12 December 2012

Kenya: Reclaiming Kenya for Ourselves

The defining moment has finally come for Kenyans to decide whether they will be taking back their country to themselves or continue to be used for self gain by the colonialists amongst them.

Though we have had similar but missed opportunities in the past, especially in 1992, 1997 and 2002, the upcoming elections will be a "Kenyan Spring" that would lead to the dismantling of authoritarian political and economic structures that have held the people of Kenya hostage since we were colonised.

Kenya has all that it needs for this paradigm shift. We have over the years natured a vicious, corrupt but growing economy that has ensured that we have few extravagantly rich persons in the country while the majority struggle to put a meal on their table.

Ours is now a culture of deceit, falsehoods and half-truths which have only served to further alienate us from reality while ensuring that the wretched of the earth among us, do not ever develop any platforms for sharing their frustrations.

Interestingly though, Kenya has a well educated middle class, which however has been enclaved in the falsified belief that sooner than later, they would move up and become the ruling class and therefore has not only supported the status quo but has become an impediment for change.

Time has come for Kenya's middle class in to realise that its stakes have never been as high as they are in the 2013 elections. The wretched of the earth who have been trampled upon for decades have been waiting for their moment since the 2010 constitution, in the 2013 elections. They do not have any more spare time to lend to the process of the "birth of a new nation".

The choice for them is simple, it is either a hope that engulfed the entire country after the elections or the nation burns. They are simply saying that they are tired of all these governance and economic mechanisms that have made them depend of tokens from the elites. They want to define their own course and this makes the 2013 elections in Kenya a freedom project.

In 2002 and 2007 general elections, they sought to have integrity as the key driver of our governance. We had hoped that we shall bring to an end the era that loudly said that "being politician or a top bureaucrat in government meant that you would not only acquire overnight prosperity, but you would also be above the law.

Kenyans want a leadership that will result in such elusive ends through the implementation of the new constitution. Kenyans are aware that some of those seeking political offices are only interested in personal gains and not peoples welfare. However, the popular expectation is that political interests should be motivated by a desire for human dignity, peace and justice.

49 years after independence, it is sad that we do not pose for a moment as a nation as ask what happened to the core values and ideology of our several liberation struggles, though admittedly, the Bomas constitutional conference was a close attempt.

We need to recall that the change from one administration to another, while offering space for the establishment of authentic leadership that serves the interest of the populace, did also present space for self-seekers to quickly seize the moment to assault public resources to meet their personal desires.

We have only witnessed the later and not the former in our entire history. The 2013 elections are affording us the opportunity to change this refrain.

Our 1963/2003/2007 give us points of references. New governments came in and a park of neophytes yearning for economic/business/cultural elitism became the new political elites.

Their lust for wealth uprooted the whole concept of the birth of a new state based on equity, the rule of law and equality and decided to perpetuate divisions through class, ethnicity and individualism to levels beyond what they had found.

Once in power, the political elites abandoned their followers and taking advantage of newly found democracy, to introduce an economy of greed and extravagance.

It is instructive to realise that since independence, a relationship has always existed between the political and economic elites, emanating from a "kitchen cabinet" that purports to speak for the majority without popular consensus.

They believe that they own the authority to influence the rest of society using their political and economic connections. They also believe that because they have the political power, they can also control illegitimately, the economic or business power, using their authority to appropriate public resources as they wish to reach their set goals.

They exclude the rest of society, including peoples representatives, in decision making because they believe that only they are civilised enough to understand the issues, only them monopolised intelligence and only theirs is the superior culture. Wrights Mills, proposes in his book, The Power Elite of 1956 that: "this group (elites) had been generated through a process of rationalization at work whereby all mechanisms of power became concentrated, funnelling overall control into the hands of a limited (oligarch group), somewhat corrupt group". Indeed, this explains why we have had clerks rising overnight to high levels in the government, not because there were no skilled personnel but because they were politically well placed.

This reflection surely shows that our political elites have not been interested in the course of the majority in the nation rather individual economic interests.

To be more blatant, I need to say that they long stopped to serve the country and the citizens. They long stopped to listen to the cries of the poor and marginalized people, they have been about wealth accumulation.

This is why I see the grievances by MRC as not only concerns of the coastal people but are shared by many who could easily be classifies in the words of Goran Hyden as "the uncuptured peasantry" across the country.

The MRC grievances echo those of the Sabaot land Defence Forces, the Mungiki and many others who were left with no option but to arm themselves in order to fight inequalities and injustices that a government of self-seekers has relentlessly perpetuated since independence.

The sad truth is that even as our politicians use their monopoly of violence to suppress them, the very fundamental cause of their raise is left intact. Thus we are not just refusing to address the issue, we postpone it by creating more wounds among these victims thus increasing the potential for more vicious agitation of the same rights in times to come.

We cannot afford to have let our very youthful population travel down this road of despair. Indeed, we cannot afford another 5 years of hopelessness, unemployment for the many and ridiculous accumulation by a few. Importantly, we should never prioritise individuals above the nation whatever the issue and however passionate we feel about it.

I am simply saying that it has come to a point that Kenyans MUST decide to triumph together or to be "hanged" separately by the elites political, economic and domination structures.

Thus come 2013, Kenyans should vote into office people who will create hope for the country and especially its youth. Kenyans should vote into office people who will not seek to subvert the implementation of the constitution in order to create avenues for continued plunder of national resources as has been the case in the last 50 years.

I believe that though it might have been said within a very different context, the 2013 elections will be the moment for us to finally say "KENYA MBELE, KILA MTU, NYUMA!". My warning is that for us to effectively reclaim Kenya Incorporated for ourselves, we will have to start being extra-ordinarily vigilant way before we go to the ballot lest we go to sleep as we did in 2003. To the youth of Kenya, "Habari Ndiyo Hiyo"!!

Peter Gichira Solomon is a political scientists-cum-environmental policy specialist. He is a programme officer with the All Africa Conference of Churches, Nairobi. The opinions expressed here are personal and do not in any way represent those of the All Africa Conference of Churches.

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