We can banish binary politics if we seek national consensus

The developments of the last several months suggest quite strongly that Kenya has a consensus challenge.

The lack of general agreement between the major political movements in the country on broad issues including how to lead and govern the country as well as advance its economy, have persisted.

Neither the 2010 Constitution nor the impressive economic growth registered over the years have brought respite. Over the years, the electoral cycle in Kenya has provided a fertile ground for the manifestation of our dissensus, more often leading to complex divisions that regrettably take on an ethnic hue.

Yet, the political cleavages, arising from a drawn-out contestation of the 2017 election cycle were disrupted by two unrelated occurrences.

On Monday, the 20th November 2017, the Supreme Court of Kenya (SCOK) by a unanimous verdict affirmed the re-election of President Kenyatta when it dismissed petitions lodged by two coordinated set of actors both pursuing the same goal – invalidation of the 26th October presidential election.

One petition was initiated by two leading human rights activists, Njonjo Mue, whose tenure as ICJ chair ended last weekend, and Khelef Khalifa, former Commissioner with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.

The other, was filed by the affluent and eccentric politician, Harun Mwau. By this decision, SCOK has effectively brought an end to any questions of legal legitimacy of President Kenyatta’s second term in office, propelling the incumbent to the pole position of Head of State and Government.

In this role, President Kenyatta has the unique opportunity to craft an Executive Arm of Government capable of not only delivering development dividends but also pursuing broad consensus on the nationhood challenges witnessed over the last year of electioneering and even before.

The unanimous decision, a significant departure from the split 4-2 decision that nullified the initial election on 1st September, represents judicial consensus on the fairness of the repeat election on the 26th October, despite tremendous obstacles thrown at the process by NASA’s boycott and outright sabotage.

Unrelatedly, Wednesday, 22nd November saw Goldalyn Kakuya, the 14-year-old girl with albinism from Kakamega County, who beat a million other candidates to emerge top in the country in the Kenya Certificate of Primary education (KCPE) examination, thrust into prominence, bringing optimism to a national atmosphere fraught with dark foreboding.

Her victory – unlikely because of societal and health barriers faced by persons with disability – attracted unusual attention and led to a meeting with President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto.

On the same day, under the chaperon of the indefatigable champion of persons with disability, Hon. Isaac Mwaura, Kakuya also met with the Governor of Kisumu, Prof. Anyang’ Nyong’o.

Kakuya’s interaction with the President and his Deputy as well as Governor Nyong’o is important because the binary nature of our politics appears to suggest that there is very little in common in the developmental philosophies of President Kenyatta and DP Ruto on the one hand, and Prof. Nyongo – and by extension, Nyongo’s benefactor, Hon. Raila Odinga – on the other.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, as Goldalyn Kakuya has educated us, there is certainly more that binds our leadership from either side of the political divide. Apparently, disability issues, especially with regard to persons with albinism, is one such common bond.

It is under Uhuru Kenyatta that persons with disability have received significant policy and fiscal support to facilitate their personal development including through direct cash transfers.

For instance, government allocation to the disability sector rose to Sh1.8 billion in FY 2016-2017 which funded among other efforts, a Sunscreen Support Programme that benefitted over 3,026 persons with albinism. Similarly, last year, on 21st October 2016, Deputy President Ruto presided over a fundraiser for the education fund of the Albinism Society of Kenya (ASK), a nonprofit promoting the rights of persons living with albinism.

Notably, disability issues also feature prominently in the developmental thinking of Governor Nyongo and his highly-esteemed daughter, Lupita Nyongo. As the patron of the Albinism Society of Kenya, Nyongo (with Lupita) have done a great deal to address stigmatization and exclusion of persons with albinism.

It is also Nyongo, who only recently worked with his counterparts, Governors Chepkwony and Sang, to stem border disputes between communities in Kisumu, Kericho and Nandi.

Counselled by Goldalyn Kakuya’s determined example, it is my view that, perhaps our search for national meaning and consensus can be easily discerned and addressed if we allowed those easily despised, readily forgotten and often disposable, to light our path.

Our national values as stipulated in the constitution will be venerated when policy decisions of the state ensure that our collective citizenship includes those who live in the margins of our social, economic and political spaces.

Consequently, in moving forward, the cries of the disillusioned and disenfranchised, disconnected from the sense of nationhood, must move leadership to action.

That way, Uhuru Kenyatta’s second term will not only light a candle to stability, unity and prosperity of the country, but will also enact an alter to justice for the disaffected.

(Dr Sing’Oei is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and a Legal Advisor, Executive office of the Deputy President)

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