Kenyans should reject politics of clientelism and ethnic elitism

Ethnic elites change political allegiances every election cycle. [iStockphoto]

That Kenya must be a city upon a hill is non-negotiable.

This must be an ideal that we, the people of Kenya, must fight for and defend with everything we have got. It’s for this reason that we must keenly interrogate whether our politics if its serving us or has become an enrichment tool for the privileged few at the expense of the masses.

That ours has become politics of clientelism is an open secret. Ethnic elites change political allegiances every election cycle depending on which side of their bread is buttered. This has fueled a primitive political competition that has more than once threatened the very existence of this country.

After last year’s elections, we saw the effects of limited access order politics rearing its head. But it was a case of the hare meeting its match because the man in State House is not one who can be intimidated or arm-twisted.

Let me explain. When political elites distribute among themselves various sectors of the economy for purposes of extraction and maximisation of personal wealth and self-gratification, it becomes extremely difficult for such a political ecosystem to become a tool of upward social mobility.

To appreciate this better, look at the problems surrounding the cost of electricity, its nexus with the so-called independent power producers and the intimate thread with individuals who are highly placed politically.

Have things always been like this? You may ask.

To answer this question, I will go the AfriCOG report on state capture in 2019.

In that report, the question is posed if we have a state that is genuinely interested in governing or if the state has been repurposed to facilitate the extractive interest of the shadow state.

The political elites have developed a sophisticated network of family and friends and they have tended to rely on this to maximise extraction while paying lip service to the needs of the masses.

This is precisely why the party you loved so much yesterday is today in bed with the political party that you were told is home to your enemies.

The politicians in their slick tongues may want to quote Doris Goodwin’s Team of rivals, but we must tell them that William Seward, Salmon Chase, Edward Bates and Lincoln were all members of the Whigs party, certainly before it changed name to Republican party.

So at least they had some shared beliefs from the start. For our political elites its nothing but unbridled fidelity to self-interest and nothing else. To be more clear let’s look at a few examples.

The ODM party maintained that it won the 2007 elections against PNU. The latter in response had its candidate sworn in hastily at dusk. The net effect was that chaos erupted and PNU, boasting of controlling the monopoly of violence, rained State-sanctioned violence against citizens who were perceived to be supporters of ODM.

They then formed what was called a coalition government. When the constitutional review gained steam and ODM pushed for a pure parliamentary system, arguing that it would enhance accountability, PNU stuck to its guns on pure presidentialism.

Today, looking at our Constitution, particularly the executive structure, you know clearly which side had its way.

In the last general elections, Azimio was deemed a political behemoth compared to its competitor mostly because it had rounded up a large number of ethnic elites, some with negligible political support among the masses.

This coalition of ethnic elites came together purely in pursuit of power and its privileges and nothing else. It’s actually what Francis Fukuyama would call the coalition of rent-seeking elites.

To bring back meaning to our politics, the masses must get better organised and must be made to understand why they must reject political formations whose stock in trade is ethnic elitism and nothing else.

-Mr Kidi is the convenor of Inter-parties Youth forum. [email protected]

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