By Timothy Bosire
What big lesson can Kenya draw from US President Barrack Obama’s victory speech barely one week after winning the coveted seat for the second time? In his speech, Mr. Obama moved fast to summon the nation to unity. He reminded them of the need to quickly set aside their election differences and come together like one family and forge ahead together:
“Whether you were on the Obama side or the Romney (Mitt) side, you made your voice heard. I thank every American who participated in the election. ..... We will rise or fall together as one nation and one people...We Love this country deeply. We care so strongly about its future...I look forward to sitting down with Mitt soon, to talk about how we can work together and move America forward!”
Both the Holy Book and tradition prescribe it as a must-have ingredient towards harmonising society and co-existence.It actually opens fertile opportunities for working together, jointly working on solutions to challenges and problems plus softening human beings to reason with opponents.
The nation, just like the family is founded on compromise and mutual understanding among all the stakeholders. It is the insurance for forgiveness, building bridges, and co-existence amongst people. Christ, the Buddha, Prophet Mohammed, Mahatma Gandhi and all the great religious sages have taught Love for God, for one’s neighbours, for friends, for family, for spouse.
And for loved ones who offended, they prescribed mutual understanding and forgiveness.So former President Daniel Moi was spot-on in coining his Nyayo philosophy of Peace, Love and Unity -— that same ideology of entrenching brotherliness. Whether he effected and actualised it well is another matter altogether.
He is remembered for his cliché: Siasa ni Maisha. Siasa Mbaya, Maisha mbaya.He simply meant that negative politics would dismember the National and Create suffering. And it is that siasa mbaya of enemity and permanent differences that Obama was castigating as he extended his arm to his vanquished competitor.
The aim is to cultivate and sustain a win-win situation during and after fierce democratic political contests.In President Obama’s victory speech, we see a leader intent on ensuring national Unity through deliberately embracing his fierce opponents (the Republicans).In America, just like everywhere else, nation building, prosperity and harmony are anchored on joint efforts and mutual support between all stakeholders in the country.
So, as Kenyans approach the next general elections, all eyes are not just on the electoral authorities to ensure credible polls and a peaceful transition of power, but also on the key leaders and political outfits to pick out those keen on genuinely summoning the nation to unit as Kenya embarks on challenges ahead. Also willingness to embrace a political culture of honesty, accountability and nationalism as we win as Kenyans, not as individuals or tribes.
The period immediately after the March 2013 polls offers a plateful of hurdles to the new team in power.It includes: jumpstarting devolution structures and institutions, re-energising the Constitution implementation process, confronting negative ethnicity, re-configuring the Civil Service, entrenching the new top structure of government (new-look Judiciary, bi-cameral parliament and the restructured executive)
The same government will be still tasked with managing ethnicisation of the ICC cases; ensuring improved economic growth and anchoring the traditional war against poverty, ignorance, corruption and disease.There is also the military headache to do with the Al-Shabaab-Somali question, Migimgo Island stand off, Ilemi Triangle misunderstanding with Southern Sudan and the emergent Mombasa Republican Council threat. Others could emerge.
The above are no mean challenges. They pose a threat to the peace, harmony and prosperity. They can’t be tackled by an exclusivist clique or political party in power.They can only be effectively confronted by a united people working under a visionary regime.
Hence, Premier Raila Odinga’s recent historic apology to and rapprochement with the Kalenjin is a spectacular example of a leader who is keen on summoning the nation to regroup and heal together from the general elections and a myrriad of other past socio-political and economic tribulations.
Like in a family victory in any tussle is not supposed to be the excuse for the winner to get arrogant and proud and to resort to taunting or humiliating the losers. Victory is to be appreciated as a communal gain and an opportunity to enrich and benefit the rest through alternative progressive leadership ideas and initiatives.
Hence the perceived re-union of various leaders before or after bruising elections. Individual , partisan victory is often times not the best to pursue; for most societies.The rapprochement by the PM is therefore a good gesture and offers Kenyans renewed hope that there are our motherland Kenya still has good leaders out there who will not allow the elections to split us permanently.
I look forward to a time when in Kenyan elections, competitors will readily appreciate and cherish their opponents both in winning and in losing. This is the opportunity, fellow Kenyans.
The writer is a politician and Nairobi businessman.