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Obsession with dead end politics our undoing

By Andrew Kipkemboi | May 18th 2020

Depending on where you sit, the lack of concern for what really matters in these uncertain times and the large-scale fallout and imminent realignment in Jubilee speaks more about our dysfunctional politics than a set of politicians fighting to keep power.

It should trouble us that everyone is struggling to be a king-maker even when use-and-dump is the signature of our politics. Same actors playing different acts at different times best describe our politics. 

I don’t begrudge anyone the right to be in any political formation. But we cheat democracy when our formations advance the politicians’ agenda rather than the common good. It doesn’t help much that the people have chosen to throw in their lot with politicians.

This is dead-end politics at its best — usually characterised by predetermined outcomes, which retard rather than foster growth. No wonder the rancour the jostle for political office stirs up every five years. That the political class seems disinterested to find a way to defuse the tension, the anger and bitterness that come with it makes them complicit in the heartbreak the electorate are routinely subjected to.

Dead end politics is where politicians trade their followers for State favours made possible by the political class’s main preoccupation of playing for time until the next electoral cycle so as to find their place at the trough. All of them are guilty of this sin.

No doubt, even before the recent realignments, there was a desperate need for renewal. The citizens wanted something better than what they have been accustomed to; many have voted countless times without enjoying the fruits of democracy.

Yet, I am not sure the form it is taking is not what the doctor recommended. The sense of deja vu is overpowering. For sure, something that diminishes the power to hold the politicians to account is not one of them.

With all these energies spent well, Kenya should be doing better. But it won’t be because it is hamstrung by the same energies. 

The jostling for President Kenyatta’s succession is exposing the tenuous nature of our democracy and the brittleness of all political pacts. It is also exposing the powerful forces grinding against each other to the detriment of the country.

Those who are crying now were laughing just a short while back.

In real life, homogeneity and abundance of choice are mutually exclusive. Politics could yet prove the exception. The balance of power surely tips one's way.

What is the problem when parties are clubbed together as is happening? Here is the thing; in situations where no one drives a hard bargain, someone (usually the voter) is disadvantaged.

Worst, we lack strong political parties with a clear strategy for the country. At best, parties are vehicles for self-glorification and self-preservation. Because they have submerged a corrosive culture of impunity, tribalism, nepotism and corruption, parties have constantly undermined the peace, stability and consequently held back our progress.

Indeed, these political formations have exaggerated the differences between our leaders by creating rancorous disputes that feed off irrational prejudice against those who don’t belong or subscribe to their ideology.

In truth, the political class is taking advantage of our collective fear; our inability to decipher cause-and-effect.

We ought to be concerned that no one seems bothered to find solutions for the imminent recession and the colossal loss of jobs and livelihoods caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Neither is anyone prescribing a cure for the fiscal mess the country is in. A 60 per cent debt-to-GDP ratio is worrisome. In the end, something will have to give in.

Political formations cobbled out of expediency have proven inadequate in the past — more like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. There is little to demonstrate that that will be different this time round.

“The system is blind – not only in Argentina, not only in Latin America”, wrote Eduardo Galeano, a journalist in Uruguay in January 2002. For the most powerful politicians, he argued, the people are mere votes.

That notwithstanding, Argentinians proved that they were not mere votes. They overthrew President Fernando De La Rua on Christmas Day. The crowds were angry that their president was not offering them solutions – with high unemployment, many could not afford to feed or clothe themselves.

They took out cooking spoons and hit them against pots in kitchens across Buenos Aires, the capital. Multitudes poured out into streets with pots and spoons. De la Rua was gone in a matter of hours.

Mr Kipkemboi is The Standard’s Associate Editor Partnerships and Projects. [email protected]

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