Monday, January 7, 2013

Let us make 2013 the year of renewal for Kenya

By Lukoye Atwoli
Sunday Nation 30 December 2012

As we come to the end of 2012, I take this opportunity to wish readers of this column a happy and prosperous 2013. When the current year began, many of us expected that it would end with a new occupant in State House and new representatives in the various houses at the different levels of government. This hope has now been postponed, and we are hopeful that next year we shall realise this eventuality.

Looking ahead to 2013, there is a lot to be optimistic about, but there is also a lot to be cautious about. Even as we wish each other a happy and prosperous new year, we will do well to keep in mind that events early next year will determine the future of this country.

This time five years ago, we were in the throes of a violent eruption related to general elections that were allegedly stolen. For two months we remained in a state of uncertainty, and many feared that our country had finally arrived at its Waterloo.

One hopes that this will not be the case next year, although all indications are that Kenyans’ short memories are facilitating a potential repeat of the events five years ago. Tribal coalitions have already been repackaged and polished ready for service at the next General Election, despite all outward appearances of ideological connection and goodwill for the country. The same politicians who have been contending for decades will face off again in under three months’ time, with their disputes remaining essentially unchanged.

Peering into the future, one is confronted with a bleak choice. It is fairly obvious that whoever will be elected president next year is unlikely to provide a clean break with the past. Most of those offering themselves up for positions at the next election have been in government before, some for significant lengths of time. During their stints in government they have made little effort to implement the “reformist” agendas they are now promising Kenyans.

The only redeeming feature concerning next year’s election is that the laws are now a little harder to break with impunity, and punishments are much more severe than in the past. If Kenyans maintain fidelity with the Constitution, then the future is much brighter than we anticipate. The problem with Kenyan politics has been our unhealthy obsession with personalities rather than issues. We remain ready to fight and kill each other on behalf of politicians who do not care much about the common citizen.

The new Constitution represents an attempt to shift focus to issues that matter in the development of our republic. Kenyans must seize this opportunity to strengthen institutions and seal loopholes to such an extent that even if a chimpanzee were to be installed in State House, the country would continue running just fine.
It has been my contention that laws are not made for law-abiding citizens. Laws are made to prevent outlaws from having free reign and harming those that are just going about their business peacefully.

Similarly, institutions should be structured not only to be run by “good” people, but also to survive the tenure of the evil ones as well. Let us take this opportunity to make 2013 a year of Kenya’s renewal by focusing on institutions rather than personalities. 

Dr Atwoli is secretary, Kenya Psychiatric Association and senior lecturer, Moi University School of Medicine.; Twitter @LukoyeAtwoli

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