made lots of sense. He said politics is like a driver driving a motor vehicle that has no side mirrors. The driver only looks ahead. The passengers boarding and/or alighting do so at their own peril — the driver’s role is to stay focused and look ahead.

That made lots of practical sense. There are no better examples of that than looking at how international politics is played — since international politics tends to be “politics at its best”. No emotions are usually attached to their practice save amongst unstrategic national leaders.

Once upon a time, the US used to be a colony of Britain. A bloody war of independence broke out and the US became independent.

One would have thought that strain would have been permanent taking into account the many lives lost in that struggle and how the British cherished the faraway lost piece of real estate. Indeed France as at that time was siding with the US partisan and sowing seeds of disunity.

But within a few decades, the US and Britain had established what is now called a “special and most important” relationship.

What of Japan and the US? America’s 32nd President (1933-1945), Franklin D. Roosevel had refused to join the fray as world war 2 evolved in Europe. He made public pronouncements of his sympathy for the British cause but never committed boots to joining the conflict . That was until the day Japan bombed Pearl Harbour in the US. Ultimately, the war ended when the Americans dropped nuclear bombs on Japan in 1945.

However, immediately thereafter, Japan and the US became best of friends. What of Germany which had twice dragged Europe into two bloody conflicts, WW1 and WW2? Now Germany is the European Union’s focal point and bedrock of the bloc’s unity.

Back here in Kenyan politics, the Rift Valley and Mountain voting blocs were at loggerheads in 2007. But the two regions have since cooperated thrice to take power — 2013,2017 and 2022.

It is all about looking ahead like the proverbial driver of a vehicle without side mirrors. This philosophy should inform our understanding as we study our relationship with Britain and its monarchy.

Yes, atrocities and cruelty were meted out during colonialism by the British against Africans as the beheadings prove..

The concentration camps in Central Kenya during the Mau Mau uprising was nothing short of gulag, in comparison. That trauma of that period remains etched in the memory of the Mountain people and probably explains their siege mentality in modern politics. Indeed reparations would be justified to salve over the wounds.

But we would be more strategic with the British and remain fixated on the gains we can extract from them into the future. How about visa-free access into Britain? Or removal of various trade barriers? These will improve our economy and create employment. It pays to look ahead like a driver of a vehicle with no side mirrors.

Leaders should always talk about the future and avoid harking back into history. Let bygones be bygones.

Of course, there is nothing wrong reading history and learning from it. Trouble is allowing one to be enslaved by it.

There are even political lessons from the biblical story of Lot (Genesis 19). The dwellers of Sodom were exceedingly wicked. Mr Lot and his family were righteous, so, angels paid him a visit and advised him to flee with his entire family from his two wives but with instructions never to look behind or stop anywhere in the plains .

The Lots took heed but while fleeing, one of his wives looked behind and promptly turned into a pillar of salt.

So , let us always look ahead as Kenyans.

- Irungu Kangata (PhD in law) is the governor of Murangá County; [email protected]