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Why participating in General Election is crucial for Kenyans

By - | February 2nd 2013

By James Shikwati

It is also strategic to put to an end the culture of galvanising populations around “eating” the national cake to “baking” new ones

 While politicians are using all tricks available to win leadership positions, interestingly, among the Maasai, a well-oiled system of picking leaders has been practiced for centuries.

 It entails a conclave of elders sworn to secrecy and guided by clear terms of reference anchored in cultural aspects that ensure checks and balance of power.

During the Eunoto ceremony in which Maasai elders pick the chief and spiritual leaders of a given age group in the community, the elders make use of “special forces” to select leaders from more than 2,000 morans.

The selection process is marked with pandemonium and falling into a trance due to the fear of the leadership burden. According to the Maasai culture, selected leaders shoulder the successes and sins of their age group. What then makes Kenya’s elective politics a preoccupation to fight over?

 Kenya, like many African countries, is a young nation whose legitimacy has been anchored on what the colonialists created and safeguarded under the international order of sovereign statehood. Aspiration to leadership has over the decades been guided by the desire to access the “spoils” or “national cake” left over by mzungu. Since leadership is based on jostling for proximity to the cake and power to share it out, leaders are not motivated to engage in nation building.

Kenya’s ethnic nations pre-existed its current sovereign state mandate. Ethnic “constitutions” buttressed with the culture of respective ethnic communities consequently compete with the nation-state (Kenya) for legitimacy, control of resources and wielding of power. Kenyans are thus faced with a scenario where the State has for the last 50 years performed dismally in protecting and assisting its citizens.  In an attempt to address this predicament and hand over sovereignty to the Kenyan people, Kenyans voted in a new constitutional dispensation in August 2010.

The March 4th, elections are expected to usher a historical transitional period that is meant to inculcate a cohesive sense of nationhood. It is hoped that after the General Election, a new era of genuine state legitimacy, credibility, predictability and clearly defined national interest will reign. All these expectations will, however, amount to nothing unless Kenyans take proactive steps to participate in processes that will put life into the new constitutional order.

This is very crucial for the country to wean itself off the initial false starts after independence. It is also strategic to put to an end the culture of galvanising populations around “eating” the national cake to “baking” new ones. Just like one reads product labels in retail stores, elective politics offer Kenyans an opportunity to check the “label” of aspirants. The country needs leaders who will embark on nation building. Kenyans desire leaders who recognise global trends, listen to the electorate and do not impose their will upon them.

Tough economic times facing developed and developing nations have escalated interventionism and watered down sovereignty driven by the fear of unplanned-for migrants flooding other independent territories. Emerging power centres such as Nigeria, Angola, Ethiopia, China, India and Latin America, calls for focused leadership to enable the country navigate through the new ocean of opportunities they offer. Kenya cannot be an island in the international community. Cross border environmental challenges on energy, food and water makes it imperative for the country to play a proactive role.

 The country looks forward to leaders who recognise the importance of institutions to put wind in the sails of the boats of prosperity.

The electorate should invest in leadership that will implement the new constitutional order, respect the rule of law and tap into the country’s human resource and talent as opposed to foreigners. Just the way the Maasai have their own conclave that has helped safeguard their leadership systems; the new constitutional order gives every Kenyan an opportunity to pick the type of leadership direction they would wish this country to take.

The writer is Director Inter Region Economic Network and Publisher The African Executive

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