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Tribal caucuses will give leaders we deserve

By By Kipkoech Tanui | January 4th 2013

By Kipkoech Tanui

To readers of this weekly column my apologies for not submitting my piece for Friday, December 27, last year. But thank God here we are, taking stock of the year just gone, while looking to the future. One inspiringly said we should welcome the New Year because it is the first year of the rest of our lives. So rejoice and be glad as you count your blessings.

Now the common denominator in conversations all around us is March 4 elections, just eight weeks away. The question I was confronted with in my part of Kenya was not who may win the big race, but rather, why possibly one can believe a combined force of Kikuyus and Kalenjins, meaning jubilant Uhuru Kenyatta and Willam Ruto, can be beaten.

Many, it turns out, albeit in some cases most reluctantly but for tribe’s unity’s sake, are deep inside Jubilee’s tidal wave, and are convinced the numbers are adding up.

Though some are doubtful, a good number have concluded we shall in March have a reincarnated ‘President Kenyatta’ and a ‘Deputy President’ rekindling fond memories of Koitalel Arap Samoei.

I must remind you when asking the question, given Kenya’s highly ethnicised politics, most of my kinsmen were certain they knew where my vote would go – their way of course! 

You realise I have said in March, it is because in my mashinani, only a few I talked to have made a provision for a runoff in their minds. The figures buoying this feeling of certainty are the census and voter registration tallies being bandied around by its strategists.

In fact the whole issue of International Criminal Court crimes against humanity charges facing these two gentlemen in the backyard are seen as a minor distraction, just like what Tinga in 2007 referred as a housefly sitting on one’s coat label.

But that is not to say there are not some here who will vote either for CORD’s combination of Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka, or UDF’s Musalia Mudavadi and whomever will be his running mate, or any other candidate for that matter.

Infamous retort

Ever courteous and not keen to be dragged into banter over tribes and figures, I found a way of going about this question, which I am also sure you were confronted with in your ethnic conclave. I am assuming if you went to Nyanza and Ukambani, the persistent question would likely be the possibility Raila and Brother Kalonzo being beaten.

I can just guess what those whose communities have no presidential candidate or those like the Abaluhya that have more than one, were being asked. This by the way reminds us of an infamous retort in the 1970s that Luhyas are divided by language but united by AFC Leopards.

You may also remember late Stanley Oloitiptip’s taunting of the Luo community as one that worshipped Jaramogi Oginga Odinga as ‘Messiah’ and Gor Mahia as their religion.

In those days tribe was a big thing and Gema, Abaluhya Football Club and Akamba Peoples Party were legitimately registered entities just like the companies quoted today at the Nairobi Securities Exchange.

Now my reaction was simple, and it comes from Ethiopia’s Sahle Selassie’s book published in 1979 titled Firebrands.

The book itself pillared by the timeless political quote” ‘A people get the government they deserve”.

Sahle writes about a university professor who was a member of dissident underground movement fighting Emperor Haile Selassie alongside his most militant students, just like Mwakenya Movement operated with its Pambana leaflets. 

The Prof invested so much hope in the ‘revolutionary’ students and saw in them a new Ethiopia.

The day the Emperor fell he watched with shock and awe from a window of the university as students he banked his hopes for a new Ethiopia on, loot shops, stone cars and harass members of the public.

In conclusion, he sighed that the country’s leadership can only be as good as the people, and that for a country to change, we must be the change we want.

The Prof also painted the picture of contradictions in a country in much the same way as the internal contradictions in an individual over what is good and bad.

Sahle argued that we as the electorate will always elect those who reflect our values and society’s daily interaction is determined by the permanent contest between the collective good and the combined bad. This, however, is just in the analogical sense, whereby we pick leaders in whom we see a part of ourselves. 

The best illustration for this would be the case where prisoners are allowed to vote; you can be almost sure how they will make their choices unless they succumb to the stronger force of tribe.

Highest bidder

So there goes my argument, that whomever we shall elect in coming elections, on the basis of tribal loyalties and mobilisations, for whatever position on offer, if the only reason you voted for them is the constellation of tribes, then you won’t need to cry when they turn out to be something else for you deserve to be ruled by them.

It won’t matter if it will be Uhuru, Raila, Mudavadi, Kenneth, Karua or Kiyiapi, so long as it was not for what they stand for and other competencies that you voted them, but just tribal caballing.  

Sadly, that is the reality of our politics, we vote largely on the basis of tribe and campaign funds, and the highest bidder often takes it.

But the only consolation is there are also many Kenyans who have stood over and above these two considerations.  As of now, the dialectical contest fashioned along the lines of Plato and Socrates, is on.

The writer is Managing Editor, Daily Editions, at The Standard.

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