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January 20, 2019

Lessons Kenyans never learn

Ballot box
Ballot box

Every five years, about 50 per cent of MPs lose their seats to rookies and former legislators. The MPs-elect come with inflated promises of better leadership.

About 40 per cent of the incumbents lose during party primaries. But this time the losers took umbrage to run as independent candidates. Their fate will be known this morning, as the vote count proceeds.

Every five years, members of local assemblies are rejected due to shoddy performance. Some of them were ejected during the warm-up to the General Election. Some of them returned to the race as independents. By the end of today, their fate will be known.

The bloated 2017 General Election, the second after the 2010 constitutional referendum, is a familiar re-enactment of the ritual. The rite evokes conflicting emotions. It invites violence as political gangs fight for space to plunder.

This day former governors will be crying about positions lost. New ones will be celebrating, as they take their turn at the dining table. Some of the governors who lost party tickets at the primaries in April will know whether ‘independence’ has given them a new life.

Former senators will be sulking, as new ones pick up the gauntlet in the 47 counties. It is a time of contradictions - a time of loss and win; joy and moaning.

Former MCAs will be moaning. New ones will be jubilant. It will also be a moment of sorrow for some. A time for celebration for as many politicians as have lost their perks.

A time when voters are required to elect new leaders and reject incumbents of doubtful interests presents a familiar replay of this ritual, which is conducted every five years. Kenyan elections are a ritual that does not mean much for social transformation. For us, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

The shame of pre-election panic and violence has exposed the hideous character of incumbency. The assassination of Chris Msando, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission information technology manager, affirmed the fears of many that there was a hideous plot to undermine democracy.

The murder has not been explained, but the timing, the victim, the circumstances, and possible motives point to a conspiracy. The suspicions, which have been stated as many times as they have been denied, showed a plot to undermine democracy.

The vandalism of one of the many opposition National Super Alliance tallying centres also indicated rising panic. This power clique found itself cornered. It was fighting to maintain its hold on state power.

The meaning of the massive deployment of security forces, anxiety, and official cry for “a peaceful election”, is in the subtext. It is a narrative that has rolled over from the 2007 General Election. Then, President Mwai Kibaki found himself in the same spot: A disillusioned electorate and a strong opposition. The state had to deploy security agencies to muzzle democracy.

The effects of the abortion of election are still being felt across the land. The internally displaced people have been crying for a decade now. Did we learn anything from the Kibaki electoral bungle of 2007?

Have the people in power learnt anything? Democracy is in trouble when a power clique deploys the state machine to militarise an election. It is an unconscionable contempt for the people.

Twelve hours after the close of polling stations, certain realities have dawned on the electorate: Democracy and constitutional imperatives mean nothing to insecure politicians who are beholden to ethnic and class interests.

After five years of complacency, the Jubilee regime must have understood it is not enough to promise and chest-thump. Team Uhuru and Ruto got the scare of their political careers.

At the end of eight months of the peak season of political handouts, politicians have understood there is much more to winning elective positions than money.

At the end of the 2017 electoral cycle, the opposition should appreciate this fact: That impunity and ethnic power barons are enemies of our stunted democracy.

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