No matter the waiting, the people’s will shall prevail
Published on January 14, 2008, 12:00 am
By Dominic Odipo
Kenya is, indeed, a land of many wonders! And we are not just talking about the spectacular annual migration of millions of wildebeest in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. Consider just two facts:
Two weeks after the Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) admitted that he does not know who won the 2007 presidential elections, he is still sitting pretty in office — earning millions of shillings of taxpayers’ money in salaries and other emoluments!
And after Kenyans in seven out of eight provinces overwhelmingly rejected his presidential bid, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka has been promoted to the post of Vice President, only a heartbeat away from the presidency that so many Kenyans wanted to keep him away from!
But that is not our message today. What lessons can Kenyans learn from the unprecedented chaos, mayhem, bloodletting and the loss of so much property and so many innocent lives over the last three weeks?
First, we now know that the ECK is not the toothless bulldog it has always said it was. If and when need be, it can instantly manufacture the sort of teeth that can make or unmake presidents, vice presidents and Cabinet ministers. It can change the rules of the game after the game has actually ended and is not bound by any of the basic principles of fair play or natural justice!
Second, we have learned that, to a lot of politicians in this country, the
Holy Bible stands for and represents nothing. They can hold it in the right hands and swear anything under the sun even when they know that they are perpetuating a fraud or an illegality. We now know that even those who profess to be men of God can quickly deny Him when dangled sure prospects of immediate power and profit.
Third, we have learned that a single, misguided or careless decision made at the centre of power can result in immediate, unpredictable and uncontrollable bloodletting and destruction of personal and communal property.
We have been reminded, once again, that the personal interests of the leaders do not necessarily coincide with those of the rank and file of their communities. We have learned never again to assume that people will know what actions to take or the consequences of those actions simply because they happen to occupy high state office.
Fourth, we have learned that the interests of foreign powers, particularly those of their leaders, can be very different from those of the ordinary Kenyan people. We now know, first hand, that when those interests diverge, foreign leaders will dig in to protect their interests, regardless of the issues involved or whether thousands of innocent Kenyans are killed in the bargain.
Fifth, we have been reminded, once again, that, during conflict situations, the media is not just a reporter or messenger of political news. It is a major and often decisive political player itself. It will spend invaluable hours exhorting people to pray and love their God while totally ignoring the real causes of such conflict.
If there is a seminal message here, it is dual: That the State should have as little control over the media as is practicable and that the people should know who own which media houses so that they can interpret specific media messages accordingly.
Sixth, we have learned (if we did not know it before) that there are certain
State organs which, given their core mandate, should never be left under the ultimate control of the Government of the day. Chief among them is the ECK.
To leave this organ under the control of a sitting President is to effectively rig the elections in advance. The referee cannot be a player in the same game.
But what is the most important message that all Kenyans should take away from the chaos, mayhem and bloodletting that has so shamed our country over the last three weeks? It is very simple, really, and it is this:
Twenty years after the fall of the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe and 18 years after the overthrow of the apartheid regime in South Africa, it should be clear to all Kenyans that no modern multi-ethnic country can be governed for long against the will of the majority of its own people.
In the short term, power can emanate from the muzzle of a gun. But only in the short term. In the longer term, as more and more Kenyans become more politically conscious, the nation will find its political equilibrium and the will of the majority will prevail. If there is an Iron Law of modern politics, there it is.
The writer is a lecturer and consultant in Nairobi