Sunday, March 24, 2013

Some lessons from the General Election

By Lukoye Atwoli
Sunday Nation 24 March 2013
The Supreme Court will within the next few days rule on the petitions filed by various groups with regard to the conduct and results of the General Election.
This ruling will be final and all Kenyans will have the duty to abide by it. For the time being, we must begin to discuss some important lessons learnt about ourselves as a result of the elections.
The first lesson we must take away from this election is that publicly funded individuals and institutions must be held to the very highest standards if we are to ever grow to our full potential.
The cavalier attitude displayed by public officers when dealing with important issues will have to end, and they will have to be forced to begin counter-checking all information before releasing it to the public.
For instance, the electoral commission’s problems with numbers and technology were pointed out a long time before the elections. Towards the end of voter registration, we pointed out that some of the provisional figures put out by the commission were erroneous, and we expressed the hope that action would be taken against the individuals responsible for such errors.
Since we are not aware that such action was ever taken, it would seem that nothing prevented negligent staffers from allowing problems such as those witnessed during announcement of the presidential results occurring.
The second lesson we must take away from this election is that we must begin to see elections as merely contests for the power wielded by the common citizen.
Politicians are competing to receive this power in order to do certain things that they must convince us are in our best interests.
The quarrels must therefore only be restricted within the political class, leaving the citizens to make their choices at the elections and return to their daily lives. We must never arrive again at a place where we subordinate our collective fates to the fortunes of any politician.
The third, and most ominous lesson for those of us who observed this election with interest, is that we are yet to deal with tribal motivations that drive electoral behaviour.
The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) and the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC), formed in an attempt to address the root causes of the ethnic hatred in this country, have turned out to be spectacular failures.
The TJRC is yet to present its report long after the original deadline and subsequent extensions expired. The NCIC continues to be long on rhetoric and short on action. They continuously threaten “hate-mongers” with dire action and then fade out of sight, only to re-emerge with fresh threats.
But the clearest demonstration of the failure of these commissions is the amount of veiled hate that was uncovered by this election, especially among the so-called middle-class of this republic.
Anyone with access to an Internet connection and a keyboard has become the principal advocate for his or her tribal chieftain, and the messages swirling around in private circles are extremely frightening.
It would appear that the generation that presented the most realistic opportunity of slaying the tribal monster has been swallowed whole by it, and now provides the energy that propels it forward, devouring all in its path.
In accordance with the ancient Chinese curse, these are interesting times indeed.
Dr Lukoye Atwoli is the secretary, Kenya Psychiatric Association and a senior lecturer at Moi University’s school of medicine; Twitter @LukoyeAtwoli

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