Sunday, December 9, 2012

Pre-election coalitions represent the Kenyan mindset

By Lukoye Atwoli
Sunday Nation 09 December 2012

Last week we witnessed a spectacle that would be funny were it not for the implications it has on Kenya’s future. Beginning two days to the deadline imposed by the Political Parties Act on the formation of pre-election coalitions, and continuing up to the deadline itself, politicians outdid themselves in the art of crafting alliances.

Within those two days, some of the politicians had held talks with dozens of “like-minded” colleagues, most of whom they had previously sworn never to talk to even if they were left alone in the same room. Many took only a few hours to move from one end of the political spectrum to the other, seeking assurances on their own political futures.

Apart from soaring rhetoric, none of the coalitions have indicated the reasons why they came together, and what they intend to achieve once they win power. We are only being bombarded with platitudes full of empty promises of peace and prosperity. To the objective observer, it seems clear that even without stripping away the thin veneer of pseudo-ideological differences, these coalitions are actually agreements between individuals keen on capturing and retaining power.

The tragedy is that they are presenting themselves as representatives of political parties, and even worse, of their own ethnic groups. This way, it is becoming easy for the voters to tie the personal fortunes of these coalition-builders with their own individual fates, and those of their tribes. The result is utterly predictable. After the 2013 General Election, one “coalition” will win the election, and the others will lose.

Due to the non-ideological emotions being whipped up as the politicians seek coalitions, it is foreseeable that the losing group will raise complaints about the legitimacy of the election. No matter how genuine the complaints will be, supporters of the group will gang up and attempt to stage protests, some of them turning violent. It is possible that the coalescing tribes will think to punish the ethnic “others”, either before or after the elections, by forcefully evicting them from “their territories”, Kenyan code for ethnic cleansing.

If the above scenario sounds familiar, it should be! This is exactly what happened five years ago, with politicians coming together to win and retain power and, in the process, representing themselves as tribal king-pins who could not lose in a fair contest. The result was an election in which victory was claimed by all sides and the rest, as they say, is history.

Perhaps it may do Kenyans well to remind them that the two main “coalitions” presented to the registrar of political parties are not new, and can be traced back 10 or more years ago. The main protagonists in one group were the face of Kanu in the 2002 General Election that was won by Narc. The second group comprises the key members of the victorious Rainbow Coalition, only missing the then presidential candidate, President Mwai Kibaki.

It is my contention that the average Kenyan does not seem to learn from adversity and that, unless something drastic happens, we are due to repeat history in a very tragic manner. Obviously the coalitions being crafted represent the mindset of the average Kenyan, a mindset that has rigged the country onto a one-way track to oblivion.

I hope I am wrong, but I fear I am not. 

Dr Lukoye Atwoli is the secretary, Kenya Psychiatric Association, and a senior lecturer at the Moi University’s school of medicine; twitter @LukoyeAtwoli

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