By Lukoye Atwoli
Sunday Nation 28 October 2012
The American political system is far from perfect,
and suffers from many of the same problems our own system consistently
throws at us. It is entirely conceivable that in their upcoming
election, many Americans have already made up their minds to vote for a
person whose ethnic background is similar to their own. There is
little any one can do about that.
But that is as far as any similarity
between the American and Kenyan political systems goes. The contrast
becomes very stark after this.
First, the vast majority of
Americans are agreed that if their candidate does not win the election,
the world will not necessarily come to an end, and there will be an
opportunity to get their favourite candidate elected at the next
election. In Kenya, we have invested so much emotionally in
political aspirants that in ego terms, there does not seem to be a
boundary between the individual supporter and his favourite candidate.
result, of course, is that whenever anyone denigrates the politician’s
position on any issue, it comes out as though it is a personal attack on
the supporters. The outcome, as obviously expected, is a catastrophic
hysterical reaction that often ends in open conflict between opposing
Second, despite the apparent gulf in their positions on
various issues, the American candidates have maintained a healthy
respect for each other, with no insults or intemperate language flowing
able to sit in the same room, debate vigorously and sometimes very
roughly, but in the end they shake hands and say nice things about each
Third, the candidates have stuck to attempting to
demonstrate real differences in their policy proposals, instead of
engaging in personal attacks. Even in areas where an objective observer
would notice similarities, such as in foreign policy, the candidates
continued to show how they would do things differently from each other.
our politicians want a peaceful country to govern after next year’s
General Election, there are several things they will do as a matter of
One, they will make it clear to their supporters that
there is a very real chance that they may not win the election, and that
in any case the margin between the winner and the others may be
razor-thin. They will then tell their supporters in no uncertain
terms that they will not be associated with violence, and will in fact
denounce anyone engaging in violence in the candidate’s name.
they will run an issue-based campaign, clearly indicating their planned
policy initiatives in health, education, security and infrastructure. They will canvass their positions on trade, agriculture and social issues such as family, religious freedoms and immigration. They
will demonstrate to Kenyans how progressive their positions are, and
how they will benefit the country should they win the election.
the candidates will maintain respect for each other, and use wholesome
language when referring to their opponents. Using derogatory language in
reference to their opponents will be avoided and punished by public
condemnation. Calling their opponents snakes, horses or donkeys
will be avoided, keeping in mind the amount of emotional investment and
lack of ego boundaries among the supporters.
This way, we shall have a government that is committed to the welfare of all Kenyans after March 2013.
Atwoli is the secretary, Kenya Psychiatric Associaton and a senior
lecturer at Moi University’s school of medicine firstname.lastname@example.org;