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Inclusivity a key tool for peace in poll ‘hotspots’

By Njuiri Kimaru | Updated Mon, June 19th 2017 at 00:00 GMT +3

Election hotspot. Battle of titans. Bruising battle. Tight duel. These phrases have become synonymous with the ongoing search for votes in selected electoral zones.

The references, especially the gubernatorial ones, indicate high-octane competition for political power. In areas described as such, the factors at play point to a huge desire by some sections of the electorate to bag the political seats under whatever circumstances.

Assumption of political power has for long been associated with access to resources, prosperity and ability to control the way things are done.

Generally, getting political power is construed to mean those who get it acquire a new status of emotional security especially in areas where ethnic insecurity is rife.Those who fail to get this power relegate themselves into a corner where they feel unable to advance their developmental agendas or aspirations.

Despondency

 They start a sorry journey of lamentation and low self-esteem which drastically affects their participation in development. Kenya has counties that have the greatest risk of creating a large section of the electorate feeling dejected and rejected due to a deficiency of pragmatic inclusivity policy.

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Where we don't have non-locals at the risk of this status, we have minority communities that live in these counties.

The counties most affected by this ethnic insecurity have huge populations of non- locals who have made tremendous contribution towards their current developmental status. Balancing of power in these counties has led to negotiated democracy where representatives of these groups have seats such as senators, Woman Representatives and Deputy Governors, reserved for them.

Unfortunately, the 2013 pre-election deals were more sensitive to this inclusivity more than in the 2017 polls. It is worrying that the spirit of inclusion is dwindling as we go ahead, instead of being more robust. The tenets of democracy have put some of these minority communities in a precarious position. Take for example the Kuria in Migori County. All the seats were swept by ODM candidates, including the senatorship, which they got in 2013.

Counties like Kajiado, Narok, Mombasa, Lamu, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Garissa, Machakos and Nairobi are potential risk areas on how lack of inclusivity could affect peace and cohesion. Take Kajiado County, the most cosmopolitan electoral zone in Kenya, for instance.

The highest levels of development can only be achieved through; first safeguarding the interests of the host communities and secondly embracing diversity of ideas that come with new migrations into the county.

These counties have immensely benefited from accommodating other communities in their own social-economic spectrums without a commensurate inclusion in political decision making processes. Obviously, the hard nut to crack has been the intricacy of their involvement without jeopardising the status of the host communities.

Politics is local and interests for both groups need to be safeguarded to such an extent that the relationship between the communities is not adversarial by an inch.

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The delicate balancing act, in my view, would then be for communities in these so-called hot spots, to explore horizontal inclusion rather than vertical inclusion. The obsession with vertical power is no longer accommodative as may be desired as there are only two positions; the Presidency and Deputy Presidency at national level, and the Governor and Deputy Governor for county governments.

One may need to realise that the most critical decisions in governments are not made by the top chaps but by technocrats who pull the strings from under.

The top office holders are, in many instances, drivers of policies that have been designed by other officers down the ladder. This means a robust representation just below the peak positions could essentially offer the desired role in shaping the destiny of these local governments.

Peace and cohesion in the counties will greatly be enhanced if political players could embrace the spirit of inclusion in deciding the social- econo-political direction of all the electorate.

Pooling resources

It is critical to appreciate that host communities would move development at a snail's pace if they were to be left to their own devices. New ideas and synergy accrue from embracing people with different histories and experiences.

Governors in counties with substantial non-locals who will get it right on blending local talent and resources with external ideas will, in my view, lay a very stable foundation for high speed economic growth.

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By the same token, governors who seek to be merchants of suspicion and mistrust between host communities and non-locals have already reached the destination of failure. Advancing such archaic divisions can only serve their own selfish interests and it is a great disservice to the ultimate realisation of a people's economic potential. Let us all cultivate a responsibility to embrace all Kenyans with ideas for positive change. It is the only we can emerge from the bruising battles for power unscathed.

Mr Kimaru is a Kenyan political scientist working for an international organisation in Gambia.


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