By Kilemi Mwiria
A regrettable side to our politics is the almost immediate resumption of campaigning following a General Election. More time has been lost the last ten years when, in-between the General Election, we have held very expensive time consuming referenda.
For more than a year now and with eight months to go before March 4, presidential aspirants have been all over the country, launching their campaigns and party vehicles and holding leaders’ meetings and open barazas. What a big loss in national productivity.
If politicians had their way, they would spend their full term campaigning. That is why there are rules regarding limits on the time and amount of resources to be expended on campaigns. Kenya is now writing the law to curb campaign spending, a very tall order indeed.
Although the campaign period is by law limited to 21 days, no politician cares because it cannot be enforced. Yet, politicians holding Cabinet positions are paid to work and not to campaign at the expense of hard working taxpayers.
If you consider the very large presidential campaign entourages (full of bureaucrats afraid for their jobs) and public amenities (official Government cars and choppers), the country must be spending billions of shillings for the personal gain of individual politicians employed to work for the country not self. It must also be terribly frustrating for thousands of citizens who receive no services from Government offices because those to serve them are out campaigning.
It does not help that most of these campaigns rarely focus on development and quite a bit on hurling of insults at opponents and on possible campaign alliances; sure recipes for tribalism and violent elections. Intense early campaigns further tend to promote corruption as candidates may be forced to make promises to campaign financiers in return for lucrative Government contracts and jobs.
This is why high-level scandals are most common nearer to, and immediately after elections. In any case, campaigning on paid Government time is in itself big time corruption. It is also an unfair law that requires civil servants to resign to run for public office while ministers stay put and continue to use public resources for their campaigns. How disadvantaged Martha Karua, Mutava Musyimi, William Ruto and James ole Kiyiapi must be compared to those presidential aspirants serving in Government! What a bias?
Early campaigns are also a distraction to those who are working hard to earn a decent living as campaign caravans invade streets and pull customers away while jobless youth are temporarily blinded from seeking long-term solutions to their despair as they get hired to guard and carry politicians’ placards. A few, if any potential investors are in any hurry to put their money in Kenya under the current political atmosphere.
If there is one good reason for celebrating our new Constitution it is for leaving out politicians from Cabinet. But as we await its’ implementation, ministry accounting officers need protection to be able to safeguard public resources from campaigning ministers.
The media and the public could play a role by refusing to cover early campaigns and by not showing up at rallies, if the police do not have the power to stop them.
The writer is MP for Tigania West and Assistant Minister Higher Education, Science and Technology