Turmoil comes before any meaningful change

Kenyans want change to happen peacefully. Unfortunately, there is an abundance in history showing the contrary to be true. Throughout human history, change happened through unrest, sometimes violence. Seeing the rhetoric and the positions being taken around the election today, I sadly predict a period of turmoil that we must endure before what German philosopher Fredric Hegel called the triad idea - thesis-antithesis-synthesis cycle - is actualised.

This triad is referred to in social sciences as the dialectical method. It explains the complex process through which change takes place in human civilisation.

In Kenya, even though most people don’t see it that way, I believe we are going through a transition. The end of a political dynasty of the Kenyatta/Odinga axis is visible. For the first time, we could see these two families exiting Kenya’s political stage.

This transition has to come with some turbulence. President Uhuru Kenyatta, if he manages to survive this Raila Odinga onslaught, would have his last term, period! He has no successor in line.

Similarly, Raila does not have any successors in line. So this is a fight between the last two giants fighting for their relevance in their last term.

Other forces

But in the background, other forces are pushing for what Hegel was referring to as antithesis. These are people in line for succession. Looking carefully through this election, it is not really so much about the Kenyatta/Odinga axis; the other players planning to enter the arena will be the cause of any turmoil because power does not come on a silver platter.

The complexity of balancing individual liberty versus State authority is always at the centre of struggle to facilitate the movement in change from thesis to antithesis and finally to synthesis. The majority or the “tyranny of numbers” has no right to impose its will on the minority.

When individuals or smaller groups collectively perceive their rights are being infringed upon, they trigger a process of demanding change. The demands are catalysed by individuals on the upper side of the social ladder because most revolutions in history have always been organised from the top.

Change almost always never happens because the majority in the lower strata of society are not the drivers. This group from the bourgeoisie use their endowment to facilitate the changes either through a vote in the case of a democracy or a revolution, where the freedom to choose is limited.

In the Kenya we are experiencing now, something similar to a revolution is taking place. Sadly, the peasants, to use Karl Marx’s term, are not the most important agents of change. They are just the means to this desired change by a group of bourgeoisie.

The tyranny of numbers exercised by Jubilee Party to feed the mouths of a limited number of upper-class groups has irritated the other side of the divide who are feeling left out of benefiting from the loot. Remember, the Opposition also has its fair share of the bourgeoisie.

Seemed humorous

This clash of interests obviously forms the core of the change we are witnessing. While Uhuru’s “nyinyi mumeze mate sisi tukule nyama” remark might have seemed humorous, it clearly defined the divide between those on the ‘eating’ side and those on the ‘aspiring to eat’ side. The common mwananchi is just a spectator in this struggle whose vote is used to fulfil the desire of the middle-class.

The axis of the two sides of the divide are the first families of the post-colonial government. This axis is now being challenged by a new category of individuals or groups who want to find a place at the table.

Forget the fact that most Kenyans are poor to the core. As I write this, the majority this morning might not afford three meals a day. Both sides of the leadership have failed to tackle this issue.

Being in Government, Jubilee has failed to expand the economy enough to reduce this burden on the people, but the Opposition has also been too busy trying to find their way to the table to eat the ‘nyama’.

If and when the revolution comes, it might be from below - through the down trodden - rather than the bourgeoisie class. And unfortunately, the price may also be higher.

Mr Guleid is former deputy governor, Isiolo County

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