Since 1902

Betrayal seems part of the game as Azimio and UDA battle it out

President Uhuru Kenyatta chats with his deputy William Ruto during The COMESA International Trade Fair and High-Level Business Summit at Kenyatta International Convention Centre, Nairobi. [David Gichuru, Standard]

As we head to the August 9 presidential elections, one of the paradoxes that has infected our body politic is that while the two leading coalitions are birthed through colossal political betrayal, the same coalitions are also dependent on massive political trust to survive through the elections.

Hints of that paradox have been most obvious in the political dance between Azimio and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka.

On one hand, Mr Musyoka knows his political fortunes grow only if the Azimio ticket thrives. At the same time, he’s been previously betrayed by the same partner, and there is nothing he can do about it.

Who forgets NASA’s less publicised but just as significant, “this time it’s me, next you”?

Of course, the greatest betrayal is on the Jubilee side. No one forgets the “kumi yangu, kumi yako” promise.

It is the height of disingenuity to argue that DP William Ruto has already served his ten years, so the promise has been fulfilled.

At least the President has not offered us that ludicrous argument; he has made it clear that certain acts by the DP changed his mind.

I find that more honest, even if disagreeable than the former argument. The paradox is that while Azimio is the greatest beneficiary of that momentous betrayal, celebrating it as a great achievement, their partners must also recognise that therein lies the “fruit of the poisonous tree”.

That which is birthed in betrayal can easily produce similar fruit.

Even those in Jubilee depending on the promises given by the Azimio principals must remember that political betrayal has been legitimised and they can be served the same dish. The same is also true of UDA.

It is the illegitimate child of political betrayal. It would be naïve to believe that their unfortunate foundation cannot produce fruits of betrayal.

It is like children who grew up violently abused; they tend to be abusers themselves.

Though it is also true that in many instances, those who have gone through abuse determine never to visit it on anyone again. Is that going to be the UDA story? Only time will tell.

Unfortunately for all the protagonists, there is no gilt-edged insurance against political treachery in Kenya.

Our Constitution vests all executive power on the one person, the President. Honouring political promises is ultimately about their goodwill and a political culture.

In some countries, political culture demands the honouring of political promises, with huge political prices paid if there is dishonour.

In our country, duplicity comes at no cost. I have heard it argued that one should get numbers so that they can impeach the dishonourable if they go back on their word. But as Jubilee taught us, there can always be a handshake with the opposite party that isolates your partner if they do not play ball!

Unfortunately, even the much-touted BBI proposals did not deal with this quagmire. The political offers in BBI were pre-election promises. They would still have depended on goodwill to be delivered on. Some of us had proposed an expansion of the executive, but that the same be voted in as a package similar to the President/Deputy arrangement today. That was not to be. It therefore means unless there is a fundamental shift in political behaviour, political treachery is with us for a while.

I pray however that whoever wins this election will deliver on the promises they made, even if they have to hold their political noses to do so. It is essential that we develop a culture of faithfulness, that our political word counts for something. That we only go back on our word if it is patently impossible to keep it. That is the essence of leadership.