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September 20, 2018

2017 should bury age of prejudices

No prejudice
No prejudice

There is something unusual, nearly extraordinary, about the 2017 General Election. Beneath the sulking status quo politicians, there is rising people power.

And a cry of hope, ‘Let my people go’.

Across the country in the counties, there is palpable disillusionment. The disappointment with the status quo comes with a yearning for a new way.

There is a sense of loss and hope - this sense of enough is enough. There is hunger for something better. Devolved corruption in the counties makes the call for change ever more urgent.

Everywhere, voters seem to understand the disillusionment with the incumbency is not terminal. There is hope of a better tomorrow.

And a cry, ‘Let my people go’.

The electorate seem to understand voters have the capacity to influence their destiny. The secrecy of the ballot is exploding into a mass consciousness that could unsettle the status quo.

Massive want, soaring unemployment, folding up of companies, endangered supermarket chains, layoffs, unga shortage, missed priorities, unfulfilled promises, and insecurity are no secret to right-thinking people.

The yawning gap between the poor and the rich, the powerful and the desperate, the strong and the weak, are no secret. These challenges can be redressed with a renewed commitment to the public good.

Better still, these challenges transcend ethnic, race, and religious boundaries. We are all in this mess together.

The masses have had enough political mendacity. To paraphrase the reggae legend Bob Marley, the message is you can cheat some people some of the time, but you cannot cheat all the people all the time.

Stereotypes are falling apart. Ethnic prejudices that cloud political choices are being dismantled. These prejudices did not undermine the change momentum in 1963, when Kenyans enjoyed a unity of purpose. It is possible to rebuild solidarity for a better Kenya.

The claim that local politics has orbited around two families is being recast. The narrative of one family – the Kenyattas – approaching the presidency with a sense of entitlement is being interrogated. There is also the perception this family uses the tribe to protect its interests.

The claim that the Oginga Odinga family approach politics with a sense of victimhood is being challenged. Raila Odinga, for instance, is a leader who speaks the language of the masses.

The National Super Alliance presidential candidate gives the correct perspective to this narrative:

The founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta earned his place as the first President, just like Jaramogi Oginga Odinga did as the first Vice President of Kenya. The two freedom fighters were a cut above their contemporaries. Their lead roles in the struggle for independence is documented. Their positions were not guided by ethnic or any such considerations. There is sacrifice and achievement.

Fifty-four years after the pioneering courage of their fathers, Kenyatta’s son Uhuru and Jaramogi’s son Raila are the lead candidates for president.

Being a Kenyatta gave Uhuru a head-start in the eyes of President Daniel Moi, who fingered him as his successor in 2002. But that alone does not explain Uhuru’s rise.

Being an Odinga gave Raila a leg-up, but that cannot explain why ‘Jakom’ has sustained the gravitas amidst the contradictions of local politics. The former Prime Minister has something about his persona that explains his unparalleled staying power.

There is something unique about Raila. It is his resilience, his courage, his fortitude, his stamina, his unmatched patriotism, and his life-long struggle for the liberation of the Kenyan people.

Kenya is politically independent, but it is still on the way to total liberation from ethnic prejudices and social inequalities. For the 2017 election, which is marketed as the third liberation by agents of change, the ‘Joshua’ metaphor gives Raila a new sense of purpose. The biblical Joshua led the Jews from the bondage of the Egyptian pharaohs to Canaan.

And, now, ‘Let my people go’.

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