The history of politics in Africa is wrought with emotions and thrills, moments of excitement and also darkness. Our continent has a colourful past, including moments of glory and culture, but also of subjugation and cruelty.
Colonisation at the hands of the British, French, Belgians, Dutch and others left most of the more than 50 countries in Africa to pick up the shattered pieces. It has not been easy being part of this beautiful continent that our ancestors called home, but it is almost always exciting.
For more than 500 years, countries across Africa have suffered from slavery, imperialism, neo-colonisation and all of the racism and difficulties that come with it. Then after we managed to shed the yoke of direct European oppression, the tribulations of indirect oppression came at full force.
One of the most troubling outcomes of the post-colonial period in Kenya has been lack of social cohesion we have had since the inception of the state.
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For many years, different tribes clashed over territory and power, money and control. This came to a head on several occasions, most notably at election time, where we watched our streets burn.
This is not the way a country should be. It is certainly not the way that citizens who respect each other and who share the same cultural heritage should treat each other. But alas, we are all too familiar with the problem of post-election violence.
But this is no longer the spirit in which we operate. Kenya is transitioning towards becoming a healthier, wealthier, safer democracy. It does not happen overnight, and it takes time and effort. But when we achieve it, it will be worth all the hard work.
The great American President, Abraham Lincoln, frequently opined about democracy. For him, this simply meant equality between all human beings: “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.”
This means that as citizens of a country, no one is more powerful than another. Everyone is born with the same rights. Everyone deserves to be treated the same by the government, to receive the same benefits provided by social services. Most importantly, as we work on building a healthy democracy in Kenya, every child deserves to dream with the same amount of imagination and aspiration as a child from any other tribe or social group.
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While we have allowed scars of the colonial history to seep in and affect our behaviour, this needs to change. We have seen how destructive it can be in the rest of Africa. Consider Nigeria, for example. The Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo tribes have never had an easy time working together.
There is always news of territorial disputes as well as ill will in government. Everyone wants to have their own man in charge. No one trusts someone from a different tribe in power. It all sounds very familiar.
The recipe for a healthy democracy therefore includes a large serving of trust, a heap of optimism, and a dash of good leadership. To move beyond tribalism. To put the nation first. We are only as strong as our weakest link.
If too many individuals in the Kenyan populace are weak links because they are not being supported enough, then that means our whole nation is weak.
In a democracy, as Lincoln pointed out, no one is higher than the other. The president and all elected officials are just normal people - serving other normal people.
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We need to place trust in the democratic process, and have faith in our genuine political leaders. That is to say, they are running for office not because they want to take power for themselves, but because they want to use it for good and manage it in a way that helps all of our diverse communities.
We share many historical parallels to other African countries. Kenya now needs to use 2020 and beyond to show our African brothers and sisters how to shape a cohesive, peaceful future.
-The writer is Igembe North MP