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Of Kenya's Three Years on the Democratic Runway


Kenya has spent 3 decades on a democratic runway and is yet to take off. Growing up in Motonto in the early 1990s was fun. I knew about one Daniel Toroitich arap Moi aka 'Nyayo' as early as 5 years and I had learned to hate him by the time I was 9 years old, most probably because my dad actually hated and frequently talked ill of Moi. In fact, my dad could curse Moi throughout those silly ‘mtukufu rais’ KBC (Kenya Broadcasting Corporation) news bulletins. One of the things I could not quite reconcile was that in school we used to sing Moi’s praises and at home my dad used to curse Moi. And then my dad was a teacher. That was a huge contradiction. But here is the thing in 1990 the wave of change had swept the country. I recall, as little boys, how we used to make dye from charcoal and /or the black substance inside dry cell batteries to brand our T-shirts with FORD. FORD (Forum for Reforms and Democracy) had just been formed bringing together all key political opposition figures in Kenya. We planted flags of FORD along the paths and at homes, painted FORD on doors and branded our clothes with symbols of FORD etc. Moi was surely meant to go home during the 1992 general election. I was very young yet very enthusiastic about what was happening. I recall how happy I was when I attended a political rally at Gusii Stadium when Jaramogi Oginga Odinga introduced his son Raila Odinga and told the crowd how Moi had tortured, detained and exiled the young man. Not everything made sense to me back then but there was a great euphoria for change than I have seen ever since. But you see, the hopes for change were dashed when FORD split into two; Keneth Matiba’s Ford Asili and Oginga Odinga’s Ford Kenya. That is how we lost to Moi and went on to have a further 10 years of the disgusting Nyayo (mis)rule. It was again to take a united opposition under NARC (National Rainbow Coalition) to force Moi, and his then surrogate Uhuru Kenyatta, out of power in 2002.
Kibaki ascended into power with yet another great optimism. I was at Uhuru Park during Kibaki’s inauguration (the only presidential inauguration I have ever attended) and it was ecstatic. Kenyans were to be proclaimed the most optimistic people. The pro-reform feeling was palpable. Ordinary citizens arrested corrupt police men on the streets of Nairobi, Kibaki rallied the people around the philosophy of work and people heed the call. In just few years Kenya’s economy that was already dead and buried under Moi’s 24 years or (mis)rule was resurrected. But. Kibaki quickly forgot the MoU, antagonized his coalition partners and unleashed on us the Mount Kenya mafia which went on to resuscitate and consolidate the Agikuyu hegemony that Moi had actually destroyed. Uhuru Kenyatta who was supposed to be leader of official opposition crossed the flow, joining government and under the watch of Kibaki not only did Kenya's democratic process hit a snag but also the country was put on the trajectory to self-destruction culminating in the 2007-8 election violence when Kenya nearly plunged into a civil war. This ghost continued hunting the country throughout Kibaki’s second term and culminated in the unthinkable when in 2013 a coalition of convinience between the Kikuyu and Kalenjin elites was formed and forced on those two (biggest nations in Kenya) leading to an ‘election’ of the very people accused of crimes against humanity (Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto). The 2010 Constitutional changes notwithstanding, the election of Uhuruto marked another high-low in Kenya's democratization process. The two had neither the will nor the ability to implement the Constitution, after all, their attention and focus was not Kenya's democratic process but how to deploy state power and resources to free themselves from the ICC. They did exactly that in their first term and now we are well into their illegitimate second term and other than public theft and huge public debts, the only other quality proper to this government is ineptness.
In 2017 it looked like Kenya was again gearing up to another reform moment. NASA (National Super Alliance) gave some of us who had started giving up on Kenya another ray of hope. The Supreme Court’s landmark and unprecedented nullification of Uhuru's false victory and the subsequent events including Odinga’s swearing in charged the masses and it looked like Kenyans were ready for change including a revolution. In fact, for the first time we even heard of a secessionist narrative pegged on democracy. A section of Kenya clearly said it would rather go its way if the other section is not interested in democracy. Do people talked about Democratic Republic of Kenya and ‘Uthanakistan.’ The latter implying the Agikuyu dynasty. Anger and frustration filled the air, above all a demand and calls for real change was loud and clear. This turned out to be yet another moment of hope that was to be crashed sometimes early 2018 when Raila Odinga shook hands with Uhuru Kenyatta. The famous handshake disguised as a peace pact only served to give Uhuru some sense of legitimacy that he so badly needed to consolidate his crony capitalism and betray Ruto but also to secure his political futures. The handshake did not only kill the political opposition in the country but with it Kenya's hope for democratic change is gone. Today, as the political circus (Kielweke, Tangatanga etc) continues, an ordinary pro-reform Kenyan, like myself, who has been waiting for democratic take off since I was a young boy growing up in Motonto almost 3 decades ago, is simply at a loss. We are clearly not sure what is next for Kenya even as we stare at a real possibility of a William Ruto (a man thoroughly unfit to be leader) presidency come 2022.

Of Kenya's Three Years on the Democratic Runway Of Kenya's Three Years on the Democratic Runway Reviewed by Ibrahim Magara on July 17, 2019 Rating: 5

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