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Coalitions should aim to boost development, not personal ego trips

OPINION
By Mark Bichachi | June 18th 2020

A standard coalition government is one formed by political parties that agree on what should be done by a portion of the budget. In these coalition governments, ideas take centre stage and the debate is fueled by the desire to implement manifestos. In Germany, for example, the various coalitions formed since the end of the Second World War have built the nation to be the largest economic powerhouse in Europe. In general, therefore, coalitions are excellent ways of ensuring that governments do not focus on just one agenda. Coalition governments are not inherently bad and the reality points to coalitions as a better form of government.

But we speak here of standard coalitions, entirely different from what we consider as coalition governments. In Kenya, a coalition is about political parties on paper and about huge personal egos and patronage in practice. When we name coalition partners, we name people not parties. We name tribes, not ideas.

This exchange of ideology for ethnic tokenism is the most selfish and ludicrous coalition-building ideology, especially in a country that struggles heavily with ethnic hate and violence every electoral cycle.

I find it funny that the Luhya community, for example, is being asked to adopt the ideology of voting as one regional bloc for the sole reason of getting one of its sons into the big office. If the Luhya are to be united, let them be united for development. United to see better roads, better factories and better prices for their produce, be it sugarcane or maize. Uniting behind tribal kingpins is not the path to prosperity. It is instead the path to massaging egos.

The politics of ideology is as foreign as caviar to the Kenyan political mind. Our simple ways of thought demand that we consider having someone with a similar name to our own in power as an achievement.

We forget that we have had Luhya, Luo, Kikuyu and Kalenjin vice presidents. We have had a Luhya deputy prime minister, but they didn’t change Luhya realities.

As we speak, Luhya land is transforming, as are many other parts of Kenya, depending on who was elected governor. Counties that elected jokers are today a joke. Those that elected leaders are riding on well paved roads towards even greater prosperity. The lesson here is simple; voting for leaders who have no ideas or ideals is as dangerous as voting for monkeys to guard bananas.

Consistently, the allure of tribal representation greatly outweighs the logic of ideological representation. We accommodate egos more than we accommodate development. Coalitions are built on who has which seat and who will take over which seat after the other.

Our coalitions are based on our tribe voting for person X because our person Y will be president after him. That is not leadership but lack of wisdom. Leaders should be focused on delivering on an agenda whether directly as themselves or by building consensus with the ruling party to deliver.

What we see in Kenya is an insistence on accommodating individuals and the constant din of the desire to inherit seats as though elections are coronations; a right of passage for tribal kingpins.

It is even more funny to me how politicians will call each other thieves, witches and declare “Nasa hao!” then turn around and become political bed fellows. The insult to our collective intelligence is massive but because we are tribal, we love the musical chairs and clap gleefully.

Wake up 

If there is any greater indication of how fallen we are, allow me to consider how we name our political parties. Ford means the forum for the restoration of democracy. As a whole, what do our different political parties stand for? Do we even know? Or do we only know which tribe Ford, Jubilee, ODM and ANC belong to?

Kenyans must wake up and smell the coffee. Coalitions of ideas are a good thing. When leaders gather not to share seats but to share ideas and implement them, we should commend them. When they gather to massage their egos and advance tribalistic thinking, we should shun them.

We must quickly understand that even if one of our own moves into State House, there will be not enough bedrooms for each tribesman. But if one of our ideas gets implemented, there is always room enough for all of us.

Politically speaking, Kenyans must learn to vote selfishly. Vote for what they want; not voting to grow another man’s or woman’s ego. Vote for the road, bridge and industry you want and unite for that. Do not unite for men who will betray your dreams and aspirations for a better future.

Mr Bichachi is a communication consultant

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