Four questions for March 4

A date with destiny

On March 4 2013, Kenyans will elect their next President, in what is being touted as the most hotly contested presidential election in Kenya.

Ultimately, the power to decide who becomes President rests with the Kenyan voters, and not with the presidential aspirants and their political hangers-on.

In casting a vote for a particular candidate, this automatically translates into a ‘No’ vote for all the other candidates. So, it is just as important to know WHY one is voting for a particular candidate (as in this case), as it is to also know why one IS NOT voting for any of the other candidates (as in this case).

In the first round of Presidential debates tomorrow, February 11 2013, the aspirants will be telling us their agenda for Kenya. The second round will be on February 25. As the old adages go, actions speak louder than words, and talk is cheap (completely free, actually), so it will be important to examine that these aspirants tell us by their actions, and not just what they choose to say today. History is there to inform us, and we’d be grossly failing ourselves and future generations if we did not heed its important lessons and learn from them.

Questions Kenyan voters should ponder on March 4 as they cast their vote:

  1. INTEGRITY: What’s your chosen candidate’s score on this, and those in their coalition? Were they bearing ‘water’ or ‘oil’ for the passing of the Integrity Bill? Or did they safely perch themselves on the fence of self-preservation by keeping a studious silence? Have they, or those in their coalitions, been named in the corruption scams on the continued unchecked plunder of the public purse by politicians throughout the three regimes (Kenyatta, Moi, Kibaki)? Are they VOLUNTARILY paying tax and have they paid their university loans, where applicable? Did they pay promptly as good citizens or purely for political expediency and to drum up political capital?
  2. COMMITMENT TO DEMOCRACY AND MEDIA FREEDOM: On which side did this candidate stand in the dark days of Moi’s dictatorship, and in the Kibaki administration’s assaults on media freedom, including the raid on the Standard Media Group? What was their stand on the new Constitutional order whose benefits we now all (including its opponents) enjoy? What was their contribution, or lack thereof, in the long, winding and rocky road to constitutional reform?
  3. AGENDA: Health and wealth before all else. Unemployment is high, public education and public health in complete shambles, and – purely owing to runaway corruption – on a global scale, Kenya continues to be a very expensive country in which to do business, blunting our competitive edge. Away from industry and services, agriculture is not faring any better, whether this be research, farm-produce market infrastructure and farm inputs, or returns to farmers. We don’t need handouts, be these internally or externally sourced, in the form of foreign aid or largesse from those that have stolen public funds. What Kenyans need is a corruption-free order conducive to business, and managers with a very clear vision on the national streams of income and expenditure to assure the well-being of citizens, particularly health, education, agriculture and infrastructure which are all very closely intertwined. It is shameful that our well-fed fat cats who are the most highly paid on the planet (relative to our GDP) have no shame whatsoever bearing begging bowls on our behalf (but mostly for their bellies, and at the expense of our dignity), be this to the West or to the East. It is the greatest irresponsibility, not to mention indignity, that half a century after independence, we are still a nation literally begging at global tables for the most basic of human needs – food. Truly tragic that people in our country continue to DIE of hunger pitted against criminally astronomical earnings of public servants (ha!) paid from the public purse, particularly parliamentarians, who also sit on this!
  4. THE ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN: What is their agenda for this? To use just one indicator that seems to have been declared as ‘impossible’ in Kenya, and on a matter ‘close’ to the world of politicians, let’s do a relative comparison on the representation of women in parliament: as of February 2013, Kenya ranks a poor 114 worldwide (with a paltry 9.8%), two places ahead of DR Congo, while Rwanda rules the roost in the top position (53.6%). Why is it that ALL our neighbours (South Sudan at 40 [26.5%], Ethiopia at 35 [27.8%], Burundi at 30 [30.5%], Uganda at 21 [35%], Tanzania at 20 [36%]) have succeeded where we’ve failed? Even Somalia is ahead of us! – at 95 [13.8%] in a tie with Djibouti! It is certainly not for lack of outstanding leaders who also happen to be women. Something is very amiss here. Can the nation of Kenya develop if half the population that cuts across all ethnic groups, political formations and age groups continues to be severely and systematically marginalised? Even macho Mexico posts 36.8%, ranked 19th!

I fear that from the way things look, this time around, the greatest threat to Kenya’s well-being is no longer the political class but might well be the Kenyan voter: we’re our own worst enemy, for the decisions we, and we alone, make when we are inside that voting booth, each alone. (PS: The first skit at this link captures this so well. The show was recorded after this post. See this short clip too)

As one blogger exasperatedly asks on Facebook “What is it that the Kenyan voter really wants – because it is not integrity, peace, development, hope, national cohesion and respect for the law.” The blogger opens by saying: “We the people have been lied to, robbed, displaced, raped, and even killed by our leaders and their agents. We KNOW they have done these things and we KNOW there are alternatives to these gross failures of leadership. So why is it that we still vote for the liars, the thieves, the evictors [sic], the rapists and the killers? Why is it that we remain so faithful to them that any opposition to them is treated with the seriousness of blasphemy? Why is it that alternative leaders are considered traitors that must be punished? “

Kenyans have been to hell and back with the 2007–2008 politically instigated post-election violence. With the notable exception of 2002, blood has been shed either before or after EVERY ELECTION since 1992. Will we finally make a choice that breaks our ballot bond with this bloodbath?

Come March 4, will you cast your vote for a pathway that promises future (not immediate) prosperity and peace, or will you vote for the same old order? Will you stand with might, “tribe” and money, or will you choose to stand with what is right for the nation and its future? Will your vote be a march to a brave new world for Kenya or a match to fire up the flames of the ‘political petrol’ and vitriol with which our landscape has been so liberally and recklessly drenched? Will you fire the match, or douse it?

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About Njeri Okono

I am, therefore I write
This entry was posted in Gender, Governance, Kenya, Politics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Four questions for March 4

  1. Chrenyan says:

    Great piece as always. And thanks for the article mention.

    Now, if only Kenyans would listen!

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