Events of the past weeks have had many of us tied up in knots. It is said all that matters in politics are interests, hence the phrase; there are no permanent enemies (and friends) in politics.
So, many of us couldn’t fathom the metamorphosis of, say, James Orengo from a firebrand, progressive politician, ill-at-ease with power to the government apologist he is now.
Nor could we ever imagine that Kipchumba Murkomen – he of the Sky Team - would turn into a Wanjiku-defender per excellence. “Who is to be condemned, those who have seen the light or those who have retreated into the darkness,” tweeted renowned economist-turned-political activist David Ndii.
“We shall stand up for your rights when they are violated. We will speak up against undermining institutions, as always. But we have seen how you behave around power. You are not the alternative leadership the country badly needs.” Tweeted Roselyn Akombe, a former IEBC commissioner who went into exile over death threats.
Ndii, Akombe and many others seek to confront the contradiction, the disillusionment, the cynicism and the unbelief plaguing the country.
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We have seemingly mark-timed since the dethronement of Kanu – on which all that troubled the country was blamed. Nearly 20 years later, we seem unable, even unwilling to break the chains tying the masses to disunity, ignorance, poverty and servitude.
It is as if someone cast a spell on the country post-Kanu. The current “confusion” and sense of unease stems from the missteps after the Second Liberation when liberators became tormentors and turned their backs on those on whose shoulders they stood to rise up.
In the run up to the 2002 General Election, the socio-political environment was in turmoil, the economy was in ruins and hope was readily clutched at. The National Rainbow Coalition – cobbled together three months to the elections- offered that hope. Yet in no time, the war on corruption — the main plank of the Rainbow campaign— had turned flaccid and slowly, tribalism, cronyism crept back.
The inexorable loss of faith in the Rainbow dream and the missed opportunities were all too clear, too soon. Narc’s reformist zeal withered and the rot manifested itself once again. The Kanu many had so much derided and dismissed looked cleaner and fresh.
If President Daniel arap Moi had seemed hands-on, at times meddlesome, nothing quite prepared the country for Mwai Kibaki. President Kibaki’s jarring absence from the thick of things bothered both friend and foe who felt he was out of step with the nation’s pulse.
Uhuru Kenyatta, then Leader of Official Opposition despaired of Kibaki’s style of leadership, describing it as “hands off, eyes off, feet off, everything off”. And therein lies the riddle of false dawn that didn’t herald a new beginning.
One never really knows what to make of things. Should one trust or sympathise with Orengo or Murkomen? The lynch mobs baying for the blood of Orengo and Murkomen have failed to join the dots backwards. David Brooks in ‘The Road to Character’ cautions; “those on the side of justice can be corrupted by their own righteousness.”
In 2002, amid the excitement of what the new kids on the block could do with power, confusion reigned. Political entrepreneurs inserted themselves into the centre of the equation and at the heart of policy-making: The levers shifted, the wrong way. It is these ghosts from the past that we need to shake off.
“Conscience,” wrote Shakespeare “does make cowards of us all”. It inhibits us against greed, jealousy and unrestrained passion and you could depart from principle. The cynicism is borne out of the feeling that Orengo and Murkomen are not agitating for something nobler.
You may ask, what is wrong “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you?” The thing about us is that our society is overrun by charlatans who “deal in lies… and thus have “given way to hating” and taking the public for a ride.
And yet want to “look too good and “talk too wise”… Rudyard Kipling judges that you won’t be a Man. And that really is the elephant in the room. Ultimately, those who don’t believe in turning the other cheek undermine their stated quest for justice.
Those who won’t accept a change of mind scorn at enlightenment; the ability to change one’s mind; when Soul became Paul; where an encounter with events and data leads one to draw different conclusions. And they burrow us deeper into a miasma of hopelessness, mediocrity and underachievement- getting used to the same old.
-Mr Kipkemboi is an Associate Editor at The Standard.