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Preach about change of attitude then consider electoral reforms

By Mohamed Guleid | Published Thu, January 25th 2018 at 00:00, Updated January 24th 2018 at 23:16 GMT +3

 “What has the clamour for multiparty democracy taught us?” asked a friend of mine the other day. “That new dawns can be false beginnings,” I said, copying a phrase I read somewhere. In truth, the growing resentment among the people is symptomatic of the disillusionment as the promise of transformation withers. I have spent the past week thinking about the scenarios we face; there are those who think the reform journey is over. That we reached the destination in 2002 with the dethroning of Kanu; yet there are those who think the journey is halfway done.

Let me speak to the latter group. In Europe, liberal democracy did not start by legislation but reformation of the church. If Kenya or Africa must also free itself from the bondage of ethnic chauvinism and corruption, then the European model might work. After the 2017 General Election, it has become clearer that new laws will not guarantee electoral reforms. We first need to reform our inner thinking and accept to learn to trust each other. This week after receiving a copy of the report by the 2017 EU Elections Observation Mission, several things went through my mind. I know many Kenyans are relieved that the electioneering period is behind them. Even threats by Raila Odinga to swear himself in next week probably do not sound believable, and many consider it a bluff.

The recommendations in the report (as expected) have angered Jubilee adherents and it is because of that that I found it interesting to read this otherwise winding and at times boring narrative from a bored elections’ observer who might have spent quite substantial amounts of time during the election period in a plum hotel somewhere in the city and followed the proceedings of the election from the comfort of a hotel room (Well, I could be wrong). They say curiosity killed the cat. My interest in the report was caused by the harsh reaction from the Jubilee Party.

The 29 recommendations or so in the report are actually nothing new. Therefore, I did not understand why the Jubilee mandarins were falling over themselves to shoot back. The report mirrors something similar to the Johann Kreigler CIPEV report that gave recommendations in the aftermath of the post-election violence of 2007/08.                                                                                                                                                  

One thing that stands out in the EU report is that we cannot legislate or even use technology to resolve issues of trust. Over and above any other consideration, trust is a key component in free and fair elections. Both Justice Kriegler and now the EU report point trust as the most missing link in our society. Then what to do about this?

The irony is that eight out of 10 Kenyans claim or at least profess either one or another monotheistic religion. Most Kenyans profess the Christian faith while a significant minority are considered to be Muslims. On Sundays the churches are full to the brim and on Fridays one cannot find space in the mosques because of the large numbers of people going for worship. Therefore, it is easy to conclude that religion plays a central role in the lives of the Kenyan people. But why then is it that once the political season sets in, even the most God fearing of Kenyans metamorphose into a political animal; viewing an otherwise good neighbour as anathema.

Now here’s the irony; in Western Europe, religion was the basis for reformation and the source of the enlightenment. Particularly the influence of the young German Monk Martin Luther in the 15th century is probably the single most important turning point in the reformation and later the movement that shaped what in the West is known as Modern Liberalism. Put it another way; the process of democratisation and liberal thinking came from the Church. While the coming of Prophet Mohamed brought the Islamic Enlightenment.

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The spread of Islam brought to an end periods of corruption and servitude. It rescued the Arabian Peninsula from the terrorism of the Roman Empire and other hostile civilisations. Back to Martin Luther; he protested about patronage by the princes, and complained about ecclesiastical corruption. One now wonders what Kenyans actually do in the mosques or churches if they cannot confront corruption and decadence that forms the basis of the pervasive lack of trust in our society.

All religions ought to safeguard the rights of the downtrodden and ensure that there is equal justice for all. So what does it mean when no single spiritual leader can stand up and demand for justice? As for me, I believe that Kenya’s electoral reforms cannot be achieved by legislation alone, but by justice driven through the fear of God. Martin Luther’s courage was based on inculcating beliefs and faith that had put the hope in God way above fellow man, simply because they belong to one’s ethnic group.  

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