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Embracing tribalism to end elite conflict

Embracing tribalism to end elite conflict

Publication Date: 3/16/2008

By the end of next month, a good observer of politics will be able to tell you whether there will be peace in this country in 2012 or whether it is going to be another train wreck. 

Kenyans have already established their capacity for barbarity — they are capable of taking pangas and loping off the heads of babies. Question is, will our politicians — experts at political incitement, who are now scrambling for jobs — give the mob a new reason to wield the machete?

Kenya has one principle reason which creates instability and tribal hatred.

The only way to be wealthy, to have a house in the South of France, to get ahead rather quickly, say from a chief accountant to the Governor of the Central Bank, and especially if you are not particularly gifted, is through the control of power. When elite get out to look for big jobs, they hunt in tribal packs. 

KENYAN POLITICS IS NEVER ABOUT POWER per se, it is about jobs and access to communal wealth.

Kenyan politics as it is now designed makes it possible for the President’s tribe to have access — whether they choose to use it or not — to the biggest jobs and the best business deals. The elite from those tribes which are locked out of the circle of power are forced to live on their sweat which, as I can attest, is not the easiest of lives.

The war in Kenya which has destroyed our reputation and our national brand is not over. Its causes are with us, buried like a fresh skeleton in our soil. The national accord has merely bought us a couple of months within which to fix the country, to unearth the skeleton of conflict.

To do that, I am convinced that we must first of all completely destroy the presidency as an instrument of centralising power and national wealth. We can do that by taking the powers of the president and dispersing them to other institutions.

Secondly, we must make it reasonably possible for people from all tribes to ascend to the presidency. The way the political elite look at it, in 45 years of independence, Kenya has been ruled by two tribes — the Kalenjin for 24 years, and the Kikuyu 21 years to date. This, you will be horrified to know, is a big deal. You can either deal with it, or deal with war.

So what do we do? I think we should design the political framework of this country so that tribes are forced to need, rather than fight, one another. We can do this by dividing the country into three electoral districts, the Coast, Central and Western. At the election, each district will have a chance of producing either the president, the vice-president or the prime minister. Each district will have an equal chance of supplying one of those people every 15 years, taking turns to give the country the president, the premier and VP.

The way this system would work is that all districts would go to the primaries on the same day, but each would be nominating for a different office. For example, if it is the turn of the Coast to produce the president, all political parties would hold their presidential primaries at the Coast, resulting in as many candidates as there are parties.

If it is the turn of Central to produce the premier, all the parties would have a poll for nominating the candidates for premier. The same thing would happen in Western for VP, for example.

Come the General Election, all parties would have a candidate from the Coast for president, Central for premier and Western for VP, or whatever the case.

The effect of this is that every region would have a 100 per cent chance of occupying positions of power. 

AND THE CANDIDATES WHO SUCCEED ARE not those who appeal to the fears or prejudices of their tribes, it is those who are able to make a convincing case to other regions to support their candidacy.

Within the regions, political parties will have to design mechanisms to ensure equity.

This formula presupposes two things. First, strong, formal parties — as opposed to pre-election mongrels assembled on the hoof — must become a feature of national politics.Secondly, primaries become serious business, supervised by the electoral commission on the basis of clear and respected rules.

It also means that power sharing will have to be real and genuine. 

The president can be retained as the guarantor of the security and rights of Kenyans as head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces.

The prime minister will be head of government, with the power to appoint, remove and chair the Cabinet. The vice-president, too, would have substantive power, such as over State finances, foreign policy or some other important aspect of government.

My fear is that the longer we delay radical, revolutionary reform, the more chances are given to hardliners to throw a spanner into the works.

PARLIAMENT SHOULD PASS THE ENABLING power-sharing legislation as quickly as possible. Then within the month, we need to start the process of writing a new constitution. The more the memories of blood fade, the harder it will be for politicians to agree.

We all live in this country, we all must have a hand in its government. None of us was born to rule, none should be excluded.

                            * * * * * 

I have received a letter from a Mrs Paloma Lucia congratulating me for allegedly winning 450,000 Euros in a lottery that I never took part in (apparently called Email Loteria Shop Award programme).

There is a catch, naturally. And here I cut and paste: “Please note that you will be required to pay for the issuance of your legal back up and legalisation of certificate of deposit document in court. All winnings must be claimed not later than 14 days.’’ 

What kind of idiot comes up with these con games and what type of imbecile falls for them?


About SG

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


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