Politicians had their say, now let them listen to Kenyans' demands

Police use water cannon to disperse Azimio la Umjoa protestors along Outering Road on March 30, 2023. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

The truce announced on Palm Sunday between President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga was met with more relief than celebration.

For several days, the country held its breath as once again the political class edged dangerously close to the brink. Some pundits lauded the two gentlemen for their statesmanship yet if that leadership quality were evident a few weeks ago, we would have avoided the bloodshed, destruction and polarisation of the past two weeks.

No party has come out of this biter standoff with credit. The Police Service proved to be a partisan unit who disregarded the law on the right to protest while taking 24 hours to respond to attacks on Kenyatta family property.

Azimio demonstrated its inability to marshal or discipline the majority of its followers while displaying naivety or indifference to opportunities for crime that their protests offered thieves and thugs. As for Kenya Kwanza, the arrogance, belligerence and hate speech spewed from their top guns' mouths portrayed a regime that thinks it can ride roughshod over its citizens while deploying the police as its private army.

All parties need time to cool off, come to their senses and acknowledge that the public are sick and tired of politics of confrontation, mainly because this is a power struggle and has little to do with the struggles millions of Kenyans experience daily. This was well captured in last Sunday's statement from the Catholic Bishops Chairman Martin Kivuva who stated quite frankly, "Our politicians are fighting for themselves not for us citizens. This conflict is being driven by the political class. It will never favour the common man".

Most Kenyans will resonate with that statement. Frustration and cynicism about politics has led many to believe that if it were not for American influence and perhaps cash, we would not even have arrived at a ceasefire. So, what next?

One thing is pretty evident that those involved in the conflict cannot be entrusted alone with the task of putting things right. The bitterness is evident and there is no desire to shake hands, never mind do another handshake. Kenya is not the property or battleground of two individuals and persons and entities who have sacrificed much more for this country than both gentlemen must take their place at the table when the time for real discussions begin.

Put another way, this is an opportune moment for Kenyans to rescue the country from the hands of politicians and insist that for once they do the listening and not all the talking. Sure, politicians still have an important role but they are only one among many actors and not one most will trust.

Kenya Kwanza may have ambitious plans on how they can jumpstart and turn around the economy. However, they do need to remember that this is not Singapore or Rwanda and a benign or not so benign dictatorship will not be tolerated even if it promises heaven on earth.

Kenyans have tasted freedom and possess a constitution that needs to be respected and even more so, implemented. For the most part it has been shelved and even trampled on. The vision that it offered the country must be revived at this critical moment.

Civil society appears to be waking up to this task and those who relaxed since the Katiba was promulgated in 2010 must now declare themselves ready to defend it.

The Kenya Tuitakayo Movement (KTM) is one of the more active patriotic movements demanding a multi-stakeholder reference group to work alongside the parliamentary process so that we don't see a repeat of past deals that ignored core issues for the sake of political expediency.

Much of the Agenda 4 of the National Accord of 2008 remains unaddressed while the central government is starving devolved units to death. More worrying still is the failure to address the needs of the poor.

It is a crying shame that 60 years after independence, six million Kenyans need food assistance and the begging bowl is still out. The country has failed to turn many crises into opportunities. This time it must not.