Ali Baba went but his forty thieves are here

By Kabando wa Kabando

A common allegory of many African communities says every proud clan prays and wishes to see the greatest icons triumph go well, so that it encourages her youth to also look forward to  great achievements of their own in the future.

Kenya is at the throes of its first breeding, with the appointment of the first key officeholders under the new Constitution. This birth is not going well, and I am afraid the family that is Kenya is terrified that her offspring may become scared of representing the Kenyan clan and may not look forward to founding a new Kenya family.

But that\’s exactly the point! Is it possible that the contested appointments to key offices is deliberately intended to achieve just that – despondency, scepticism and cynicism among Kenyans about the much-heralded \’new dispensation\’? Could it be we are messing up our first birth on purpose so that we kill the nascent hopes and the promise of the new constitution? Could it be we wish to tell Kenyans that \’it\’s business as usual\’ despite the new law, so that reactionary forces can recapture the state and abort the new dawn?

Fellow Kenyans, don\’t be foolish to imagine that the forces of caprice have disappeared by the mere act of promulgation of the new law. Please don\’t! If anything, the dark forces that for decades kept Kenya as a cemetery of broken dreams and failed hopes are dreading the new dawn for the reason that it threatens to send them to pasture.

Let\’s not forget that the pain suffered by the majority in the past had nothing to do with the weather, neither the waters, nor the soils nor the gods. Rather, the pain of the many was a consequence of the capture-and-control balm with which self-loving elite massaged its ego. Also remember that this is the same country where cries of hunger suffered by many were answered by a loud belch of a ravenous clique wallowing in surfeit.

Let\’s not forget that the acrid stench we suffered from the atrophy and rot of institutions actually served as rich manure from which decorated leaders reaped a bountiful harvest. Is this not the country where dignified elders supplicated at the feet of \’shrewd\’ young \’elders\’ young enough to be their grandchildren, in appreciation of their \’talent\’ at scaling Kenya\’s slippery career pole gone greasy with graft?

These forces have not gone anywhere! They still are very much around despite regime change and the new law. Ali Baba may be gone but his forty thieves are still very much around. We may take temporary solace in the promise offered by the new Constitution. But it would be utter folly to expect things to neatly fall in place on their own.

The current contest surrounding the appointment to constitutional offices should remind us that change is long in coming. Whilst one camp may take this as the opportunity to trump competition, the other feels these positions are just another pork barrel from which to draw lucre for the homeboys. To both, Kenya is enemy territory on which to lay siege, attack and pillage and take the booty to the granary of the tribe. The most comical and contemptible part of this saga is the herding behaviour by politicians into ethnic palavers, with each trying to outdo the other in demonstrating superior patriotism to the tribe.

Others have gone a step further and shed all pretences and are openly plying their trade as walking and talking jukeboxes that have been hired to say the kind of things that their sponsors know are stupid to say and can\’t say themselves. I imagine leaders who have to keep apologising to their friends and constituents for the embarrassments they keep parading. It is as if there is marathon season for political caricaturing.

It is these tribal groupings that are attempting to take us back to a value system that regards volunteer warriors in the battle for ethnic dominance as heroes, while those who defy the ethnic parleys are labelled traitors and sell-outs. Never mind the fact that the promotion of ethnic exclusivities in both word and deed is expressly outlawed.

I guess this is because we still have too many people particularly in leadership positions who regrettably still believe that attempts by the new law to foster a culture of constitutionalism wouldn\’t amount to much in the end. Others imagine or wish that Kenya will forever remain the land of the \’Big Five\’ and \’Big Men\’. It is a syndrome gone berserk. Contempt of the minority is evil as majority paranoia. Phobia for new Kenya is futile.

I have only one word for them: You are investing in a declining industry. The patronage industry, with its retinue of platitudes, rentiers and courtiers who danced themselves lame as they ogle and salivate at morsels from the Big Man\’s table is descending. It is time for Kenya to ascend.

President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga must remember that it is their respective extremist battalions that have in the past aggravated national objectives. Both Principals should reign in their respective party operatives. As they have proudly done in the past, boldly marshal their selfless interests and affirm to Kenyans that all will be well. They must stop the charade.

Of course, we expect Parliament to play its rightful role and partly shepherd a solution to the impasse. Yet, the battles will not be over until Kibaki and Raila read and cite from the same hymn book! And sing they must, or the torrents of national discontent will sail them to high seas of political oblivion. It is this serious. Into 2012, times will be tougher, decisions to make more critical and rivers to cross flooding with sharks. Breaking the current stalemate is but a small segment of the momentous reform agenda relying on the Principals synergy.

It is a lame orchestra for rickety ODM to say they are ready for elections. Equally, it is pun for cacophonous PNU to retort that they will exit from the grand coalition. Brouhaha and hoo-ha provide relief for political comedies. The constitution obliges us to stick together, and caress and nurture the offspring within our borders: Kenyan interests.

Kibaki has always been a gentleman of Kenya politics, replete with impeccable mien. It is very unlikely that he can deceive. He is very easy to trust. Raila Odinga has clear reform credentials, albeit scarred lately by defending allies caught in sleaze. It is expected that he shouldn\’t block the implementation of Katiba because of peculiar sideshows and personal preferences.

I reserve my final note to the persons who\’ve been nominated to the constitutional offices. Gentlemen, we all presume you\’ve been selected on account of your terrific reputations in your professional practices. I also guess you understand the law perhaps even better than many of us. You therefore must be acutely aware whether your appointment is lawful or not.

That notwithstanding, for you to sit pretty as meek beneficiaries of a contested process is in itself risky, and is likely to stain your tenure should you eventually get confirmed. It may not be unwise to consider declining appointment, even if temporarily, or is it "standing chill"? The less charitable among us may regard you as eager jobseekers who had everything to do with your appointment, and had for long been salivating and lobbying for those jobs behind the scenes. Beyond the legalities, you risk miring your reputations in the ongoing political skirmishes. Be selfless and bold, and "chill" for Kenya! Or are you all saying "mta do"?

It is only by the selfless actions of the majority that we can ensure that the promise of a new dispensation does not become a new season of anomy.

Kabando is an Assistant Minister for Sports & Youth Affairs and MP for Mukurweini

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