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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Will the real politicians stand up?

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Nasa leader Raila Odinga. /FILE
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Nasa leader Raila Odinga. /FILE

At the time of writing this piece, I am not feeling actual cabin fever yet – I’ve been to a few yoga classes down the road (my irrepressible yoga buddy Segeni even declared a ‘YogaYa34a’ session), and the doggirl needed walkies around the neighbourhood because she can’t read. It’s an odd mood: one of the Facebook friends described it as ‘Christmas with anxiety’, which I found quite accurate. At the time of writing, I also anticipate Mr Kenyatta to be the next president, as had been my forecast all along.

Typically, politicians around here go into elected office for private enrichment – or, in the rare case that they didn’t and still won (a bit of a unicorn to start with), align themselves with that motive quite quickly once they realise that resisting the offers for enrichment might not actually work out so well for their health and well being.

So being re-elected has, obviously, the benefit of continued access. Except there’s also the drawback of continued homework, at least in principle: That interest rate cap and the resultant collapse in lending to the private sector? Well, it’s of your own making. The surge in public debt is also still there, as are the grudges in the healthcare and education sector. A famine that should have never happened .Yes, the big infrastructure projects are mostly still there. Maybe not that bridge that fell apart, but the others. But these also set new standards in eating (precisely why others wanted in, too). Still: The good – great! – thing about Kenya is that the country has so much inherent resilience and hustle, probably from not having relied on donors to the same extent as a lot of other countries in the region, that it will always come out alive and kicking. Twisted, unequal, often hard – but alive and also kicking.

What I’m wondering: How many of the parties in that ridiculous profusion of parties, and any of the people who rocked up with grand promises and a garbage-load of posters, will actually move beyond their access-to-the-trough objectives? I find that profusion of parties still worrying, and the silly number of independent candidates just as much: there is now even less pressure or incentive to coalesce around issues. When it comes to issues, none of even the current larger parties (and their existence, too, may be relatively fleeting, until the next election) has researched, thought-out policy positions. Copy-pasted manifestos aren’t policies. I would love to see Boniface Mwangi and likeminded contestants build a proper party around issues, challenge the government on issues, develop organisational strength and governance despite their loss - and then try again. Something will have to give eventually, no?

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