Politics isn’t a life-and-death matter

Police in Kisii display machetes seized on June 12.

Police in Kisii display machetes seized on June 12, 2022 during a crackdown to quell political violence. As we are busy politicking here, some of our neighbours are chewing theirs and steeling themselves for post-election violence in Kenya.

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

As we are busy politicking here, some of our neighbours are chewing theirs and steeling themselves for post-election violence in Kenya. The person I spoke to was of the view that the fundamentals of our political competition have not changed: The rivalry is still irrationally fierce and our elections winner-take-all. If you lose, you spend a very long time in the cold, open to prosecution for crimes inevitably committed while in power. At least for some.

For others, like the Azimio presidential candidate and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the opposition has been home for most of his life and he has seen his fair share of prosecution, most of it political persecution. But there are more vulnerable players who completed college on Friday and on Monday they were dandling on the fat thighs of State, their hungry snouts clamped on the teat of largesse.

There is a class of people lower down who must be in government. They have no plan B; at every election, they do the Viking thing. They choose a side and break their boats. For them, there is no going back. They have to be in government. These are state/political operatives who have made a fortune exploiting the confluence of politics, State and corruption.

Biggest business in town

In Kenya, government is the biggest business in town. There are people who don’t have the appetite for hard work or the smarts to make money in ways other than stealing it. The ne’er-do-wells excel in that nexus and are millionaires many times over. They are lions who have tasted blood; their exclusion from government and public affairs is possibly the only cure. And they will go to any length to prevent that.

Many think the only solution to political instability is to have elections that do not produce a winner. The loser is rewarded with hefty payouts and a share of the government. I hear there are people who are already thinking of handshakes. That is neither democracy nor a sustainable way of taking our country to the future.

I think there are four factors to consider in order to lower the temperature of elections, reduce the stakes and stabilise the polity. First, we should all feel morally obligated to support, but shine a constant light on, the institutions on which our stability depends. The Judiciary and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) come to mind. Operatives think it is cute to destroy the credibility of these institutions to pave the way for spurious disputes so that they can force a power-sharing agreement when they lose. It is not cute. It’s playing with genocide.

Take a closer look

I have seen the Twitter gladiators attacking Chief Justice Martha Koome because she has a smile and a reassuring manner. They should take a closer look. You don’t have to be severe of countenance, unapproachable, rude and always look like you are eating lemons to be strong and serious.

It is not in our interest to haunt and unfairly persecute those who have previously served in public office. Politics is not personal. We should honour and venerate those who served with distinction and not vilify them and their well-intended contribution. We should pursue the criminals to the ends of the world and quickly undo destructive and lousy policies. But, please, don’t criticise and denigrate policies you previously supported or contributed just to look brave and sexy on the platform.

Thirdly, we should tear government and corruption asunder by raising the individual and career cost of theft. If you cannot explain your wealth, if you have been found guilty of corruption, you should permanently lose your right to steward public affairs and resources. If it is madness to put a thief in charge of your money; then we, as a country, need to stay on our medication and sober up.

Reduce cost of elections

Finally, every effort must be made to reduce the cost of elections to the candidate and the public. As a nation, we are distrustful of one another and, therefore, throw money at the whole question of electoral integrity. Integrity, ultimately, is not in the things you buy; it is in the hearts of those in charge of the process.

We saw it in the US election. Former President Donald Trump failed to illegally cling to power because election officials, even from his own party, would not let him. On many occasions, you can’t trust a Kenyan further than you can throw him, and that is something we have to work on.

When Kenyans line up the roads and mob politicians at market centres looking for handouts, do they imagine that the politicians are farmers of money trees? So long as one needs billions of shillings to run for public office, politics and corruption will remain bedfellows and our elections a source of instability.

Our neighbours have a right to worry.

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Academic fraud is fraud. If you present a fake document, you and the person who made it for you should be jailed and permanently barred from public service.  The issuing educational institution—if it failed in its duty of care—as well as the certifying authority are also liable.  Please stop this annoying, childish charade.


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