BY MACHEL WAIKENDA
Kenya’s politics has for long been characterised by personality attacks, propaganda and hate speech, a development that does not auger well for our growing democracy.
This is especially so in the period before and after any electioneering period in the last decade. In fact, one of my favourite quotes by T.H White is: “The Destiny of Man is to unite, not to divide. If you keep on dividing you end up as a collection of monkeys throwing nuts at each other out of separate trees.”
I heed what the sages say, that if there is no enemy within, the enemy without, if any, cannot succeed in hurting us.
This is one trait that has been sorely missing from Kenya’s leadership. One can easily predict what one’s stand on any particular issue by just discerning which part of the political spectrum, he or she belongs to.
We tend to throw reason out the window and take entrenched positions on issues simply to suit our political persuasions.
For Kenya to mature democratically, our politics must incorporate tolerance, understanding, positive criticism but above all, mutual respect.
This way, the daily exchanges we witness at funerals, rallies, the National Assembly and Senate plenaries and press conferences would become a thing of the past. We shall have reached political and social maturity.
No doubt Kenya is blessed with dynamic, intelligent and progressive leaders. However, the downside is that a large segment of them spend their time utilising negative energy instead of positive energy that would see this country realise the tremendous development agenda lying before us.
What lack of tolerance for each other’s views and choices can do was sadly witnessed in the 1980s and 1990s when any divergent opinion was seen as a threat to the establishment and was countered ruthlessly.
But, in much the same vein, the 2008 post-election violence could have been avoided, if Kenyans were tolerant of each other for in our diversity is an unchained beauty and strength that can be harnessed to benefit the whole country.
But the violence erupted, and was allowed to run its destructive course, just because leaders have for long invested in negative ethnicity for the sole purpose of protecting their interests without regard to the greater national good.
With realisation of the new constitutional order, Kenyans expect more tolerance and respect for each other regardless of one’s political stand.
It is wrong that five months after the General Election, our leaders, especially those in the opposition, are still stuck to the hardline political pits that defined the electioneering period.
This must end. And it can only happen if it begins with our leaders. They must realize that they are not mere politicians but role models who millions of Kenyans look upon to offer hope and inspiration so that Kenyans can achieve their dreams.
We need to invest in issue-based and problem-solving politics rather than pursuit of narrow sectarian interests. That way, instead of seeking ethnic and class gratification, politicians would be keen on creating institutions that can achieve the country’s social, political and economic aspirations.
It is sad that on our Golden Jubilee, we are still taking about issues such as poverty, hunger, disease and ignorance, which we could have long been done with, were it largely not for our divisive politics.
Kenya needs leadership that is progressive and liberal. One that is able to not just think outside the proverbial box, but be rid of the box entirely and embrace everybody regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, religious or political orientation. Kenya needs servant leadership and not leaders bent on pursuit of personal gratification.
Sadly, that is what we are witness to daily. From stalling parliamentary business or putting essential Bills on hold, or governors and senators running amok seeking more power and resources to the counties even when it is clear they are not yet in a position to handle all the devolved functions.
The Jubilee government has outlined a clear agenda, which it intends to fulfill in the next five years. It is on this that Kenyans will judge its leaders when they go back to seek fresh mandate. While they have the numbers to push through their agenda through Parliament, the coalition must invest in bi-partisanship since this would come to pay dividends in critical moments – it is the paved path to unity.
On the other hand, the Official Opposition has an opportunity to prove it would have done things differently were they the ones in charge.
They must embrace the role of constructive critic and deliver on it. That way Kenya will be the richer. They should not oppose everything for the sake of opposing. Being in opposition is not a spitting contest or about engaging in shouting matches with you opposite number.
Indeed, Kenya will only join the family of the “Developed Club” if the nation unites the pieces of its kaleidoscope of people, and regions. Kenya today is obviously multi-ethnic, multi religious and multi-racial.
For this reason, unity is an essential component because our quality of life quite literally depends on it.
Our unity as citizens is vital in helping government understand what we need done and what other choices exist. It is the very one thing we can do. It’s a muscle we have not lost.
(The writer is the TNA Director of Communications. Twitter @MachelWaikenda)