Kenyan voters suffer from Stockholm Syndrome


IEBC clerks wait for voters to cast their votes. [George Njunge, Standard]

Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others. This is especially so in elective politics where the masses are mobilised through emotive propaganda and empty slogans into electing undeserving characters.

After election, the leaders and their cronies engage in five years of looting while the masses wallow in despair, disease, neglect and poverty. Daily lamentations characterise voters’ lives until the next election cycle when the same politicians emerge with poorly packaged promises. Majority of the leading contenders in the presidential race, for example, are still the same. They therefore cannot exonerate themselves from the corruption and socio-economic sinkhole the country finds itself.

We need a clean break from electoral fraud that has been here for decades. We have intellectuals and experienced leaders with no history of corruption, but we have relegated them to the periphery.

We are the authors of our own misery. So is the Kenyan voter a victim of the Stockholm Syndrome? The syndrome refers to the strange tendency of hostages to develop affection for their captors. In August 1973 an escaped prisoner, Jan-Erik Olsson armed with a gun entered a bank in Stockholm, Sweden’s capital city. In the ensuing melee, he wounded a police officer and took four employees hostage.

In exchange for the hostages’ safety, Olsson demanded $700,000 in cash, a getaway car and release of a fellow criminal. Astonishingly, the police acceded to all his demands. Olsson showed remarkable compassion to his hostages including wrapping one of the female captives in his warm jacket.

If you juxtapose Jan-Erik Olsson and his co-conspirator with Kenyan politicians; and the hostages with the Kenyan voters, the parallels are strikingly frightening. We develop affection towards the very politicians who have ruinously held our country hostage. Our politicians’ demands once elected are as outrageous as what Olsson demanded.

What hurts most is that the very Kenyans who have spent the last ten years complaining about the failure of their leaders will, come 2022, predictably endorse some politicians.

Unlike the Kenyan situation, the Stockholm story had a happy ending. On release, Erik Olsson married one of many women who had sent him romantic letters while in prison! 

The writer is a former NCIC commissioner and professor of management and leadership at Multimedia University

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