How Kenya found itself in a political quagmire

Trader pulling a handcart at Marikiti market, Nairobi. October 9, 2020. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

It seems theatrical when we see waves of politics in the post-colonial Kenya oscillating in cyclical progression, episodes well-choreographed in a repetitive manner. As remarked in Achile Mbembe’s post-colony theory, the founding political elites of this country disregarded the independence constitution, set the pace and fronted own or personal goals.

This background, as we have seen thus, sets forth a political quagmire that this country is entangled in: endemic corruption, inequalities and impunity. When both the State and individual citizens tend to engage in political violence and the shameless disregard of the rule of law, these are just symptoms of this legacy.

Distribution of wealth and equal share of national appointments that geopolitically partitioned this country during the colonial era and immediate years of independence are two issues that directly affect services that the State renders to its citizens even today. Without implementation of the rule of law and social justice, we can never have equality and equity in distribution of national resources. This is what leads to ethnic conflicts and post-election violence.

Shockingly, when our deputy president arrived in the USA, he discovered a new terminology he had overlooked for many years – the rule of law and democracy. I say this because in his rallies across the country for the last four years, he has never mentioned anything to do with human rights, democracy and rule of law, yet they are the most critical ingredients for his bottom-up economic model.

Without these praxis, the mama mboga and kiosk owners would not access pesa mfukoni in a fair and equal manner. Technically being in the opposition, and having travelled to the US (land of freedom and democracy), the DP would soon experience head-on real confrontational issues with democracy and rule of law. Even ODM leader Raila Odinga’s social protection election pledge to the vulnerable and unemployed is a stellar example on the necessity of application of the rule of law in any economic model.

Botswana is a stellar example of a country that has excised the rule of law and this has led to peaceful elections and high economic growth. Today, Botswana is being referred to as a miracle of Africa because of practising the duality of fairness and economic growth in its development trajectories. Hailed by the global institutions, Botswana now ranks fourth out of 31 countries in Africa and eighth out of 42 upper middle-income countries of the world in terms of application of the rule of law in their political system and general governance.

It is widely anticipated that the rule of law is an essential component for economic growth and peaceful coexistence. So, if the rule of law is adhered to, then a respective nation has its trajectory on an upward economic growth and development.

Without social justice, the gap between the rich and the poor will ultimately widen. This will continue to cultivate animosity between classes, places and ethnicities. In fact, the rule of law demands that anyone in a position of power must exercise their functions in line with the Constitution of Kenya rather than in an arbitrary manner. Article 259(1) of the Constitution requires that its interpretation be done in a way that advances the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms outlined in the Bill of Rights, permits and contributes to good governance.

In sum, our politicians must be acutely aware that without justice, equality and basic freedoms no economic model can work effectively. We need just laws and rights, and engendered policies to be applied in any praxis we propose to alleviate poverty and raise the living conditions of Kenyans.

Effective rule of law eventually reduces corruption, combats poverty and disease, and protects people from injustices whether large or small, rich or poor. It is the foundation for communities of justice, opportunity, and peace – underpinning development, accountable government, and respect for fundamental rights.

Dr Chacha teaches at Laikipia University