Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year Provides Opportunity for Real Change

Lukoye Atwoli
Sunday Nation 01 January 2012

Hopefully Kenyans have enjoyed their holidays and are now looking forward to a successful new year. Having ended the past year on an uncertain note, one can only hope that 2012 will be a year of answers for our country. However, we start the new year with a couple of heavy questions weighing on our collective minds.

The first question regards the fate of the Kenyans facing cases at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Will anyone be found to have a case to answer? And if this happens, will it spell the end of the era for ethno-political impunity? Obviously, we have invested a lot of emotional energy in the ICC process, and it actually seems as though everything has come to a standstill until the cases are determined.

The result is that expectations are very high that the ruling on these cases will help shape the behaviour of politicians and their supporters during campaigns. While there is no telling how the ICC ruling will go, one can predict with relative certainty that its effect on our political behaviour will be minimal.

Despite claims that Kenyans have changed as a result of a string of political tragedies since independence, there is as yet no objective evidence to bear this out. We still remain tribal in our voting patterns, and worse, we treat elections like a war in which our opponents become mortal enemies, fit to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

Political maturity

This mindset will have to change if we are to attain political maturity in this generation.
The second question we shall grapple with this year is whether we shall have elections in August, December, or at all! As we await the court ruling on this matter, the controversy surrounding the election date serves to remind us never to take anything for granted, including matters about which we think the law is categorical.

As far as the elections date is concerned, we know that politicians are simply angling for an extended period of earnings, knowing as they do that most of them will not be returned to leadership at the next general election. Further, those that will be returned will probably earn significantly less than current parliamentarians, if we are to believe the noises coming from the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.

In the midst of all this pessimism and uncertainty, there is still reason to hope that 2012 will be the year for Kenyans to triumph. This year, we have the opportunity to finally banish the reign of kleptomaniac sociopaths and establish a just, responsive government in their place. The first steps are evident in our continued trust in the sanctity of our Constitution, and we must be ready to defend it with all our resources.

In my opinion, we were going about re-engineering our society the wrong way until we stumbled upon constitutional reform. Our Constitution provides us with our best opportunity yet to set up institutions that will determine the shape of our country in the years to come. With these institutions in place, we shall not have to exhort people to vote for "development conscious" leaders, or to avoid tribal considerations in making electoral decisions.

No matter who gets elected to positions of leadership, the integrity of the State must remain insulated from the mischief of politicians.

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is the secretary, Kenya Psychiatric Association, and lecturer at Moi University's School of Medicine.

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