NASA AND JUBILEE: Kenyan Politics’ False Promises

Op-ed by Ahmed Hassan, who is a social activist and critic interested in Somali politics. You can find him on Twitter at @pansomalist.

2 August 2017 — As the clock ticks toward Kenyan elections on August 8, political titans have continued to launch their proposed agendas for the next five years. While I was watching candidates unveil their plans, it reminded me of the Italian political thinker Niccolo Machiavelli’s advice to the politicians:  He who seeks to deceive [in Kenya’s case, a politician] will always find someone [e.g., the Kenyan electorate] who will allow himself to be deceived.

Interestingly, both the government and opposition seem to be subscribed to Machiavelli’s political ideology which suggests that to ascend to power, you must be deceptive, cunning and be able to concoct false hope from thin air. The path to power is paved with hypocrisy.

The incumbent party and their opponent have offered false narratives that Kenyans want to hear, and few have interest in digesting these claims because the electorates have in part decided their fate —  the card of tribalism is in hand and Kenyans often do not play with a full deck.

The Jubilee administration came to power with blue-sky ambitions of transforming Kenya into a middle-income country by growing the economy by double digits, eradicating poverty, improving security, fighting corruption, and above all uniting and reconciling the country reeling from tribal and political tension.

It is four years down the line and the economy is running on double digit inflation. Many Kenyans are living below the poverty line and cannot afford food staples such as unga. Moore than half a million illegal arms are in circulation around the country, and the level of corruption has hardly been abated.

Unfortunately, the performance of this government is seen under different lens depending on which region you come from, but from certainly from an objective standpoint, there is one immutable fact about this government: it has failed to meet the expectations that carried them into office.

The books of lies

The ruling party achieved less than ten percent of what they promised in 2013, and yet they brazenly have launched another campaign of mistruths to deceive gullible Kenyans who pledged allegiance to the ruling coalition via their respective tribes for better or for worse. They even lied about their short list of laurels and furnished it with ghost projects.

Lying to Kenyans during electioneering periods — as well as disseminating “fake news” — has become the modus operandi in the Kenyan political arena. In fact, the political class have normalised their deceptive behaviours because they know that ordinary Kenyans are desperate for change and can easily accept, unquestionably, anything that is offered to them. Kenyan political scientist, Mutahi Ngunyi, summarized the so-called manifestos in Kenyan politics: “A Manifesto is a book of lies, written by the incompetent, to confuse the stupid. Uhuru and Raila are the manifestos.”

The irony is that the deputy president William Ruto, who was at the epicenter of every scandal in the last four years from misappropriation of Eurobond funds to embezzlement of National Youth Service fund to a Maize scandal to land grabbing, has had the audacity to tell Kenyans that he will fight corruption.

Interestingly, while addressing food security, the deputy president said that the government wants to intensify food production through irrigation and they will build fifty-seven MEGA dams. ‘’MEGA’’ was the word that startled water specialists because it is technically and economically not feasible to implement such projects, but the deputy president was in any case comfortable propping up the hopes of Kenyans on a cracking foundation.

Corruption and governance

The opposition leaders, dubbed as a lineup known as “the Pentagon,” are career politicians. While they may not have any real alternative agendas for Kenyans, their war against the ruling party is based corruption and bad governance. They accuse the government of institutionalizing corruption, looting the state coffer, and frustrating the implementation of devolution.

Corruption is a lucrative business in Kenya.  It’s foul when your opponent is involved and fair when you are part of it. Almost every member of the Pentagon has been previously part of corruption scandals in one way or another and has their own respective integrity issues. This accusation and counter-accusation is an indicator of how the corruption menace is deeply entrenched in the Kenyan political class.

While the two sides have previously demonstrated poor performances, they do not have the authority to talk about corruption and bad governance and have no credibility to seek public office. 

The politicians have caged the electorates, and made them believe that if they don’t vote for their tribesmen (regardless of whether they have integrity issues or not), then they will be politically and developmentally sidelined and their lives will be doomed.

The forthcoming election is set to maintain the status quo regardless of who wins. The favorites and heavyweights may have changed their political outfits but they are predominately the same politicians who have ruled the country in the last two decades. Therefore, Kenyans will have to wait a bit longer until they can reason out the tribal cage that they were confined and vote to seek change and not to keep their incompetent tribesmen in office.

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