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February 17, 2019

A Progressive’s Dream for Kenya


The once greatly admired American system of electoral justice and democratic governance is currently under assault from within and by the unlikeliest of attackers. It’s hard to imagine how the country survives without long lasting and perhaps permanent damage in some areas.

But it’s not the first time the country has had a president loathed this much. In the 1824 election, for example, no candidate had a clear majority in the Electoral College. The election was, therefore, sent to the House of Representatives where one of the candidates, Henry Clay, supported John Quincy Adams, who was elected as president on the first ballot. Adams's victory shocked Andrew Jackson, who had won the popular vote and fully expected to win. When Adams later appointed Clay secretary of state, Jackson Democrats cried "corrupt bargain," and were enraged at the seemingly quid pro quo arrangement.

As president, John Quincy failed to develop the political relationships needed — even among members of his own party — to effect significant change. It didn't help that his political opponents were set on making him a one-term president, which they succeeded.

No one can make the case, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if someone does, that Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga had a deal before October 26, last year, to let the President serve his second term akin to the deal Adams made with Clay.

However, there’s no doubting the handshake has made it possible for Uhuru to serve peacefully and without a parallel government headed by Raila, which would made his governing all but impossible, if not altogether bloody or chaotic, in the least, given how things were poised before the handshake.

The handshake, whose broad objectives are being carried out by the Building Bridges to Unity Advisory Task Force, is not without its naysayers but it’s safe to say none of them are as astute and politically savvy as the brains behind the handshake that can collectively be referred to as Raila.

The taskforce's chairman, Yusuf Haji, and vice chairman Adams Oloo delivered the report to Raila and noted they are organising a national convention in Nairobi to collect views from wananchi and later plan regional and town hall meetings to interact with those who may not have a chance to come to Nairobi.

In other words, we have a remaking of the orange democratic movement that gave us the 2010 Constitution. Question is, what’s this movement afoot and what shall it give us?

To this writer and all progressives, this is got to be the Third and Final Liberation of Kenya movement and, that being the case, we have a few dream items we hope can be accomplished as we get ready for transformation of our country, finally, to political maturity and prosperity felt by all.

These dreams are, not in any particular order, first, to ensure the ongoing war on corruption is real and we, in fact, see a parade of corrupt individuals hauled to jail, and assets recovered, while instituting mechanisms to ensure there is no more looting.

Call this our mother of all our dreams.

Second, can we please finally have an electoral board that can conduct transparent, open and fair elections, where the victors are determined by voters, not vifaranga vya komputa? The corollary to that is the demand that the President himself sees to it we never again have the kind of in-your-face, thuggish rigging we’ve witnessed in the past and his not vying again should be an imperative to erase this past and chart a new legacy by ensuring that this dream is achieved with his help.

Third, let the handshake give us a government of national unity, which has become a useless cliché as phenomenon. It’s inexcusable and sinful for two tribes to hoard all plum jobs and now even any meaningful job at the expense of the rest of the country. That only sows seeds of discord that lead to continued hatred and divisiveness among Kenyans.

We’re all Kenyans and deserve equal or at least equitable share in the country’s pie, be it in jobs or resource allocation.


Samuel Omwenga is a legal analyst and political commentator in the United States



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