Things are going badly for Kenya.
President and his ruling Jubilee party have perfected dwindling economic fortunes, a compressed space for the rule of law – epitomised by the President’s refusal to appoint six judges who did not tickle his fancy – and burgeoning inflation. Paradoxically, the failure of the President’s Big Four Agenda to properly take off has made it harder to exploit as a pillar for President Kenyatta’s legacy, despite the President’s posturing to the contrary.
For many Kenyans, the upcoming August poll is the mother of all elections because it is a chance to respond in kind and make their stand known. President, Uhuru Kenyatta has overseen an economy battered by inflation and debt, bruised by corruption and struggling to get on its feet due to the harm inflicted by Covid. Fighting to be the next President are Mr Kenyatta’s deputy William Ruto of the Kenya Kwanza alliance, and ODM leader Raila Odinga, under the Azimio la Umoja banner.
There isn’t an ideal choice between the two leading candidates for Kenyans. Still, there’s a good they can build bipartisan support for valuable reform if recent momentum obtains by voting in people-centric candidates to fill governor, senator, MP and MCA positions.
The current regime laid the groundwork for the ongoing mess by fixating on elitist politics instead of addressing issues affecting the electorate – the same group of people they would now like to convince to support their isolationist agenda.
One of the oddities about the Building Bridges Initiative Bill – and therefore the Azimio candidate – that the Supreme Court recently buried is that it heralded the return of an imperial presidency that Kenyans rejected when they passed the Constitution in 2010. BBI contained proposals that nothing but a lack of political goodwill prevented from happening under the current dispensation. Proposals on health, devolution and the youth, among others, are things the government can easily be addressed under existing structures. Others, such as those on the Judiciary, were designed to undermine the institution to make it an appendage of the Executive.
Agreeing, therefore, that there is a problem – and what that problem entails – we can pivot from our often reactionary response to our political situation and become more future-looking.
We all crave and seek good leadership. We even seem to agree with our collective definition of – honesty, courage and empathy – but have real trouble finding it when we begin comparing candidates and listening to political refrains.
As one commentator put it, voters get caught up in bad electoral choices because our political problems and solutions are presented as fractured pieces and therefore understood differently. And where a central narrative exists, there is only so much to ride on to get from moving through different choices to making a decision.
The truth is that neither politicians nor political pundits ought to tell us what matters to us, for, often, that process is couched in cynical bickering that passes for objective critiquing. What matters to us should be our choice and should be the voters’ first point of reclaiming power this time around.
Things are going badly for our country, and we stand at a defining moment in history.
For the government and its candidate, there are so many fires to put out. For the Kenya Kwanza alliance that has now fashioned itself as the opposition, there are countless promises to make, all connected to potentially eye-watering sums of public money to back them up.
If the past is a guide, let’s keep our eyes on the hallmarks of good leadership and only elect leaders who meet the threshold of good leadership. The candidates we vote for should cherish good governance and the rule of law, treasure the environment and be passionate about the welfare of future generations. They should be people not pledged to promote one perspective over the other – so leaders for all of us. They should be leaders who don’t revel in factions but see the world in fellow citizens. They should be people who see beyond statistics, who see people with needs and dreams, not voter blocs. They should be people who speak peace, understand what it means and know how to keep it.
Let’s vote for leaders who’ve set the right goals, who have demonstrated they can get things moving, and who can help us discover what we already know and want for ourselves. (