‘Owe no man anything, but to love one another, for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law’ – Romans 13:8.
This was the context of the message Deputy President William Ruto had this last weekend during a service at All Saints Cathedral. He then went on to clarify that he had noticed that there have been statements made to the effect that certain regions owed him a political debt. He stated that he was not owed a debt by anyone. On the same day he had a live interview with NTV’s Mark Masai, where he again stated for the record that no one owed him any debt – including President Uhuru Kenyatta.
An interesting reaction to these statements from the DP were the media queries to me seeking reactions to these comment. Somehow there was this perception that the DP’s statements were a reaction to a post I once made on my social media page saying that elections are not about debts. I am glad the DP has confirmed my statement.
However my comments were not to challenge the DP to take a position on this issue. My post was a reaction to statements from leaders associated with my community who, whilst accompanying the DP in his development tours, would then use such events to speak of a political debt from our community to Ruto. One of them had even gone to the extent of saying that ‘because Kikuyus are business people they had entrusted him with their votes in a ‘cheque’, which was in his pocket and which he would ‘bank’ in Ruto’s ballot on their behalf in 2022 as payment of this debt!
I therefore liked that the DP firmly stated that those with a political debt are the ‘elected’ – not the ‘electors’. It is us – those elected into office – who owe those who put us in office a debt of service. At national level there is the political expectation that we will unite the country after the political schisms of the last election. Socially there is the expectation that we will slay the dragon of corruption that is destroying government’s capacity to deliver basic services. Economically there is the expectation that we will implement the Big Four.
President Uhuru keeps reminding us that we must deliver and surpass these expectations. He tells us that Kenyans want us – politicians - to take a break from politics, which is about us, and focus on working, which is about them. He has taken the lead. Raila has followed. The DP stated the same point on Sunday. I hope all other politicians are listening.
However in the midst of this conversation a very important point might be lost to us. When I stepped up and spoke out against those trying to commit my community to a political position it was because such utterances are dangerous in how they profile communities. When anyone makes a political statement committing a community it must be a person who has the mandate to do it, and the position must be one agreed upon by the community. Otherwise they are opening an entire community up to sociopolitical attack.
Communities take political positions for community interests. It is the unfortunate reality of our politics. This reality means that when a community takes a political position, that position will be driven by community interests. It must be clear how a community will benefit from a political position. Otherwise there is no community position; only individual personal preferences.
There is also the issue of legitimacy. A community can only be committed to a political position by a leader the community has given the mandate to do that. Some of those committing my vote look like they are doing it out of fear. Others seem to be doing it for personal financial reward. Yet we still have Uhuru in office. Why not first support Uhuru to finish his term strong, then we discuss community politics?