By LUKOYE ATWOLI
Sunday Nation 04 October 2009
Retired President Daniel arap Moi has lately taken to confidently making political pronouncements touching on a variety of national issues at all sorts of public gatherings. He even recently intimated that politics is his lifeblood, and he would literally continue pursuing political issues to the end of his days.
Indeed, in an ironic twist of fate, Energy minister Kiraitu Murungi officially welcomed the former president into the current political fold, over six years after chastising him to “retire to his farm, herd goats and learn how a country should be governed”.
In the years immediately after the Narc administration took over from the Kanu kleptocracy, Mr Moi kept most of his opinions to himself, restricting himself to the odd public appearance at a church, funeral or school function.
However, with the passage of time, he has become bolder and bolder, and is today able to harangue the nation on all matters ranging from the Mau forest to good governance.
Despite murmurs from some victims of the repression of the eighties and nineties, the former president has received tacit approval from the powers that be to continue in his attempts to mould the political landscape of this country in his own image.
It is clear that even erstwhile political enemies have discovered that an alliance with him can be politically handy. What the former president’s renewed prominence suggests is that there is a leadership vacuum in this country, and he is only rising up to fill this gap.
The top leadership in our country is currently too occupied fighting political fires from both within their own and their opponents’ camps to offer any real leadership to Kenyans.
Despite the noise from various interest groups and activists, it remains clear that no one has as yet offered real alternative leadership that appeals to a majority of Kenyans across the ethno-political divide.
Notwithstanding their glowing reformist credentials, most aspiring fresh political voices have been taken hostage by these divisive forces that exist only to perpetuate the status quo. Recently, while having a political discussion with a small group of young men in Eldoret town, I was confronted by one who demanded to know whether I espouse ODM or PNU ideals.
He was emphatic that in order to hold a political opinion in Kenya, one must subscribe to either of the two contending ethno-political blocs in the country.
Quite apart from my ignorance of what “ideals” these two ethno-political alliances represent, I was stunned by this sort of logic that obviously turned a blind eye to recent political history in Kenya.
Sample this: The party that dethroned the Kanu oligarchy, Narc, won the 2002 elections with a massive landslide, and everyone was convinced that it was a force to reckon with in a new political dispensation that would not be “business as usual”.
Three short years after the 2002 General Election, the party was a pale shadow of its former self, and the final nail in its coffin was driven by the cantankerous constitutional referendum of 2005.
The party did not even feature as a force in the subsequent tainted 2007 elections, and “everyone” was once again classified as either ODM or PNU, with no space for anyone with an opinion different from either of these.
The lesson here is that at this stage of our political development, the lifespan of political parties can be as brief as that of a fly, and “ideology” is often no different from the party owner’s personal credo! In sum, there is no ideological difference or longevity on the Kenyan political scene.
It is this kind of short-sightedness among well-meaning youth and other important demographics in this country that encourages the endless recycling of political leaders who have been active since the pre-independence Lancaster conference.
It is therefore fruitless to bang our heads against walls in frustration and lament that the old man has just refused to go away when we are providing a fertile ground for his continued ascendancy.
Testimony of Moi’s eye on his legacy is evidenced by the level of comfort he has displayed since being humiliated by rowdy crowds at Uhuru Park back in December 2002.
Through some inspired foresight, he managed to populate all areas of governance with his acolytes and sycophants, and was so successful at this that there is little difference between the complexion of all the post-Moi Cabinets and the Moi Cabinets of the late nineties and early 2000s.
In the absence of an authoritative voice on the national arena that offers a real departure from the old way of doing things, we are doomed to continue playing this futile game of musical chairs, waltzing from crisis to crisis until we find one that will finally spell doom for this country.
Dr Lukoye Atwoli is a consultant psychiatrist and lecturer at Moi University’s School of Medicine: www.lukoyeatwoli.com