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ETHNIC BIASES IN PARTIES

By Mutula Kilonzo

Story by The Standard

This is what Mutula Kilonzo thinks about Kenyan politics. Our view in CCM is simillar but we are doing all we can to have our vision and Ideology clear to wananchi unlike all the rest of registered prties.

Read on Mutula’s views.

Contrary to the Constitution, none of the 250 registered political parties boasts the credentials of a democracy.
Section 1 A of the Constitution categorically states that Kenya shall be a multi-party democratic State.

The provision envisages that a governing party, together with the opposition, lives up to the democratic aspirations espoused in their constitutions and manifestos and to play their complimentary roles in defending the Constitution.

But in Kenya, the story is a sorry tale of reverses and intrigues. Other than playing the role of conveyor belts to power, political parties serve no useful purpose. This is aptly expressed in their failure to live up to the dreams of adding value to legislative debate or ensuring a constitution when they were in a position to do so at the Bomas conference.

Parties neither had a position nor did they facilitate harmony in the cacophonous review process because they lack structural lobbying capacity. In the end, when the chairman of the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission, Prof Yash Pal Ghai, was ignomniously bundled out of the process by the Government, political parties could only be heard by their stone silence.

Aspirants have now been invited to seek nomination under flags of relatively unknown parties. One such party is a splinter of the truling National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) Narc-Kenya which, together with President Kibaki’s Democratic Party, are dangling tickets for his re-election clouded in doubt.

History is about to be made. Kibaki may defend his seat on a ticket other than the original sponsoring party. In election time, political quacks do roaring business. Unknown gutter parties surface for sale to rejects. Once a culture of ‘party ownership’ overrides ‘party membership’, a fall back position becomes necessary and that is when ethnic loyalties and proxies come in handy. Leaders also feel safe in parties run on a geo-ethnic basis.

Ethnic biases

Political parties resemble lottery booths where nomination tickets are hawked. This is so in a country where party ownership is a lucrative industry. Motives for the formation of many non-ideological and undemocratic organisations vary and are justified where political intrigues reign supreme. One reason is tribal and another is commercial.

A political party leader, for instance, bears a tribal tag and personality cult by printing membership cards carrying his portrait and declaring his home province a no-go zone for other parties.

The question is: What sort of leader would such a politician make if he becomes the President of the nation? Obviously, the subjects would suffer ethnic biases because the word ‘nationalism’ is alien in his vocabulary.

Parliamentarians swear statutory oaths to defend and protect the Constitution that deplores tribalism among other vices. Unfortunately, the same people undermine the very document under which they were elected. Rules of their political parties are not spared the breaches either.

Days when Kenya will have structured, functional and democratic parties are distant dreams because leaders have become part-time members and representation of constituencies is an ad hoc mission in the hands of servants-turned-masters.

Constitutions are no better than toilet tissues

Aspiring candidates suddenly remember their party membership cards, others do not even know the road to their party headquarters and are not under obligation to attend meetings once elected. In mid-term, the entities and their constitutions are inconsequential, but suddenly become famous once in every five years.

No wonder, members confidently say party constitutions are nicely worded pieces of paper that are no better than toilet tissues. Kibaki gets away with constitutional violations and excesses of serious magnitude that include poaching Opposition MPs to boost the administration’s voting machine in the fragile Government of National Unity (GNU). GNU replaced the senior coalition partner, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), that has since been purged from the Cabinet after the ignominious defeat of the Government in the referendum on the draft constitution.

The party has also been removed from House departmental committees of Parliament. But then, may be Kibaki was right after all — LDP is no more either. Out of ego and envy, Kibaki’s rivals have split the Orange into two pieces.

The President, the man Narc sponsored, walked out on its summit and arrogantly demanded the dissolution of constituent parties. He will be remembered for trashing the Memorandum of Understanding with LDP and other coalition partners.

It is from the foregoing problems that the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Ms Martha Karua, came up with a Political Parties Bill that seeks, among other things, the registration, regulation and funding of parties. But even pushing for this long overdue agenda, she has trashed the clamour for essential reforms, including affirmative action.

Instead, the minister shoplifted the party’s affirmative action and campaigned for 50 instead of 24 women nomination slots to boost Kibaki’s weak voting machine in anticipation of a hang Parliament next year in the likely event of a re-election.

In Parliament, the legislation failed to raise the requisite two-thirds majority MPs for debate to start. Kenyans demand internal democracy in political parties and accountability in their leaders.

Currently, party members are hostages of the servants they gave tickets and support.

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About SG

Secretary general of Chama Cha Mwananchi. This blog www.chamachamwananchi.wordpress.com, is based in Sweden.

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