Council of elders’ political prescriptions are archaic

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As if their communities’ votes are their personal properties, ethnic council of elders have in the past elections variously pledged their community’s support to a presidential candidate of choice.

Subject to the High Court decision and the impending Constitutional Amendment Bill on the election date, the constitutional election date shall be August 14, 2012, a defining moment, the first election under the under the new constitution. The old men’s old habit during this election shall die hard.

The presidency under the current constitution is unfortunately still powerful. It is still worth killing for in the eyes of those with naked lust for power. I wish I was wrong. Kenyan politics is ominously ethnic, tribe reigns supreme at the political chessboard, communities shall be mortgaged by their leaders for this very power or its semblance.

It is an institutionalised political culture in Kenya that the president rewards his supporters (his, community and the communities that voted him) by appointments to public offices, it is “our time to eat” for the followers to the exclusion of the rest of the country.

Marginalisation, discrimination on development and inequities meted against communities who exercised their democratic right to vote for a different candidate is acceptable form of governance. This acceptable retrogression breeds discomfort and restlessness – the last post election violence is attributed to it.

Informed by the past practice, the ethnic council of elders at the behest of politicians are in hollow attempt to secure their communities’ political future especially in respect to the presidency. Hon. Kiraitu Murungi is on record saying that the Ameru people would only vote for a presidential candidate endorsed by the Njuri Ncheke Council of Elders.

Brother Kiraitu and Njuri Ncheke are not on their own. There are self-glorified ethnic elders and chieftains all over the country stretching from Kalenjin across Luo, Kikuyu and Mijikenda to Borana and Luhya communities busying themselves to save their communities from the apprehended 2012 exclusion abyss as if they are their communities’ messianic news bearers.

Africa has had great deference for elders, a respect founded on age, experience, parentage, wisdom and sometimes myth. Unfortunately most of the ethnic council of elders in Kenya are unelected elitist octogenarians and sometimes corruptible string-puppets dancing to the tune of the politician who pays the piper abusing the trust and respect vested on them. I believe that the elders should restraint themselves to advice on socio-cultural issues if requested to.

Even then, their advice to this should be taken with a grain of salt like Jaramogi Oginga Odinga did in the controversial S.M Otieno case.

The late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga while a member of Luo Council of Elders opposed the Umira Kager’s scheme to deny Virginia Wambui Otieno to bury her husband, S.M Otieno, one of the finest criminal lawyers of his time in their Upper Matasia matrimonial home in Ngong.
The case also took a political turn when the then President Moi used KANU politicians from the Luo community with backing of elders to paint Odinga as undermining the Luo culture.

Whereas the court found in favour of the clan, time has since vindicated Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Virginia Wambui Otieno. The court decision was wrong in all scores as it trampled on women rights, perpetuated gender bias and threw a spanner into inter-ethnic marriages.

Whereas the president is still powerful executive figurehead under the current constitutional dispensation, ethnic communities need not political safety nets or protection from the presidency and can vote freely without seeking counsel of their elders.

The devolved governance gives little room for discrimination of counties, at least 15pc of revenues raised nationally shall be shared equitably among county governments and 1.5pc of the national revenue is designated as equalisation fund to uplift hitherto marginalised areas and the composition of the national executive shall be reflection of regional and ethnic diversity. Any citizen may approach the hopefully independent, reformed and efficient courts for enforcement of the above provisions.

Energies therefore need to be redirected to sustainable reform for example lobbying for the increase of budgetary allocation to the county governments and seeking strict enforcement of the Constitutional instead of engaging in zero-sum ethnic political expeditions.

I opine that Kenyans should ignore ethnic council of elders’ political prescriptions unless somebody tells me how the elders’ decrees will help Kenyans determine which presidential candidate will realize vision 2030, improve infrastructure, realize the Millennium Development Goals, create employment for the youth, lead the war on corruption, provide accessible health care, empower women and youth, put in place a sound immigration and foreign policy, foster national cohesion and manage the almost runaway inflation. An ethnic candidate would more often bring ruin than prosperity.

It borders irresponsibility and immorality if the youth abdicate their decision making duty and right to vote to a bunch of unelected individuals whose interests are myopic and two worlds apart from theirs. As an African, my respect for the elders is intact but they are outliving their usefulness politically both to their communities and to the nation.

Have an independent new year free from polluted ethnic mandarins.

Chelanga is an advocate of High Court of Kenya and a Legal Consultant. Email: mche[email protected] Twitter: twitter.com/mchelanga

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