The New Times (Kigali)

20 November 2012

Kenya: The Absorbing Example of Kenya's Pk

opinion

TO comment on Kenyan politics and elicit even modest response such as recently evoked in these pages by Allan Brian Ssenyonga's recent commentary, A double for Obama but is Kenya ready for its own PK?, is to appreciate the interest Kenya garners in the region.

The P.K. in question is Mr Peter Kenneth, who earlier this month launched his presidential candidacy to much interest in the region and beyond, and to a large extent on the social media.

Responses to Allan's article were generally positive, and people made their comments on this paper's website. But one response seemed derisive, wondering whether the commentary did not listen too keenly to Twitter.

The fact is there will always exist a range of opinions, and most robustly on the Internet about the suitability, or lack of it, of Kenneth as president.

One may start with the much lamented "Kenyan politics of tribe". Sample this post on Facebook by one dismayed Kenyan journalist noting "an indication that, in spite of people identifying with what [Kenneth] stands for, they would still not vote for him [because] they think that, since he lacks a 'tribal base,' their votes would go to waste.

The journalist posed: Does he have Kenya as a "base"? Does he have the needs of Kenyans as "his base"? What is that we have to interrogate that he is offering on a tribal scale? Why don't we weigh it against the proposals of his opponents?

In the same thread of comments typical of Facebook came this rejoinder by a social commentator, questioning why it should be that "to deny ones tribal identity makes one a 'Kenyan'...Ones ethnic identity is not the issue that has rendered Kenya's politics primitive, it is the manner that people respond to the tribal polemic."

The commentator was emphatic about being "objective about an individual's policies and ideology whether he is this or that tribe, this or that sex, this or that religion. PK needs to simply keep drumming the policies and ideological issues that separates him from the other goons. If he is a viable candidate his message will resonate whether he is a Kikuyu or not."

It is clear from the outset that Peter Kenneth has a gained a following from a broad cross-section of Kenyans, and therefore may not qualify as "tribal".

But there are skeptics about what he stands for, especially drawing from observations on the largest segment of PK's followers on the social media.

Making a note on this, another commentator in the same Facebook conversation alludes to the candidate's background as a suave banker: "He is a decent accounts manager, and I admire his honesty. I'd still worry that his ostensible popularity is due to facebook postings, facebook having a large number of younger, (aspiring) middle class, urban smarty-fashion types, who also happen to be his target audience... He strikes me as the USIU MBA student's choice, if I'm honest."

The above opinions have variously been expressed in one form or another across the Internet. Nevertheless, PK has just launched his presidential bid.

And, though he is nowhere near the leading candidates according to past political opinion polls, many will remain eager to see how his launch will impact the current political status quo.

The last polls were just a few days before his presidential launch. The next are therefore being eagerly awaited. In the meantime, PK remains an absorbing subject of discussion.

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