Kenyan politics: no honour among thieves

Kenyan politics: no honour among thieves

The English philosopher and lecturer, Sir Alfred Ayer, writing in “Language, Truth, and Logic” during the interwar period while teaching at Oxford University, noted in the prevailing public discourse of the day that moral statements were “nothing more than expressions of approval and disapproval”. In so describing the moral vacuum of Britain’s rudderless and misguided 1930s, he unwittingly also accurately described today’s Kenya. Britain’s preferred national ideology was bizarre defeatism in the face of the terror then rising in Nazi Germany. Kenya today, not unlike Britain then, is in a frightful state of existence: a national denial that, on closer examination, begins to resemble an ideology.

National histories tend to study the rise and fall of ideological states and their opponents. A hundred years from now, what will historians call today’s Kenya? What ideology shall we be known for or by? What, in the first place, is the nature of ideology for a nation-state, even a flawed and doomed one like Kenya?

Shorn of all pretensions, ideology results from an abstract set of ideas, whose outcome is the declaration that this or that thing must be so or not so. Thus, to Nazi ideology, the “Aryans” were chosen by destiny to dominate the world, and Jews were evil; to adherents of Afrikaner Volkstaatism, Boers replace Aryans and Africans replace Jews in that same hateful ideological paradigm. Of course, the problem with ideology is that reality eventually proves ideology wrong. Adherents of an ideology always try to outlaw any discussion of the contradictions inherent in every ideology. Freedom of thought and expression are deadly to ideologies and are invariably the first targets of ideologues.

Ideologies today are everywhere. In the West today, Cultural Marxism has taken root in frightening ways. Arising out of the so-called “Frankfurt School” of thought in the 1920s, Cultural Marxism translates the failed ideas of economic Marxism into cultural expression. At its core, Cultural Marxism holds that society is made up of oppressors and the oppressed. Modern society should seek to empower the oppressed at the expense of the oppressor to achieve a level playing field in which everyone is equal. 

To this ideology, Blacks, homosexuals, transsexuals, Muslims, and (until recently) women are the “oppressed victims”. White men are the “oppressors”. And that is how the West has found itself in the bizarre, almost otherworldly position it is in today. Men who have had wives and fathered children wear dresses and demand to be referred to as “women”, and Western society’s media and technology outlets outlaw any expressions that object to this nonsense. Dissent against orthodoxy is not tolerated. The cyber-world’s new town square, social media, bans and blocks anyone who dares express what they can see with their own eyes – that a man in a dress and high heels and lipstick is still a man. Cultural Marxism demands that everyone must bow and scrape before it – if you won’t, you’ll be banned, cancelled, sacked from your job, and declared a non-person. 

Unless one ignores the alleged political divides that our political machinery stuffs down our throats, Kenya’s prevailing ideology is more difficult to discern. But a good look at the leading presidential candidates of the day shows that we, too, have an ideology that might defy encapsulation in a pithy adjective but boils down to that old dragon: corruption. Theft. 

For forty years, Raila Odinga stood – more or less – for our equivalent of the oppressed masses. Pick any year between 1980 and 2020 and examine the arguments of the day, the laments of the common person, the plight of mwananchi, and Raila Odinga inevitably emerged on the right side of history, notwithstanding the odd hiccup. Even when he inexplicably joined Daniel arap Moi’s KANU kleptocracy, he somehow emerged on the right side, having ripped the corrupt old party to shreds. KANU was our enemy, Raila destroyed it, and the enemy of your enemy, Kenyans reasoned, is your friend. And so it was with Kibaki’s rigged-in government of 2007-2012. In what was to be a template for the 2020 US Presidential elections, Kibaki lost the election but was sworn in as president – after a level and impunity of election theft best derided in the language Kibaki himself had used against Moi: “Even rigging needs intelligence.”

This brings us to 2022. We’re faced with the intellectually challenging spectre of Raila Odinga being the preferred candidate of Kenya’s corrupt thieving classes, fronted as he is by the ruling kleptocracy and its formidable – at least in Third World terms – State machinery. His opponent is the former darling of that same corrupt class, a man whose inexplicable rise from nothingness to billionaire status within just two decades redefines the phrase “nouveau riche” by adding a heavy colouring of sleaze to it. Strangely, though, the situation has the outlines of an ideology in it. Conservatism, it has been argued, is the rejection of ideology. Conservatism rejects any attempts to remake society according to any abstraction. Kenya’s corrupt elite, in capturing Mr Odinga and thus presenting us with a choice of two bad candidates – a corrupt self-made billionaire and a former people’s crusader turned defender of the corrupt order – have, in fact, defined our bizarre version of Conservatism for us.

We know where we have come from: an inexorable descent into corruption, reaching previously unplumbed depths with the current government. It appears that where we are going is even worse. To dull us into not seeing the obvious, our political elite has cast the two opposing candidates into phrases – this is dumbing down, of course, and it is resorted to because dumbing things down allows us to accept them without bothering to pull away the covers. And that’s how we now have Azimio against Kwanza. As the slogans are repeated endlessly on media outlets, and little else is allowed to push a word in edgewise, the orthodoxy of the day – defined by media talking heads and the country’s fake intelligentsia – drowns out any opinions that do not fall into one or the other camp. The real coup is, of course, that the two camps are, in fact, the same: they stand for and defend corruption and the auctioning of Kenya’s meagre resources to our new Asian colonists, the Chinese.

All ideologies are roads to tyranny. Our experiment with corruption as a national ideology is no different. But in this election, Kenya must surely go down as the first country ever to make corruption the national political ideology – and to present for election a pair of candidates so flawed that you could replace one with the other and, looking at their respective bank accounts over the last three years, no one would notice any difference. Cry, this beloved country! ( 

— The author is an information systems professional.

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