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Empty promises: What we need to do to hold presidential candidates accountable

By Babere Kerata Chacha | November 29th 2021

With the 2022 General Election around the corner, presidential candidates are using different strategies to prove to the electorate that they are more trustworthy and credible than their opponents.

Apart from stampeding on TV and FM spaces and organising huge political rallies, they are also giving many lofty promises.

Kenyans are always vulnerable to political lies. It is imperative therefore that after the elections season, we should take a reflective and thoughtful look at the promises made by our politicians.

We elect leaders to represent our interests and form government on our behalf. We expect them to do certain things on our behalf. We promise, on the other hand, to pay taxes and to be loyal and law abiding citizens. 

By electing leaders, they silently sign a contract with us. That is why they are sworn in before they embark on their work. This is what we call an unspoken contract between rulers and those that they govern. Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke called this social contract.

In other words, we are the ones giving these people the opportunity to work for us. We are their bosses. They cannot lie to us and make false promises without us making them to pay for it. In normal circumstances, we should be able to recall or impeach them.  

It’s almost five years since Jubilee Party launched its manifesto which was termed then as most progressive and ambitious. The document had at least 10 significant promises they were to fulfil “to make Kenya great again" but to date, little of that has been implemented.

Two most prominent 2022 presidential candidates namely Raila Odinga and William Ruto have made outrageous promises mainly to the most vulnerable groups in our society. 

Raila, the ODM leader, has promised cash handouts to vulnerable families. Specifically, he has pledged a monthly stipend of Sh6,000 to unemployed Kenyans.

The question is, how possible and viable is this project? Where will Raila get this money from? Is he sure of making this a reality or he is just making the promises to woe voters? 

On the other hand, Dr Ruto, who as a custodian of Jubilee promises has a baggage of unfulfilled ones on his back, has constantly promised ‘hustlers’ lots of goodies should he too be elected. 

He has promised mama mboga boda boda riders and kiosk operators improved life and a voice in the next government. How he will do this still remains a puzzle. 

I have a problem with such promises that raise the hopes of the poor in society for a better future.

These men have been in power (before) and did little to transform people’s lives.

For me, the best promises should be based on qualitative needs of Kenyans, rather than hand outs and people’s emotional needs.

Equality, fairness, promise of justice and freedom to all, and good governance and above all promise of the rule of law are the best promises we need to hear from our presidential candidates.

We need to listen carefully to their promises, codify them — in fact, give them the force of law — or compel them to write agreements or take oath before the public that they would fulfil them.

Dr Chacha teaches at Laikipia University.

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