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Democracy is yet to give Kenyans solutions

By Alexander Chagema | August 25th 2016

An elders' meeting of the Gare clan in Mandera County is reported to have passed a resolution whose aim was to guarantee fairness and peace in the region.

Whereas councils of elders elsewhere are notorious for installing scheming politicians as elders and endorsing any Tom, Dick and Harry for political seats, the Gare seek to level the field and end dominance of the smaller clans by the bigger ones.

And to demonstrate the reverence in which they are held, their power, influence and reach, Mandera Senator Billow Kerrow concurred with their decision; that current leaders step down in 2017 to give others a chance to lead.

Mandera and adjoining areas, formerly the North Eastern Province (NEP), have known nothing but adversity and trouble. Communities in the region have often fought each other over water, grazing rights and clannism. Until the advent of devolution, NEP suffered marginalisation by successive governments. It is only now that devolution has put smiles on the faces of residents.

Many laid their eyes on the first tarmac road in 50 years of independence last year. The first caesarean birth and dialysis were conducted under the auspices of the county government.

Nature, too, has not been kind. In Mandera and adjoining areas, the sun comes down with an intensity that ensures farming is the least of anybody's concerns, translating into food and water shortages that ravage large populations.

But while reclaiming the land for agricultural purposes is feasible, nothing has been done. Over time, Israeli governments have demonstrated this is possible by reclaiming 90 percent of the formerly desert land and made it agriculturally productive.

The African society is patriarchal; which may, in large measure, account for why embracing democracy and the advocacy for equality has been so difficult. Many have wondered why communities subserviently follow leaders; themselves blind, yet the reason is that they are preconditioned to follow someone, anyone, representing the society's patriarch.

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Tragically, we have demonstrated we cannot handle freedoms with grace, thus necessitating institutions like the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, even the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission to hold back our excesses. Constitutional freedoms have turned everything topsy turvy. The freedom of worship has brought weirdos to the streets. The freedom of expression has seen all manner of people congregate at the market places. Freedoms of association and assembly have birthed all manner of anti-social groups.

Nothing moves any more unless some individuals without the slightest inkling of what is at hand are consulted. Looking at a woman absentmindedly could land a man in jail for sexual harassment.

Even Government institutions and bureaucrats don't understand their roles and are often at loggerheads. I am persuaded to believe the way to go in limiting dominance and unhealthy, often acrimonious political competition is the Gare elders' way, even if it challenges the established tenets of democracy, especially by limiting an individual's choice or, the right to contest an electoral seat.

The Gare elders have been there, seen it all and are wiser for it. Their decision was informed by experience accumulated over the decades. It is backed by proof of what numerical dominance does and the attendant consequences.

Where democracy gives the majority their way, grants the minority their say but fails to ensure harmony and peace, it ceases to be an acceptable equaliser. If a 'prison situation' is what can guarantee peace, encourage social and economic activities beneficial to the individual, society and government, then maybe we don't need democracy the way it is packaged and delivered to us.

We aspire to be where America and the West are today, completely oblivious of the 187 years' head-start America has on us and the experiments they've had with democracy.

Even today, democracy hasn't made the Blackman acceptable as an equal in America. Recent murders of black men attributed to white policemen and supremacists attest to this. Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has shown little regard for Hispanics, Mexicans and Blacks.

Little wonder then that President Barack Obama recently said he would immigrate to Canada should Donald Trump win the White house.

Looking at the unhealthy jostling for positions within Government and the Opposition where everybody thinks they are the best, even when evidence suggests otherwise, it is easy to appreciate the wisdom of the Gare elders.

Kenya looks set to continue being in the grip of mediocre leadership whose machinery is greased and runs on funds stolen from public coffers unless we face up to the truth.

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