Which political manifesto can we take to the bank in August?

Kenyans queue to cast their votes in the 2017 General Election. [File, Standard]

An American detective television series known as Baretta aired on ABC from 1975, popularised the phrase “take it to the bank.” The phrase refers to a promise whose reliability is so guaranteed that it can be equated to money safely locked away in a bank.

The big question Kenyans are asking about a month away to the elections is, “can we take the manifestos the presidential candidates have launched, to the bank? Are they that reliable?”

Let’s briefly review highlights from two alliance parties’ manifestos. Azimio’s ten-point agenda kicked off by declaring that manufacturing was the engine for creation of wealth and employment. As such, it spotlighted Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs), including jua kali sector, as drivers for the ‘made in Kenya’ initiative.

Similarly, the Kenya Kwanza’s vibrant seven-point agenda promised inclusive growth encompassing agriculture; MSME economy; housing and settlement; healthcare; digital superhighway, creative economy, environment and climate change.

An objective reading of both manifestos will leave one impressed by the amount of work that went into preparing them. I sincerely congratulate experts from both sides for meticulously assembling these promises and making sound arguments about them. Without a doubt, most valuable time and sleepless nights were invested into the development of these manifestos. I was thrilled to discover that most of the issues that I have discussed in the past through this column were included in the manifestos. That said, the question I posed earlier must be repeated – can these manifestos be taken to the bank? Can Kenyans trust the presidential candidates and their teams to deliver what they are promising?

On numerous occasions in the past, this trust has been betrayed. It is obvious that voter apathy is now prevalent among Kenyans. Last month, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chairman Wafula Chebukati revealed that only 39.84 per cent of youth aged 18-34 registered to vote. This represented a 5.27 per cent decline compared to 2017. If whoever wins on August 9th doesn’t keep the manifesto promises, this number will definitely decline even more in 2027. Ultimately, what happens in between elections is just as important as what happens during elections. From August 10th onwards as realism hits our leaders, Kenyans must hold the victors absolutely accountable.

According to the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties, there are 90 registered political parties in Kenya. These parties must be on the forefront of holding whichever party wins the elections fully accountable.

They must continuously organise their members in this effort. Similarly, my humble prayer is that faith communities together with the 19 million Kenyans who are part of the country’s workforce, will marshal each other in holding the government accountable otherwise the manifestos will simply remain what my daughter refers to as believable lies. The Kamba community have a saying “undu kaambaa katekakwatye tiw’o kaambaa kakwatwa.” It translates to ‘the sound that (a bird) makes before it is captured is not the same sound it makes after it is apprehended.

As we enter the home stretch, the four presidential candidates will keep echoing promises enshrined in their manifestos. They will promise, cajole and entice the voters.

After elections, the reality of things on the ground can easily lead them to make different noises – give excuses, threaten, dismiss or simply ignore. If we the people, who are their bosses, will remain vigilant, then they will have no option but to keep their promises.

Still, the voters must make their final decision informed by the promises in the manifestos. Which manifesto can they take to the bank? In the final analysis, the manifesto that really matters is the one inscribed in the hearts of leaders and citizens for God’s glory. Think green, act green!