Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Re: Party Shenanigans: Not Yet Democracy - Oby's Response

Charles (Lumi),
I read between the lines and your frustration is palpable. With other people that I have spoken with about this the feeling is shared I recall an sms that somebody sent me moaning that Kosgey 'Dick Berg', Nicholas 'Got Alila' Biwott, Uhuru et al are the new party leaders. What is so new in these characters? In KANU it was like a secession club of the past Kenyatta's Moi's, Salatt's sons taking control. The democracy that we have chosen is party based and the parties are less than democratic. The manner that the parties are run makes them unlike vehicles for democracy in the current state of the development of Africa. The ODM party selection that you refer to was a well crafted ethnic balancing act because the reality is that the parties are vehicles for ethnic interests and not ideologies. This is true to all of them. They try to show national character by what they call regional representation. I was at a burial lat week where the people of Kisumu West district were very happy that the seat 'they' read: Anyang' had in ODM was retained in the district. This is the thinking on the ground; the parties are actually ethnic coalitions period.

You pose that maybe those who think that this is despicable should find a party colonise it - Pattniesque- and use it as a vehicle for making political headway. I wonder about the novelty in that. Should we not be thinking about changing the paradigm? Are parties the only vehicles for representational democracy? Museveni tried the moventism until he turned it into a movement. Can power be captured in a democracy only through a political party? Are the local Kenyan populace really ready for multi-party democracy in its real sense? Is the manner that we understand multi party democracy an evolution from which we can emerge with something new? We must ponder these questions and ponder them hard. If you ask who does not pretend because their education has made them such hypocrites they will tell you that they would support their man. The Kikuyu would support:Kibaki, Karua, Kenyatta and Saitoti. The Luo would support Raila. The Kamba would support Kalonzo and the Luhyia speaking coalition would support Mudavadi-Kombo-Jirongo. This is a fact.

Should we base our democratic practice on the fact that the ethnic identity has not superseded the ideological one and that Kenyans cannot AS YET identify with any thing larger than ethnic identity when push comes to shove. Note that in Kenya even religion is really not a factor yet like it is in Nigeria or Sudan. A few of the elite can see beyond ethnic identity, BUT WILL ACT well within it. Note that all the professional caucuses that supported PNU/ODM had a clear ethnic identity to it.

If this is a given for say the next 30 years when Tamia (Lumi's daughter) et al will be the influence peddlers can we not fashion a system that allows ALL regions and communities to feel part of a whole in the political scene? Note that this is a problem only at the political level, we do not have a problem with a majority of Harambee Stars being composed of lads with roots in Nyanza and Western neither do we flinch in our support of the national medal winning athletics team even if 80% come from a single village, nor the winning Pipeline/KCB/Prisons Volleyball teams heavily dominated by certain regions. We do not complain when the swimming team has 60% white-Kenyan members or the hockey team having 60% Kenya South Asian players. We do not even complain when the majority of the music stars are from Western Kenya. Our problem is the political and the political economy.

This in my view is where the majimboists loose the plot. Kenyans are not divided on their Kenyanness they do not mind that Nameless and Wahu are both ethnic Kikuyu, but they are unhappy when the single resource sharing mechanism - politics - is dominated by a single region. Full stop. This is what we need to change. The real and perceived dominance of the political arena by a few personalities, families and persons from an ethnic groups. The trick so far has been to form an ethnic coalition to give a perception of equitable distribution - this is what we must change.

How do we do this? Either by ensuring all regions are represented around the table that only changes the PERCEPTION of equity or shifting the resource base away from political control. This is what I think we ought to do. Can we create 1,000 multi-million shilling companies like Safaricom away from the political control? can we create 10,000 Equity Banks away from political machinations? Can we create 100,000 highly profitable businesses that will make the resources that the political center purports to control irrelevant? The reason there are some people able to think outside the clutches of the ODM/PNU/ODM-K sphere is the answer; economic independence. Let us create wealth, create opportunities for many that will slowly make the majority poor drift away from these party leaders. As long as the majority are poor, desperate and hungry the party supremos will prevail.



  1. The post makes alot of deep sense. When Moi said KANU aould rule for a hundred years he was right. My question to Kenyans is can they elect a whole new set of leaders not affliated to the current political crop. If someone was to rise up and bring a whole new team of team would they vote for them?? We should look beyond tribal leaders and look at Kenya as a whole.

  2. Nice article! keep up the good work.

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  3. interesting take, though i think the conclusion i think takes us back to the problem, oby suggests that more regions should be brought to the table. i beg to disagree. i think the solution to our problems lies in empowering individuals. not groups not regions individuals. Empowering regions provides opportunities for regional powerbrokers thats it.

    So for me it comes down the individual if we want to change kenya we must find ways to empower individuals economically and socially both men and women. a mans fate should not be tied to the fortunes of there favorite politician.

    The question is how do we empower
    the individual in our political system and social system.

    btw nice blog chalo