As we celebrate or lick our wounds, a few quick thoughts come to my mind-having followed the Kenyan politics fairly keenly lately culminating into the just concluded General elections on March 4, 2013. I am not a historian by any measure; in fact, my only stint was in primary school till my fresher years. Neither am I a politician nor a philosopher, though one day in future I might consider the former. I am a scientist. This piece is long so brace yourself; grab water, and some popcorn.
Again, as Kenya celebrates its Jubilee year since independence, it’s socio-political
and economic past and future is on an apprehensive scrutiny as the fourth presidential elect Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy Mr. William Ruto await swearing in any time soon following confirmation on March 9, 2013 by IEBC as victors. I hasten to congratulate them, for it was an epic one-day election pitting six elective positions, making it one of the most complex tasks not only on the
continent, but also in our times. It was also impressive in the sense that it pitted a mix of previously archrivals or foes, deserting friends, political bigwigs and apparent new comers.
The campaigns had been carried out against a backdrop of perceived historical injustices, cancerous tribalism, old (analogue) versus new (digital) reformists, the need for a uniting front, expanding democratic space, personal interests, corruption, socio-economic decadence and a haunting 07/08’ post election distress.
The winners UHU-RUTO, started with a stint in KANU after which they differed on principle during the constitutional referendum of 2005. Then came 2007 when they almost severed ties as the general elections saw Mr. Uhuru and Mr. Kenyatta on the opposing ends of the political spectrum. Then, Mr. Ruto delivered to ODM on the premise that justice would be served. The election was apparently bungled and the then ODM’s presidential candidate Mr. Raila Odinga lost. There was violence and loss of life. A remedial government based on a national accord was formed to “share the cake” and create peace. But unity was compromised. Then came the ICC and the Hague which re-united the pair after being adversely mentioned by the prosecutor for apparent involvement in the masterminding of the said chaos.
Mr. Ruto abandoned ODM feeling betrayed. He had delivered winning votes and the pre-nuptial agreement had been to fight to the end and not let go, no matter what. Mr. Odinga let go and agreed to share power, albeit in his mind to save the widespread unrest and loss of property and life at the time. The chaos had escalated uncontrollably as Rift Valley’s predominantly Kalenjin community felt they had to reclaim their land that had been grabbed by aliens while the Central’s predominantly Kikuyu community contending that they were being driven out of malice, having acquired property legally or historically. The ODM brigade, the Pentagon had put some of these issues to the core of their agenda and had promised to address them as time was ripe. This, however, could not happen with “shared power”. This was the first instance of perceived betrayal.
The second came when Mr. Odinga appointed Mr. Mudavadi as his deputy prime minister. What had Mr. Mudavadi brought in comparison to Mr. Ruto? The third and final blow came after Mr. Ruto being named by the ICC as a suspect of the post poll chaos and Mr. Odinga never came to his defence, despite having worked together tirelessly prior to the elections, let alone hinting at any false accusations against Mr. Ruto.
After rebelling from the ODM brigade, Raila had no remorse at all and fate would later bring together the distraught Ruto with Mr. Uhuru who was then still the KANU leader and now a co-accused at the ICC. With confirmation of ICC charges and potential trial dates, the two would bond to higher strokes in the later days.
At the same time, the 2013 elections were quickly approaching. The two teamed up to present one of the most formidable forces ever in Kenyan elections, second only to the 2002 Rainbow coalition that impeached a 24 year rule of retired president Mr. Daniel Moi. Their Jubilee coalition strategized and energetically campaigned, traversing the country with their crying call “I believe”. Whether the coalition was born out of apathy for a shared fate or a genuine desire to unite Kenyans is yet to be put to test. One thing is for sure though in the just concluded elections and against ‘insurmountable’ odds, the coalition has delivered above the 50% total votes among other constitutional requirements for a candidate to be pronounced president.
Fast forward past the well-executed and strategic campaigns; the election process and the victory, the acceptance speeches form the crux of why an Uhuru and Ruto team might just be what Kenya has needed. I will present these looking at the team and their circumstances first then follow with extraneous factors that might just be favouring them.
Firstly, they penetrate the listener’s conscience with adept subliminal appeal, bequeathing their success to powers beyond human realm. they then showed remarkable humility in accepting what destiny had bestowed on them despite the personal challenges they face. While expected to show some accommodation for their opponents, the way they delivered it resonated with a well-meaning pair. It was a passionate appeal and a call to focus on the work at hand, which was just beginning- to build Kenya into a prosperous nation.
Secondly, the kind of teamwork that Jubilee has demonstrated during the campaigns can only point to well articulated synchrony. Rarely have they parted differently and even so, the messages have always remained in sync, like reading from the same creed. The hallmark of teamwork is the demonstration of a blending of unity in diversity for synergy. This has come out well during their campaigns. It was hard to ignore how the invite was extended to their opponents to join the team.
The Jubilee has shaped an ideology of freshness, modernisms, revolution and a wave driven by trend and management of Information Technology, branding themselves as the digital coalition. To this end, TNA, Uhuru’s winning party has evolved in less than 6 months from an unknown into the party to be, forcing serious defections from Pentagon (the ODM’s chief brigades), KANU, NARC, PNU among other key political parties. These are no mean feats considering the span in which they have occurred. They have promised to take it a notch higher to the greater good of the nation.
While the coalition appeared to represent mainly two regions in the country, the kind of feat could only be possible with acceptability traversing a good portion of the great land meaning some unity-of-the-tribes of some sort. Granted, Rift Valley, Central and Eastern delivered the most votes; nowhere in the great land did they not harvest any votes. In some perceived ODM/CORD (main opponents) regions, they either triumphed or divided the votes almost equally while CORD got almost nil votes in the Jubilee’s strong holds. Could it just be that they are beginning to amass the unity formula for the land? “Our government will work for all Kenyans….we will serve all of you irrespective of whatever differences” they called at the acceptance speeches.
The energy and resolve this team displayed was like no other. Right now Kenya needs just that, an Obama-like energy and resolve. The rallies were incredible with party colours and numbers and it was hard to ignore. While others dismissed it as importation of professional rally attendees or curious by-standers, truth was the rallies were spectacle. There was energy spiced with short, sharp speeches, anecdotes, music and at the end of it, rally goers felt like it was a spiritual gathering, relaxing and energizing at the same time.
Innovation was clear in the way Jubilee operated. They tested new ideas and jumped onto obstacles like they are opportunities. They were most organised and appeared to have thought through every step of the way. The choice of venues, catch phrases, campaign materials and ideas, presentation etc were just commendable. It appears that no idea was ever discarded however rudimentary. Instead, all ideas were filed, sharpened or chiselled into masterpieces. That is the pinnacle of innovation.
On resolve, I will just mention a few important items. Both speeches by the president elect and his deputy were eloquent, concisely elaborate, off-head with no apparent scripts or prompts and were just appealing. One shows their resolve by how well they have mastered their scripts. They probably believe in what they are saying and so why read from elsewhere?
One of the other main reasons why Kenya might just be ready for Uhuru and Ruto is the apparent weight on their shoulders and the need to prove themselves. They carry several perceptible tags: ICC suspects, tribal chieftains, dynastic leadership, corruption allegations among others. Mr. Uhuru has to prove that though born at the State House, he has worked hard to achieve what he has and can do the same given this chance. His father, the founding president’s legacy hasn’t been particularly credited with accolades with others claiming it set the pace for tribalism and unequal distribution of resources. Mr. Kenyatta now has a rare second chance to re-write history and listening to him, he might just deliver on his words to the consternation of many. He made it very clear; reminding his supporters severally that he is the people’s president, not a people’s president anymore.
Beyond that, Mr. Uhuru must clear his name on the ICC issue and he promised to cooperate with international institutions in any matters. Together with Mr. Ruto, they must prove to the Kenyan people that they are not tribal chiefs and that unity is possible with them. During the speeches, this was echoed in no uncertain terms.
Finally yet importantly, and mainly as concerns the teams’ self-propagating aspects, here is an interrogation into some aspects they need to improve in future to set and advance standards. It is worth noting that the campaign itself was not free of tribal cards, witch-hunting, character assassinations, personal interests and a bit of hypocrisy. I will not dwell much on this as this is the nature, I guess, of politics. Some pointer questions beg for answers. How can a great friend with whom one had shared ideologies become an archrival to the point that one denounces those political ideologies as misleading and shallow? How can a whole community feel betrayed by one person? How does a focused contender defect from that coalition to here, then back there and finally back here (and ends up losing) without sending signals of personal interests?
Now to the extraneous factors that might be favouring Mr. Uhuru and Ruto. I start with what I call Public Apathy on change rhetoric. Every election year, the most serious contenders have always drummed the call for time for “Change” is imminent and has come. Upon being elected, we have seen the same old practices only perfected in some instances. This point ties with Mr. Raila Odinga’s democracy call, which is almost becoming his second name. While it is important to note that this call has resulted in massive gains for the country, there is emerging an overbearing sense that nothing will ever be satisfactory to the forces fighting for real change, let alone a modest equilibrium. Mwananchi might just be starting to feel that we have come a long way and with hard work and systems, no bigger change is needed now.
Talking of systems, the Constitution is the pillar and this has been delivered through a protracted process. The three arms of government have been considerably streamlined to near optimum. However, the change agents are still crying foul, noting that Kenya should not settle for less than proper working systems. Mwananchi probably feels that the Constitution will work for the better hence no more need for agitation.
The other factor favouring the pair is massive gains in a short time by the outgoing system, particularly on infrastructure, social amenities and prospecting for natural resources. The outgoing government has demonstrated that sector-wide and countrywide programs can be successfully implemented if there is adequate goodwill.
Finally, corruption and governance issues have been taken seriously by the two previous terms to the point that it is clear serious vices can be tamed if we have leaders who walk the talk.
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