This week the leading political blocs in the upcoming General Election released their respective manifestos. Jubilee sought to convince Kenyans that it needs another term to finish the job it began in 2013. NASA presented an agenda for full implementation of the 2010 Constitution, focusing on equity and inclusivity. Both documents present competing visions of where we are as a country, and where we ought to go.
On one hand, Jubilee sees the country needing further investments in infrastructure and improvements in the business environment. Its vision of government intervention in the economy is driven by the need to enable private investment. On the other hand is NASA, whose manifesto suggests a firm belief that the 2010 Constitution has not been implemented to the letter; and that the country requires a structural transformation to guarantee equitable sharing of national resources, social inclusivity, and equality before the law and the government for all Kenyans. On a spatial left-right scaling, NASA’s manifesto is decidedly to the left of Jubilee.
Both manifestos and visions for Kenya’s future have merits and demerits. Jubilee has a case to make for working with the country we have without re-litigating the political settlement of 2010 and its implementation in 2013. Restructuring society does not always yield the desired results, and can indeed be destructive. Their vision of doing their best build infrastructure and letting hardworking Kenyans do the rest makes sense if one believes that you go to battle with the army you have. Their proposed vision of Kenya is grounded on the idea that a rising tide, even if marked by high levels of inequality, lifts all boats. Simply stated, it is a vision that prizes ends rather than means.
NASA’s vision of structural transformation is also valid in its own right. It prizes means and ends. Their plan appears to be informed by the idea no society can continue to cohere if there is a deep sense of structural inequality and discrimination. That we can have all the roads and bridges we need, but still flounder if a sizeable proportion of Kenyans still feel like second class citizens in their own land. It is hard to say which vision fits the country best. Kenyans who have seen their lives improve over the last four years will most certainly want to eschew any radical changes. Those who have seen their economic situation stagnate or worsen want change now. Looking at the numbers, there is ample evidence in support of either argument.
It is also worth noting that both manifestos are conspicuously missing any hard numbers on the cost of their proposed agendas. This, I believe, ought not be seen as a problem. Now that we have starkly different visions of the future from the two leading candidates, it will be up to voters to decide our collective fate. The better vision will be the one chosen by voters on August 8.
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- The writer is an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University. Twitter: @kopalo