Monday, June 16, 2008

Kenyan politicians not really ready for true democracy


Publication Date: 6/12/2008 Daily Nation Page 11

IN A RARE MOMENT OF CANDOUR, a senior figure in the Grand Coalition revealed the true motivation for the Kenyan politician.

Speaking at a campaign rally in Kilgoris, Assistant minister, Joseph Nkaissery was quoted as saying that parties are of no importance in Kenyan politics, and that he held the interests of his tribe above those of his party.

He was justifying his refusal to campaign for a candidate from his political party and preference for a candidate from an opposing party.

His only consideration was the ethnicity of his preferred candidate, and not the policies he espoused or his commitment to the welfare of his constituents.

The scenario above represents the mind of the average politician, and has been replicated countless times in relatively cosmopolitan constituencies.

People elected on various party platforms turn around and threaten to leave their respective parties unless the interests of their ‘‘community’’ are taken into account.

The meaning of ‘‘community’’ in this context is often narrowed down to what the so-called leader feels is in his or her personal interest.

STATEMENTS LIKE ‘‘KENYANS WILL not accept ABC’’ or ‘‘Kenyans are demanding XYZ’’ are common during thunderous rallies and news conferences, while in reality the Kenyans being referred to would not fill a room in one of the mansions occupied by our leaders.

On the authority of this politician, we now know the truth about all those shouting themselves hoarse about ‘‘we in ODM’’ or ‘‘we in PNU’; they have no interest in the welfare of Kenyans, and are just looking out for their own interests.

Many young people have been involved as foot soldiers in political campaigns on behalf of these politicians, and many have paid the ultimate price – their lives.

Hundreds of them are languishing in police cells facing various charges mostly involving violent acts on behalf of these two-faced politicians.

These young people engaged in these acts probably believing that they were serving a just cause, that they were righteous warriors (pardon the metaphor) in the interests of their community, political party or country.

What a lie!

When the politicians sat together across the mediation table, they agreed to prosecute all perpetrators of violence, which was described as bordering on war crimes and crimes against humanity.

They then went ahead and shared posts in Government and started planning ‘‘home-coming’’ parties, forgetting that the soldiers for freedom and defenders of the community were wallowing in poverty all over the country.

The tragicomic show on ‘‘amnesty’ is just another false front being opened by politicians to hoodwink their followers that they are fighting for their rights.

The truth is that politicians on both sides are saying the same thing but emphasising different aspects of the argument.

One side is amplifying the need for certain perpetrators of violence to be punished and turning a blind eye to others, while the other side is emphasising the need to punish all purported wrong-doers instead of doing it selectively.

Both sides seem agreed on the need to deal expeditiously with all those in custody – releasing those whose rights have already been violated through inordinately long incarceration, releasing petty offenders arrested for blocking traffic and shouting slogans, and taking those who committed heinous crimes through the due process of the law.

What is the future of our fledgling democracy then?

It is clear that as long as we continue along the path of deceit and double-speak, we shall continue suffering pain and bloodshed as experienced at the beginning of this year.

WE ARE NOT LIVING IN A DEMOCRacy, and we should stop deluding ourselves that we are. What we have is a hodgepodge of nation-states practically at war with each other, and at every election, we put up our best warlords to vie against the best from other groups.

Until we start thinking about ourselves as Kenyans first and use values and principles in making political decisions, we shall continue falling prey to duplicitous politicians who pretend to be one thing when campaigning and become another in other settings.

Kenyans will only demonstrate their commitment to democracy when they transcend the comfort zone of their tribes and define themselves by other values. Until then, one can only conclude that we are not yet ready for democracy.

Dr Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and lecturer, Moi University School of Medicine.

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