This class has shared all except power
Published on March 2, 2008, 12:00 am
By XN Iraki
The current political elite has come from far together. Their endless political fights may be driven by the fact that they know each other too well, the same way marrying a girl from across the fence will earn you a little respect and a lot of contempt.
It is for no other reason that cross-cultural marriages earn the partners long life respect, they know too little about each other’s past and background.
Some mystery is good for marriage and even romance.
It has been boldly suggested that the Kenyan political elite have in the past shared everything else except power.
What has the Kenyan political elite shared in the past?
One, common history. Most saw the waning days of the colonialism but were not late in learning a few bad habits from them, including the class system. These elites are still fascinated by the former colonial ruler. Why else is ‘A’ level system still the system of choice for the political elites? Why else do most of them still consider it cool to take their children to British schools, when vast majority of Kenyans long shifted their allegiance to schools across the Atlantic?
The common history goes beyond using holed coins, and singing “God Save the Queen”.
The defunct ‘A’ Level system gave Kenyan students unprecedented chance to mix and learn about each other. A Kikuyu boy could easily go to Shimo La Tewa High School while ‘A’ Masai girl could go to Karachuonyo High School. Former Speaker, Mr Francis ole Kaparo’s suggestion that all our schools should be classified as national need our support. When else will the next generation learn about each other?
The feeling of importance, some say contempt, exhibited by the Kenyan political elite has roots in their schooling and workplace; they went to schools when graduates were rare and revered while jobs were plenty.
They learnt the art of exclusion. The sharing went farther into businesses and professions, with some of the choicest enterprises, consultancies and professional practices jointly owned by a rich ethnic mix of Kenyans. Elite suburbs and clubs are a rich mix of Kenyan ethnic groups spiced with other nationalities.
The sharing went even deeper. They even shared their hearts. The intermarriage among the Kenyan political elite is ethnically blind. This information is often not available to the public. It only becomes available in newspaper obituary pages.
With such a rich history of sharing, including sharing of the hearts, one may loudly wonder why the political elite find it hard to share power. They may have learnt not to share power from our former rulers, where a family rules through generations, unchallenged. Having grown up unchallenged in school and workplace may have solidified their belief in self against institutions. Further, sharing power among equals is not popular.
But more poignantly, the political elite may be in a hurry to get life’s last ultimate prize, a chance to control others and make a final mark before the journey to their sunset starts.
After all, Kenya is not good in recognising heroes beyond political arena. One foreigner asked me why Nobel laureate Prof Wangari Maathai was missing from the mediation talks.
The political elite has achieved some of their choicest dreams in life. Their urge to power is more psychic, an addiction, some say a race against time.
Some have loudly wondered why Kofi Annan’s hair is grey yet Kenyans in his company had black hair; the Kenyans were either his age mates or older.
Will the deal last? Yes, if the political elites share power the way they have shared other resources.
Like marriage, nothing matters more than trust. The Tanzanian president reminded us. No matter how colourful a wedding is, no matter how many layers a cake has, it is trust that determines its success. Kenyan political elites have signed the deal, just as we sign marriage contracts. The hard task is implementing the contracts.
—The writer is a lecturer at the University of Nairobi, School of Business: firstname.lastname@example.org