Kenya’s fake democracy Part 1

William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta.

President William Ruto holds a sword received from former Commander in Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces Uhuru Kenyatta at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, on September 13, 2022. As it turns out, Mr Ruto retained control of the right and centre-right chunk of the state.


Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Raila underestimated the implacable foes of the right and centre-right forces within the state.
  • The forces of the right and centre-right grouped within the state under then DP Ruto made sure that Mr Kenyatta wouldn’t successfully realise his desire of moving power from its traditional bastions.
  • Most senior officials in the right and the centre-right faction that Mr Kenyatta had elevated to the highest echelons betrayed him and rigged the election against Mr Odinga and Azimio la Umoja.


Africans – and Kenyans may sit atop the list – suffer from the self-bigotry of small expectations. It’s a form of self-hatred and pity. Many, if not most, of us are tormented by the curse of fatalism.

There’s an innate belief that things will go bad, even when the heavens seem to beckon.

When things are going well, we still expect the other shoe to drop, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

This phenomenon of fatalism isn’t limited to Africans alone but is found all over the Black World.

It’s an existential condition. I posit here that time and again, fatalism has wilted the will of most Kenyans so much so that they’ve come to accept our fake democracy.

As a materialist, I have no doubt it’s not our consciousness that determines our existence, but our social existence that determines our consciousness.

The Ubuntu philosophy coined by Prof John Mbiti, the renowned African scholar of theology, clearly stated that “I am because we are.”

That is to say, we don’t live in atomic isolation, but in the community that moulds us.

If we live in harsh or treacherous terrain, we shall be wily survivalists not anchored in any firm principles. That’s because our survival will be our north star.

If we live in plenty, we are spoilt for choice, allowing us to be deliberative about our existence. We are who we are not by choice, but by circumstance.

Four traumas

Fatalism plays an outsize role in the African mind because of the four traumas that have afflicted us. The first was the trauma of enslavement by Arabs and white Europeans and Americans.

The second trauma was that of colonialism in which we suffered under the boot of the white man in some cases for four centuries.

The third was the trauma of post-colonialism in which African-led states and elites cannibalised us in cahoots with the West and the East in the era of the Cold War.

The fourth is the current trauma of globalisation in which we’ve been left further behind in what’s now known as the Fourth World. We aren’t even part of the Third World anymore.

We are traumatised people. Our own humanity has been deeply compromised. We can’t proceed as though we haven’t been deeply violated. If we do, we will not recover the innocence of our lost humanity.

Typically, people who are traumatised internalise the trauma and train the guns on each other in a circular firing squad.

That’s what we have been doing in Kenya since 1963. We play a zero-sum game against each other.

The most poignant example of our self-cannibalisation happens in every electoral cycle.

In our case, the right and centre-right have been very good at keeping state power out of the hands of the left and the centre-left. The latter has never held power in Kenya.

Hook or crook

In Kenya, the right and centre-right have “won” elections by hook or crook – usually by crook.

In only two elections – 1963 and 2002 – where the right and centre-right and the left and centre-left came together were elections deemed “free and fair”.

Even in those affairs, the levers of power were held by the right and centre right. In 2007, the right and centre-right stole the elections.

In 2013, the same group manipulated the elections to their advantage. In 2017, the same thing happened but Chief Justice David Maraga led the Supreme Court in annulling the result.

The left and centre-left boycotted the repeat elections because of the failure of the state to reform the electoral infrastructure.

After the 2017 elections, then Head of State Uhuru Kenyatta did something remarkable.

He decided that the stranglehold of power by the right and centre-right Kikuyu/Kalenjin and right/centre-right diarchy must be broken.

This was the most progressive decision of the entire 10-year reign by Mr Kenyatta.

He tried to correct the historical mistake of his father and their predecessors. I believe he wanted to give other communities a stake in the republic.

To do so, he tried to bring together the right and the centre-right with the left and centre-left represented by himself and ODM’s Raila Odinga.

Underestimation

I believe he underestimated the implacable foes of this idea by the right and centre-right forces within the state.

The forces of the right and centre-right grouped within the state under then Deputy President William Ruto made sure that Mr Kenyatta wouldn’t successfully realise his desire of moving power from its traditional bastions in the right and centre-right of the state.

As it turns out, Mr Ruto retained control of the right and centre-right chunk of the state.

That was the larger and more lethal faction of the state. Most senior officials in the right and the centre-right faction that Mr Kenyatta had elevated to the highest echelons betrayed him and rigged the election against Mr Odinga and Azimio la Umoja.

The truth will eventually come out.

Makau Mutua is SUNY Distinguished Professor and Margaret W. Wong Professor at Buffalo Law School, The State University of New York. @makaumutua

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