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Scarcity mentality bleeds deceit in alliance politics in leading coalitions

By Ken Opalo | May 14th 2022 | 2 min read


Ford Kenya Moses Wetang'ula leading Kenya Kwanza alliance campaigns in Kakamega.


Details of the Kenya Kwanza coalition agreement have animated political discourse for days.

Surprisingly, leading lights in the alliance acted like the agreement was not to be made public.

This is likely because it revealed details that unsettled voters in Central Kenya, a core base of Deputy President William Ruto. One presumes that it is for these same reasons that the Azimio-One Kenya coalition party agreement has not been publicised. Both coalitions are signaling that secrecy and perfidy remain the undisputed currency in Kenyan intra-elite politics.

As I have noted before, Kenyan political elites’ ongoing inability to enter credible and durable pacts is puzzling. We are a Sh13 trillion economy capable of expanding by half over the next decade, if managed well.

As members of the East African Community, we have access to a market larger than Nigeria’s entire population in addition to global markets. As far as the “cake” goes, there is enough for our elites in either coalition to share among themselves if their goal is to make as much money as they can.

Except their goal is not really to make as much money as they can, but to siphon away as much taxpayer money as they can. Under the latter scenario, the effective size of the “cake” is dramatically smaller and harder to expand.

These are not men and women out to leverage government policy to build billion-dollar global companies that create jobs and wealth. Many are petty thieves that must steal to live.

Seen this way, the scarcity mentality that begets secrecy and perfidy in Kenyan elite pacts makes sense. If the focus is on accessing finite State resources, there can never be a credible distribution of power and rights within alliances.

Presidential candidates always have reserve rights to ration access at very low cost.

Therefore, it makes sense that other elites, unable to get credible commitments from presidential candidates, face strong incentives to keep angling for better deals through defections.

The writer is an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University

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