Kenya: The Lies, Myths and Fables of the Election Season

By IndepthAfrica
In Article
Feb 11th, 2013

By Mugambi Kiai,The Star


The past weekend witnessed a feat of such sporting splendour that followers of Kenya’s seven-a-side rugby team breathlessly exhilarated.

After dumping rugby powerhouses South Africa (the BlitzBokke) and New Zealand (the All Blacks – and at their home perch no less!), the Kenya side went on to narrowly lose to England in the final of the tournament; actually having coughed up what would have been their hard-earned victory in the last 20 or so seconds.

What later also caught the eye was the sole attribution of this success to the current Kenya 7’s coach Mike Friday; for in that one moment, it devalued all the effort that had gone into building the Kenya 7’s side.

It was, for instance, forgotten that Kenya had indeed, under the tutelage of rugby veteran Benjamin Ayimba, previously usurped New Zealand.

Indeed, under Ayimba, Kenya had also reached the semi-finals of an Olympic seven-a-side rugby competition. So here was the creation of a narrative that is reminiscent of that around Kenya’s independence where only Jomo Kenyatta wins us our freedom. Both narratives are patently false.

As Kenya hurtles towards the March 4, 2013 general election there will be very many lies, myths and fables; framed and pitched by crafty and highly-skilled spin-masters. So Kenyans must beware; here are some myths, fables and lies that will be heard in this political silly season.

“I am doing it for you and the country” goes one more notoriously popular line. Nothing can be further from the truth. For if one has watched previous elections, if one has observed the venal and self-entitled conduct of Kenya’s elected leaders in between elections, if one has seen the constantly shambolic political party primaries through the years, and if one has seen the invariable lone-ranger political tactics embraced by a majority of politicians, one immediately spots the lie in this line.

The question here, of course, would be how someone who is only committed to his or her country can allow for the shenanigans witnessed as parliamentarians arbitrarily raise their remuneration and allowances to astronomical levels or would have the temerity to impose their preferred candidates on their respective support bases.

A second lie is that history counts for nothing; that to refer to history is to drive “using the rear view mirror.” If it is kosher to, when hiring new employees, run a background check on them, how come when it comes to our politicians it is then messaged that it is not halal to do the same?

The lightning speed with which the Leadership and Integrity Chapter of the 2010 constitution was mutilated tells us a story of those who have benefitted and are enjoying from the illegality of the past, refusing to allow for a fulsome, proper audit of that past.

Third, we are informed that there will be no consequences of the Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto (Uhuruto) presidential ticket ascending to the presidency.

Think: if the more economically and politically powerful of Kenya’s international partners have a declared “no contact” policy (except in exceptional circumstances) with anyone (and not just Uhuruto) who is accused of international crimes at the International Criminal Court (ICC), how is that not – right there – an adverse consequence of their presidency?

How will, for instance, international relations and international trade negotiations be undertaken when, from the very outset, those who would wish to trade with us cannot even make contact with our primary negotiators?

How will any risk-averse international investor accept to put their hard-earned capital in Kenya whereas there is a big signpost at our door: “led by a suspect of crimes against humanity?”

Fourth, there is a fable always told whenever our political elite are in trouble: that we will “go East”. This rhetorical shenanigan began when the monumental Anglo-Leasing corruption scandal was unearthed.

The Kibaki political elite tried to use it as a devise to relieve the intense pressure for them to take responsibility and accept to be accountable for this colossal financial rip-off.

So they claimed the pressure for accountability in this case was due to the fact that the West were losing out on tenders and contracts under Kibaki’s regime to East-based companies and petulantly threatened to even further “go East”.

Yet: if going East was an economically viable option, would we not have gone there already? If, for example, China was a viable market to sell Kenyan tea with any measure of profitability, would this already not have been done due to the economic benefit or profit imperative? And how far is this “East” anyway since we are still journeying there and have not arrived nine years later?

Fifth, there is a myth that Uhuru Kenyatta, if he is taken at his word, has finally debunked. This is that he and William Ruto are running as presidential and vice-presidential candidates in the forthcoming elections.

For, as one has heard him clearly say, when he is in The Hague, Ruto will be here running things ensuring there is no political vacuum. Let us completely close our eyes to the fact that the schedule of how the cases will run has simply not yet been announced by the court.

Let us also completely ignore the fact that at the earlier confirmation of charges hearing of both his and Ruto’s cases, they were both required to be at Den Haag at the same time.

Should we take him expressly at his word, would this arrangement then not be one of co-presidency? And how prepared to vote for a co-president Ruto are the Gikuyu masses whom he imperially commands?

Sixth, there is a myth that the Kibaki State House and the senior civil servants are politically neutral in this moment of political transition.

Yet, we all heard Uhuru Kenyatta publicly proclaim that he had been prevailed upon by “shetani” (Satan) to approach Musalia Mudavadi and subjugate his own presidential ambitions in favour of Messy Musalia’s. Enough said.

These are some of the numerous myths, fables and lies swirling around. Please pay attention. Hear them but do not believe them.

Mugambi Kiai is the Kenya Program Manager at the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA). The views expressed in this article are entirely his own and do not reflect the views of OSIEA

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