I get Winston Churchill’s aphorism that “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all others.” It’s true democracy is a human experiment, and therefore open to demagoguery and abuse. It can be slow, messy and largely un-requiting. It’s like that girl you love, but who often doesn’t love you back. You simply have to live with the unsatisfactory, and often painful, truth. Democracy can be messy, and at times even “eats its young.” This doesn’t mean that leaders — especially elected ones — must demagogue society all the time. I write to express my disgust at the outbursts of certain senior leaders in Kenya. Get your act together, or you will unwittingly destroy Kenya.
Unless you live on Mars, you know there’s a public conversation between Kenya Kwanza and Azimio. That dialogue has been sanctioned by the leaders of both parties. The last time I checked, Mr Raila Odinga and President William Ruto have given the talks their full backing and blessings. I’ve no reason to doubt their good faith in sanctioning the dialogue. Nor would Azimio’s team leader to the talks Kalonzo Musyoka and Leader of Majority Kimani Ichungwa engage in a fruitless canard without a “there there.
“I believe the two gentlemen are seized with the gravity of the moment. It behoves them to deliver to the country or be publicly lampooned and lambasted. Their own political futures depend on how they handle this national assignment.
My own belief is that whoever drops this ball and allows Kenya to again dance on the precipice will rue their own political fortunes. We are acutely aware where Kenya has come from the last eight months. Our citizens were at each other’s throats. The economy nosedived. Kenya was on the verge of being viewed as another failed African state.
But cooler heads prevailed and it was decided the antagonists must talk and find a political — I emphasise the word “political” settlement to what ails our country. I’ve written before that Kenya isn’t a nation yet, but a country in search of nation. Our state rules over a nation in embryo and hasn’t reached the stage of irreversibility. But leaders with loose mouths who don’t appreciate the fragility of the African post-colonial state can easily send us to hell in a handbasket. Kenya has done relatively well, but it’s not an exception to the African post-colonial norm. There’s nothing in Kenya’s political history, or its demographic cartography, that says we can’t go the way of the Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia or Sudan, to name a few basket cases. Or that we aren’t capable of the1994 Genocide Against Tutsis in Rwandan. If anything, in 2008 we came close to terminating Kenya as we know it. So, why would our leaders knowing some of this terrible history tempt fate like a suicidal Spanish bullfighter showing the bull a red cape?
I don’t want to mention names, and won’t, because there’s no point in inflaming passions. But Kenyans have eyes and ears —and they’ve heard and seen. Some leaders in this country have never seen a microphone into which they couldn’t resist spitting the vilest of epithets and insults. I don’t care what you think of your political opponents, but remember they aren’t your enemies. In a democracy — even a fledgling one like Kenya’s — folks you disagree with politically aren’t your enemies. They are simply your opponents. Assume they love the country as much as you do. Do not be holier-than-thou. You aren’t a saint. Far from it. The good book says, cast the first stone if you haven’t sinned.
I write this because Kenyans — the vast majority anyway — have no other country to go to if Kenya is consumed in an Armageddon. The inferno will swallow them in a fury of hellish collapse. There’ll be no peace, even for those who live in leafy suburbs. I’ve seen it all elsewhere in Africa. Who can forget the sad fates some very terrible African leaders met? Let’s not tempt fate. Remember power is a fleeting thing. It’s here today, gone tomorrow. Look at Jubilee. It’s not even a shadow of its former self, but a carcass. Yet for ten years, it bestrode Kenya like a colossus. Before Jubilee, there was KANU, the behemoth. It too is dead.
Let me end where I started. I’ve seen leaders disparage the bipartisan talks in the most juvenile idioms. They speak as though they have their leaders in a chokehold. They threaten their leaders with damnation should there be a rapprochement in Kenya. They want Azimio and Kenya Kwanza to fight to death. They care for nothing but the little power in their puny hands. They are insecure and hateful. Let’s not allow them to take us to hell with them. Let’s buy them a free first-class plane ticket there alone. Mr Musyoka and Mr Ichung’wa — with well-wishers on both sides — must stay the course.
Makau Mutua is SUNY Distinguished Professor and Margaret W Wong Professor at Buffalo Law School, The State University of New York. @makaumutua.