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November 22, 2018

There are many reasons why ‘healing’ narrative is misleading

Opposition leader Raila Odinga greets supporters after a rally in the Mathare slum in Nairobi, August 13, 2017. /REUTERS
Opposition leader Raila Odinga greets supporters after a rally in the Mathare slum in Nairobi, August 13, 2017. /REUTERS

A General Election is analogous to a football match in a number of ways. As in soccer, an election also has a majority of people who are not in it as diehard supporters. As in soccer, the really dedicated fans of an election comprise only about 40 per cent, the 60 per cent being anything but hardcore.

Unlike football though, the Kenyan General Election is not over with the end of the game. After a football match, even a Cup Final, the fans go home and wait to attend another championship. The match is over when it ends.

In the United States and Europe, the political split is more or less 50-50. But there is no talk of healing after general elections in the advanced nations. Even inside Kenya where there were close results, for instance in Kiambu County and Lamu County, there was no resort to calling for intra-county healing afterwards.

The “healing” narrative is a lot of hogwash. If Kenya were a mature democracy we would wait for the next General Election game for five years without bleating about “healing” as if the nation were in existential danger, and move on with life.

As Hillary Clinton pointed out after the Kenyan Supreme Court annulled President Uhuru Kenyatta’s August 8 victory, the US Constitution has no provision for a presidential election rerun. Kenya’s 2010 Constitution is a brilliant document, devised by a committee of experts and with a great deal of public participation. Our devolved system, in which MCAs, MPs, senators and governors are elected in all 47 counties, does not see power or resources hogged by one or even 10 communities, they are distributed everywhere. Over 30 per cent of the national Budget is spread to the counties, a figure that can only go up. The counties are differentiated by poverty levels, land size and number of voters.

Even the loser in a presidential election has a number of governments and a share of the national cake. The healing narrative is generated by the loser, and the media has swallowed it whole – hook, line and sinker. This is how the secession debate has emerged with all that talk of a winner-takes-all reality (a complete lie) and the Kikuyu-Kalenjin conspiracy that has locked out all other 40 tribes from tenancy of State House for more than half-a-century (it is not a conspiracy). This is a media-driven charade and a strategy to grab power using heterodox means.

National Super Assembly leader Raila Odinga’s critique of the Constitution is absolutely selfish and full of obfuscation. As former Rangwe MP Shem Ochuodho pointed out in this newspaper’s Expert Opinion column on Friday, the Luo were critically important to the restoration of political pluralism in Kenya but forgot to take it to Luoland.

The healing narrative and its threats of national collapse and the emergence of the People’s Republic that would shut out the Rift Valley, Mt Kenya and Northeastern is full of internal contradictions.

An all-inclusive government would entail the end of Opposition politics in this country or the proposed PROK, which cannot be a good thing if you really think about it.

Secessionist proponents are warning JP supporters that the Central Republic of Kenya (the Rift, the Mountain and Northeastern) hived off the PROK would be one of the saddest polities in history. Bereft of the rest of Kenya, it would descend into permanent strife, with the Kalenjin and the Somali taking on the Kikuyu in a country that could become Muslim-majority within a generation.

This is fright mongering of the worst sort and is designed to shake the Kikuyu out of their famed phobia of all things Odinga. Instead, the secession agenda is viewed in large parts of Kikuyuland as the vindication of the Raila phobia. Breaking up Kenya is pure Odingaism, they say in Mt Kenya.

It was the 32nd President of the US, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the longest-serving tenant of the White House (12 years, including through World War II), who said in his inauguration address, “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is . . . fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves, which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”

The politics of secession are chock-full of fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror that paralyses Project Kenya.

In the United States, President Trump has not moved to heal the deep divide in his country, nor has Hillary, his rival in the 2016 presidential race for the White House.

The question might also be asked whether Europe is seeking help after Brexit?

The core of the healing narrative is tribal strategy. It runs on the fuel of fear.

Raila, like his father, the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga (1911-1994) before him, is an adept at the politics of fear. Like Odinga Snr, Raila strikes a deep fear into the status quo. With his declaration that he will be sworn in on Tuesday December 12, the 53rd Jamhuri (Republic) Day, and move directly to State House, Raila has gone beyond anything his father ever uttered. He has gone beyond even his utterance that “there will be no General Election” the nearer the repeat Presidential election of October 26 got. He has spooked Jubilee and intrigued NASA.

Again, a passage from President Roosevelt’s first inauguration address, on Saturday, March 4, 1933 refers. The 1,883-word, 20 minute-long inaugural address, included this passage, which referenced the cleansing of the Temple narrative which tells of Jesus expelling the merchants and the money changers from the Temple, and occurs in all four canonical gospels of the New Testament:

“The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.

“Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing.

“Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation asks for action, and action now.”

There will be a Garden Party in State House grounds on December 12 to which the political, diplomatic and corporate elite will be invited. The image Raila is now conveying is that, having been sworn in by the People’s Assembly and delivered his first inaugural address, he will go to State House, Nairobi, and expel President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto, their guests and staff in a “Jesus-and-the-money-changers” cleansing of the seat of power and “restore that temple to the ancient truths”.

Raila’s “this Nation asks for action, and action now” attitude is absolutely frightening, whether you are for him, against or neutral.

Being disruptive is all the rage in technology, business, the online taxi business. But storming State House on the afternoon of the 53rd Jamhuri Day Garden Party after all the talk of the healing narrative and the People’s Assembly and secession is taking the politics of fear where angels fear to tread.

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