Winner takes-it-all will be disastrous for Kenya

Kenya is gearing up for elections in March this year. As the big boys of the region go into the polls, all eyes are on this nation blessed with a coastline, whose strategic position and influence cannot be undermined.
Arthur Asiimwe
Arthur Asiimwe

Kenya is gearing up for elections in March this year. As the big boys of the region go into the polls, all eyes are on this nation blessed with a coastline, whose strategic position and influence cannot be undermined.

 There is something very unique about Kenyan politics that you hardily see elsewhere on the continent.  Like the common adage goes—in politics, there are no permanent enemies but rather strategic interests.  Kenyan politicians perfect this art very well.

Today, certain individuals are at each other’s throats and exchanging all sorts of ghetto words and tomorrow, the story is different---former foes that could hardily see eye-to-eye are romancing one other and signing coalition agreements.

 These political gymnastics set Kenya within its own league and certainly point to the maturity of their democracy.

However, on the dark side of things is that the Kenyan political landscape is highly influenced or driven by tribal muscle. As a matter of fact, these alliances are formed not necessarily basing on the merit of individuals involved (in terms of performance) but rather on what tribal bloc they command.

Though tribal politics is not a Kenyan thing alone but rather a cancer that cuts across the entire continent, the down side of such a situation is compromising the quality of leadership at the expense of winning power. You sign on someone not because he is a star performer but rather the large ethnic he commands.

Kenya is emerging out of a forced marriage forced down its throat to salvage the country after the sharply contested 2007 elections, in which over 1000 people were killed.

Surprisingly, there have been no divorces in this marriage---meaning that despite some ups and downs, just like in any other marriage, the principle of pushing Kenyan politicians to share power worked perfectly.

They should, however, not wait to be reminded of this principle again ----that at the high table of decision-making, every Kenyan should feel represented. It has worked for the last five years and it should continue.

By forming coalitions ahead of the elections through the CORD, Jubilee and Amani coalitions, then Kenyans have indirectly agreed to share power ahead of time. This is partly true. However, the tribal forces behind each alliance bring out the sharp divide that necessitates inclusion of all these groups in the next government.  

If Cord were to win the polls, inevitably, the tribal bloc behind Jubilee or Amani alliances would be disgruntled and feel left out.

This is why a winner takes it all for any coalition group would be bad for Kenya. A smarter side should come up and say, ‘if I win, my brothers and sisters on the other side of the coin will not be left out.  And that’s the person that Kenya should support.

Though, at the time of forging these alliances, the top three positions according to the new Kenyan constitution were filled, there’s no harm in sharing cabinet positions with members of the coalition that will lose.

In fact, since the positions of Presidency, VP and Leader of Majority within the Senate have already been agreed upon, why wouldn’t the winning coalition relinquish the position of speaker of the Lower House to the opposing side? That way, at least the losing tribal bloc will not feel left out in the cold. 

I wish to recall what President Paul Kagame told a Nairobi Prayer Breakfast on the 29th May 2009, one year after the electoral crisis and as a piece of advice on how Kenyans must, on their own, address their internal problems--- “When domestic stakeholders fail to undertake this vital mission and responsibility, the situation becomes inviting for external actors of all kinds to step in and fill the vacuum – many times not providing the right solutions…”

Currently, the ICC noose is still hanging over some individuals and shaping the electoral process.  The ICC charges could actually cause more problems in the near future. Yet, we don’t need ICC to knock on our doors for us to do what is right. 

 Monopoly of power in one coalition will not only affect Kenya’s social cohesion but will also lead to exclusion of some sections which could trigger renewed conflict and political rivalry.

Indeed as President Kagame said during that very prayer breakfast, “...opposition does not necessarily mean enemy and hostile camps within a nation but varied perspectives and insights for forging a common purpose and future.”

 Raila, Uhuru, Mudavadi et al must sit on the same table for the sake of Kenya. Remember when Kenya sneezes, the rest of the region catches a cold!

On twitter @asiimwe          

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