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Kenya: In dire need of a statesman

Posted by Popular Ombudsman on April 25, 2009

It has always been assumed that in most cases, politicians exist for the sole purpose of acquiring power and exercising it. This may not be true after all. Not every politician is a statesman, but some of the statesmen have been practicing politicians. In the case of Kenya, the jury is out. Would Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel arap Moi or Mwai Kibaki, all of whom have had the privilege of being the Chief Executives of the Republic of Kenya qualify as statesmen? Did any of them show by word and deed a serious desire to be a true statesman? What qualifies a person to be called a statesman? Among the notable politicians we have had since independence such as Jaramogi Odinga, Joseph Murumbi, T.J. Mboya, J..M. Kariuki, Pio Gama Pinto and the many others, is there anyone who emerged as a statesman?

The statesman will possess special skills and knowledge on how to rule not only justly but also well and in the minimum to have the best interests of the citizens at heart. It is necessary for politics to be informed by this knowledge if a semblance of good governance is to be reflected. This view seems to run counter to the conduct of those who have had a privilege of ruling over Kenyans. Those that have ruled merely gave the appearance of such knowledge, but in the end served pretty narrow sectarian interests which now threaten national interest. One wonders, might Kenya be suffering from the advanced results of suffocation of the younger generation as a result of the overindulgence of the independence cohort at the alter of power?

To deal with the above questions, let us take a closer look at what constitutes the overriding national interest of Kenya and look at actions that tended to subjugate the interests of the Republic to other narrower interests. The overriding national interest is basically national security and the survival of the nation. National security is the integrity of the national territory and the nation’s institutions. In the prudent exercise of guarding national territory and ensuring that the nation’s institutions are not only robust but also dependable to deliver services to the citizens, the guarantee of security and a profound feeling of belonging for the parts that make Kenya will be realized. It will be reflected in the way the citizens relate to each other and bring honor to Kenyans wherever they are found. Consider this: By bringing the Judiciary, the Electoral Commission and the Pockets of Violence available to the state under the hand of one office, no channels of recourse are availed for aggrieved individuals or entities for the institutions serve at the mercy of the presidential clique. This causes the actions of the institutions to be inconsistent and confusing to the citizenry and further, ordinary citizens resort to fighting for lack of better options. The actions of the ruling elite are then inimical to the national interest and the consequences usually will affect the rulers in the long run.

Some Kenyan political commentators are fixated by Macchiavelli’ s treatise The Prince, and like quoting from it to justify the mischievous actions of our politicians as bouts of realism. They forget to quote other equally compelling works of Macchiavelli such as “Discourse on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy” in which Niccolò Macchivelli asserts that a proper Republic complete with a system of effective checks and balances is far more preferable than a principality. It should be noted here that for purposes of this discussion, Kenya seems to run more like a principality than a Republic. Why? Because it is and has always been possible for any occupier of statehouse to effectively derail, obstruct and scuttle any citizen initiative at a whim. The post-independence history of Kenya is littered with failed efforts at political reform. To illustrate this point, prior to the 2002 elections, Hon. Mwai Kibaki presented himself as a reformer sent to correct the bad system Hon. Daniel arap Moi had utilised for many years and many of us believed him. He however not only turned out to enjoy immensely the same powers of the presidency but is also very keen to transfer the same powers to a “prince” of his choosing come next elections. The ongoing wanton creation of Districts is a manifestation of this attitude. There is no guarantee that Hon. Raila Odinga would not carry a similar attitude into the high office.

A statesman would have quickly realized that Kenyans have been driven to the wall. The citizens have been exposed to so much opprobrium due to the mischief of their rulers that they do not know whether the collective Kenyan consciousness is worth keeping anymore. That explains why to them, tribe seems to be a more stable and fruitful form of collective consciousness than the nation called Kenya. The ruling class must go to the mountain top and meditate. They must decide whether to bequeath their grandchildren a little cocoon within Kenya occupied by their tribesmen, and a Kenya that was or a healthy secure nation which guarantees the rights of all Kenyans. Unfortunately for them, the two are mutually exclusive and the direction they take will help separate statesmen from mere imitators.

Tony Mongare


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