The Star (Nairobi)

6 December 2012

Kenya: Media to Blame for Strongman Mentality in Us

opinion

Perhaps more than any other time in our history , we need a new kind of politics, one that can burrow and build upon those shared discerning that pull us together as Kenyans. As Kenyans we have united in the past for causes we believe in.

The Kenyans4Kenya campaign when we pooled our resources in the spirit of oneness to raise funds for starving Kenyans; when we come together to cheer our national teams such as Harambee stars, the Rugby 7s team or the world renowned, record breaking , marathon dominating super athletes.

Recently Kenyans in the netsphere came together during the matatu strike through a crowd based vehicle sharing system dubbed #CarpoolKE.

How well these stories are told and the quality of the evidence lies within us. The subtleties of these events soon erase from our memories every election year.

What is our problem? The problem is with our politics , the pettiness of issues , lack of philosophies, ideology and the exiguity of well defined policies.

Our dominant predicament is the disparity between the enormity of our challenges and the pettiness of our politics. The quest of good leadership is human, it's not loud, Kikuyu or Kalenjin, and does not come from one designated source.

The three areas that have affected and continues to play a dominant role in our voting patterns, political affiliations and successive government are the political élite, tribe and the media.

The control of Kenya's power structure has been in the hands of very few political families to an extent of creating tribal monarchies and oligarchs.

The dominance of the political arena by individual families and families connected by blood or marriage ensures a continuance of prominence that results in a sort of entitlement mentality.

The Kenyattas, Odingas , Mois , Kibakis, Mudavadis etc, seem to have gotten it into their subconscious that they are the only ones fit to lead Kenya.

Their goal-- to bolster the rule of the eternal yesterday. Einstein said "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them". In this context we cannot re-elect the same leaders that got us into this quagmire and expect them to get us us out of it.

The political élite, the regional strongmen as referred to by the media, have perfected the art of divide and conquer. They come on the political platform on the faustian agenda of tribal mandate.

They dumb down the political debate. They offer speeches aimed at nothing else but skewed facts designed to satisfy those predisposed to believe in them, without admitting any contradictions that might shake their assumptions.

Their purpose is not to persuade the other side but to keep their bases agitated and assured of the rightness of their respective causes.

They neither condemn nor disassociate from traditional successive leaders who have been known or implicated in aiding and abetting tribalism.

In fact, they form alliances with such leaders from an opposing tribe--to lure just enough new adherents to beat the other side in the first round.

The Kenyan media reinforce this stereotype of a regional strong man perpetuated by the oligarchs and the self proclaimed strongmen.

Ordinary Kenyans should not be assumed to share the political affiliations of these strongment even if they share the same tongue.

The response to such assumptions is not to reinforce it through media portrayals of 'tribal politics' as a collective. The Kenyan media should instead pay more attention to individual groupings such as youths, women, working class, jobless seniors and business elites.

The current situation demonstrates how corrupt parties use tribe as an incitement to violence and a means to political gain. The Kenyan media should not fall prey to these prejudices.

The politicians serve the interest of the oligarchs, they raise money from the economic elites to finance elections. Since they cannot be persuaded or convinced by reasoning or logic, it has to be by using coercive means --either legal or political.

Hillman J.K McOkwiri comments on topical issues from the diaspora.

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