In politics, he who has the people is more powerful than the one who has the sword. Seemingly, Raila Odinga will, if he hasn’t yet, have the people, courtesy of the economic crisis while President William Ruto will soon be left with the sword. As such, the relaunched demos should awaken President Ruto to think of innovative ways of benevolently taming Raila.
You may ask, isn’t the cost of living unbearable? Aren’t citizens struggling to survive? Sure, even without all these, there are a thousand reasons to launch demos and picketing—it is a right enshrined under Article 37 of the Constitution.
Unfortunately, no government can ever, even in mature democracies, achieve the things they promise during campaigns. So, the problem emanates from themselves - the unrealistic promises they make to win elections - but when the rubber meets the road, they begin stuttering.
Similarly, we all remember that the Kenya Kwanza and Azimio La Umoja both exaggerated their campaign promises. Dr Ruto disagreed that the soaring prices of commodities were born of external factors. Citizens believed him and elected him president—now he is being told to do what he said he would do if elected president.
Were the lies and exaggerations avoidable? Here comes the real social-political jinx. Politics does not work with honesty. Politics is a dirty game of exaggeration, unrealistic and hollow promises. The time people will learn to manage expectations, they will get the best leaders.
Even in mature democracies like the United States, voters have big ears for lies, exaggerations and fake news during campaigns—it is the nature of politics.
In this case, Ruto came to power through exaggerations, over complication of reality and unachievable promises. His side used the weaknesses of the economic situation, some of which were not born of the former government, to win the people.
Now they are in the government and want people to understand that the problem was not, from the beginning, created by the government. They want the people to understand that the economy is on a down time mode everywhere—they had said that the economic situation was artificially created through mismanagement. Isn’t it time we learn to treat others the way we would like to be treated?
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Similarly, the opposition led by Raila, who was in the previous government, insisted then that the prices of essential commodities were skyrocketing because of external factors. They are now at the forefront, arguing that the economic crisis is no longer born of external factors but an incompetent administration.
Spectators would say that the opposition is serving the current regime what they (Ruto and Co.) served them when they were in government. Either way, the common mwananchi is betrayed and bears the burden of disingenuous politics.
What, then, can these Maandamano achieve? First, they cannot help lower the prices of goods and services—the former government and Raila were right that some factors were beyond their control. Ruto, then outside the government, was wrong. Today, Raila is wrong, but it seems he is out to have President Ruto feel how they felt when he (Ruto) made citizens believe that the crisis was artificially created
What we should be contending with is if there is a part that the government is playing in making life unbearable and to what extent? Since politics do not work with reasoning but interests, we are bound to wait for the president to exercise leadership.
The twist in the Kenyan demonstrations is that Raila's and citizens' goals and objectives differ. The people are genuinely fighting for their survival. However, it is a quasi-symbiotic relationship that needs deeper examination.
Second, protests are forerunners of anarchy—Raila is in the best position to destabilise Ruto now that he is outside the government. The Raila of August 2022 is not the same Raila of 2023. President Ruto should find out why his predecessors preferred netting him in times of crisis.
Dr Ndonye is a senior lecturer, School of Music and Media at Kabarak University.