Kenya on the verge of a new dawn

Kenyans queue to vote during the 2017 General Election.

Kenyans queue to vote during the 2017 General Election. In 11 days, if fears about IEBC are unfounded, we will have a new President, a new Parliament, new governors and a new political dispensation.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

In exactly 10 days, I – and potentially 22.6 million other Kenyans in different parts – will go to Kileleshwa Primary School on the strangely named Ole Kejuado Road, a mere 20 metres off Gichugu Road, bright and early, just as the birds are breaking into song.

One of my children was born not too many metres from this school and I raised them here. But to me, this estate does not feel like home: I have beautiful memories but no feelings for the place.

I will be coming back not to spawn but to vote for my President, whose identity I shall not reveal, and my MCA, Hon Robert Alai of Kileleshwa Ward. Mr Alai is a terrible fellow who has terrorised editors for decades with atrociously fake stories.

I figured the easiest, peaceful way of getting rid of him is by giving him what he dreams of. He will have no time to cook up stories, being too busy cutting deals at City Hole or trying to stay alive on the floor of the County Assembly where a natural talent for the uppercut and a strong jaw are a basic job requirement.

In 11 days, if fears about the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission are unfounded, we will have a new President, a new Parliament, new governors and a new political dispensation.

Half of the country will be heart-broken, the other half will be deliriously happy.

The material circumstances and prospects for all, with the exception of a tiny minority, will be roughly the same. We will all suffer, or prosper, together and endure the consequences or enjoy the benefits of the decision of a small majority, which is all that will distinguish between the victorious winner and the devastated loser.

Guards of honour

The winner will live in a huge colonial mansion in Nairobi’s Milimani area, guarded by an elite corp of special operations forces from the National Police Service, fawned upon by generals, top civil servants and captains of industry and received by world leaders with state dinners and guards of honour. He will have a budget of Sh5.9 billion at his disposal, on top of other resources that we might know little of.

The loser will have a somewhat different fate. Most senior politicians in opposition have hobbies (such as drinking at the country club all day), private business empires and international assignments to distract them. Some start planning and mobilising for the next campaign as soon as the current election is over. Others plan nasty things to try and bring down the new government or cause a crisis to force a nusu mkate situation.

For the unprepared election loser, the lapels of his suit become limp and the back curl up like a drying leaf. There is no soft landing for the loser in a winner-takes-all system like ours. If you did not anticipate loss, and almost none does, you might spend a lot of time trying to extort fuel costs from tight-fisted governors and Members of Parliament.

Theft of public funds

Mounting a successful political campaign from the cold is a feat that can be achieved by very few since politics is many times funded by theft of public funds, corrupt deals or crooked quid pro quos with the private sector. Elections have varying economic outcomes for candidates. Anxious, excitable ones are bankrupted, others, even though they might lose, end their campaigns tens of millions richer. The loss and gain have a causal link, if you catch my drift, defeat being the risk of the grift.

The most exciting fact is that we are going to have a new government. It will have new energy, new ideas, new ways of doing things. It will have (at least a few) new faces and it will give our country new opportunities to solve our problems and put us on a path of recovery and fast growth.

Stuffed in briefcases

A new government is also a risk. Kenya’s debt is Sh8.4 trillion as of March this year, up from Sh1.94 trillion in June 2013. That is big potatoes growth, some of it absorbed by expensive, perhaps even over-invoiced, profligate mega-projects. Some of it went into badly-needed infrastructure projects and some of it made a lucky few immensely wealthy. Some of it, for all we know, could be cooling its heels stuffed in briefcases in apartments in Mauritius, or bank accounts in swanky addresses such as Macau. Governments can create problems.

For some of us in the media, we have been warned that we will be bankrupted by one of the parties, which considers us a cartel, which the public will not do business with. But, like we say in Meru, God does not eat ugali. And if you must dig holes my brother, dig shallow ones.

But some things must not change. Unlike the US system where a new president rides into town with a troop of new officials at his back (drawn mainly from a stable pool of party-affiliated candidates), in Kenya stability and continuity must be sustained by retaining career civil servants; our key institutions of State remain above government and party. The military must salute whoever is in power, the spooks must look through keyholes no matter who is in State House and the judges will hear all fairly, loser and winner alike.

Our national values, vital interests and objectives are not on the ballot on August 9.


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