NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 15 – If there is one thing Kenyans should have learnt by now, is that our politicians, so quick to divide us when it serves their purpose, just as quickly forget their divisions when it suits their ends.
There seems to have been little or no division of opinion amongst them when it came to the controversial ‘media Bill’ and there is never any division when it comes to raising and backdating their pay or refusing to pay taxes.
Much has been said about Kenyans putting their various micro-identities aside and uniting behind rational, democratic and just principles, that are good for the country, but it’s all talk unless we actually find the moral fortitude to do it.
So here is something we can all genuinely unite behind: Recall legislation.
I wish it had a simpler name, but it simply means that Kenyans should be able to vote politicians both in and out of power.
It isn’t anything new either.
It was in the Bomas draft (which is probably why that draft was so comprehensively doctored out of existence) and it exists in other places like Switzerland (where poverty levels are now so low, they are quantified as N/A in World Bank statistics!) and California, where it was used to oust Governor Davis and replace him with Arnie ‘The Governator’ Schwarzenegger, after the former bankrupted California with reckless spending (sound familiar? well, at least he was overspending on public services, what do ours do?).
The benefits of recall are many-fold.
1. It deters adverse selection. The knowledge that one can be recalled prematurely will deter those going into politics to make money or aggrandise themselves and attract those who run because they genuinely believe in public service. Whom would you prefer in power?
2. It offers a non-violent means of effecting change. Every time we have a problem, we have to riot or protest because there is no other effective means of getting our politicians to care what we think. The threat of recall is a much more peaceful and effective way of getting them to pay real attention to our grievances.
3. It deters electoral fraud. If majority of the electorate feel cheated, they will simply recall the person who’s election is in doubt, this will force politicians to make sure that they win fair and square and credibly so, because they will know that they will simply be recalled if they don’t.
4. It makes power sensitive to the people throughout five-year terms and not just in five year intervals. We all know power beseeches the people at elections and dumps on them in the ensuing five year intervals. By power needing the peoples’ support throughout terms and not just between them, power will always care what the people think. That converts ‘power to the people’ from a hackneyed cliché into a relevant reality.
5. It facilitates JIT (Just-In Time) government. The Just-In-Time revolution (look it up in Wiki if you don’t know what it is) made Japan a manufacturing powerhouse and the second largest economy in the world. All this after having been nuked, twice, only 50 odd years ago (Kenya is 45). It can be summarised by doing what needs doing most, when it needs doing most. And we need a government that can prioritise like this, dynamically. The pressure of recall can help deliver a government that is most sensitive to most of the people’s most urgent priorities most of the time.
6. It reduces apathy. I’ve discovered that people aren’t apathetic. They’re just realistic. The current system does in fact render them pretty powerless. Give people the power of recall and they will use it to press for better governance.
7. It’s one thing all Kenyans can unite behind. This is a common, rational and just cause, that every race, tribe, religion, class, gender and body ability of Kenyan can confidently get behind, a chance for this country to heal the wounds of her pointless division, from the grassroots up and hopefully a chance to usher in an era where we vote for good ideas and solid principles instead of superficial identities.
There’s one good reason for recall, for every day of the week and the last, for Kenya, is probably the most important all.
Our country sorely needs a powerful, unifying event, to lift people out of their various identity conclaves and make them genuinely realise that we’re all just human beings, all biologically family and all should really treat each other with the same basic compassion and respect we would afford a family member, because that’s literally not just metaphorically, what we are (though evidently many people are yet to figure this out – Google ‘The Paradox of Eden’ to help you along your way if you’re interested in the science behind why this is true).
So let’s send a message loud and clear to our politicians, who right now want to discuss and draw up a new constitution amongst themselves, because the one they made by consulting us didn’t quite fit their needs, that Kenyans will not pass any constitution, in the coming compulsory referendum, that does not accommodate the kind recall legislation that enables us to fire sitting elected officials before their terms are up.
Recall democrats of our country, unite.