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January 21, 2019

OKECH KENDO: Fight apathy, cynicism in 2022

Ballot box
Ballot box

Kenyans born in 2000 will be four years into voting age in 2022, the year of another potential democratic farce. The 2022 General Election could be a fraud unless this generation prefers progress over regression.

Will ideas, ideals, ideologies and public issues influence the electoral behaviour of the millennial generation? Or will the youth suffer the curse of fatal attraction to individuals, tribalism, ethnic jingoism, size of war-chest, and ‘generosity’ of the competition? Kenyans born in 2003 were age five when the politics of tribe, money and personalities exploded into apocalyptic mayhem in 2008. They were 10 when elections were muddled in 2013. They were 14 when vested interests captured the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission in 2017.

The millennials associate elections with corruption, rigging, fraud, ethnic hubris, violence, unresolved murders, unconscionable killings and preventable deaths. They watched as police battled protesters in 2008, 2013 and 2017.

Homes were defiled on the excuse of hunting for protesters. The millennials saw police murder children. Baby Samantha Pendo is a synonym for electoral fraud. Kiambaa, the epicenter of mayhem in Uasin Gishu, is a byword for post-election violence.

Will the millennials, a critical mass, vote in 2022? After watching three muddled presidential elections, and the current bravado and braggadocio around 2022, they are easy candidates for electoral fatigue. Why should they vote when voter counters and the police have the last word on the ballot?

This is a monumental challenge for the IEBC and civic educators. The IEBC enjoys a record of presiding over rigged elections, and accumulated experience of electoral blunders. It lacks the legitimacy to teach anyone anything about free and fair electoral choices.

Worse, reactionaries long pummelled civil society, a possible intermediary in voter education, into irrelevance. Under President Moi, Kenyans were declared erudite, they did not need civic education. Voters were encouraged to bury their heads in the sand, forgetting that choices always have consequences.

During the first five years of the Jubilee regime, civic education was treated as meddling in Kenya’s sovereign affairs. The mistreatment of an international development partner was an attempt to show voters that electoral illiteracy is bliss.

The IEBC will find it difficult to get another financier, after a subsidiary of the United States Agency for International Development was forced out of promoting electoral literacy. Status quo always loves gullible voters.

Time, moreover, is running out for the discredited IEBC. Allegations of corruption, bungled tenders, yet-to-be replaced commissioners, infighting, and other management challenges make IEBC sickly. How then can voters be convinced the ballot still counts? How can millennials be persuaded their vote will count in 2022?

Hope lies in the Building Bridges Initiative of President Uhuru Kenyatta and the People’s President Raila Odinga. President Kenyatta and the Africa Union Envoy Raila want a new electoral dispensation.

The two leaders do not want Kenyans to be forced into violence again because of a mangled presidential election. Right-thinking Kenyans share their concerns. Kenyatta and Odinga’s influence will determine the temperament and character of 2022 General Election.

Leadership is not about titles acquired through rigged elections. Leadership is influence. Influence alone can restore good manners in elections. But the March 9, 2018, amity between Kenyatta and Odinga has inevitably created double vision. One is progressive, the other reactionary.

The reactionaries cannot see beyond 2022. For them, election is about who runs for president. For them it is tribal politics, ethnic electoral arithmetic, spewing around money and continued exclusion.

Between now and 2022, Kenyans have an opportunity to chose between exclusion and national inclusion. They have a choice between progressives and reactionaries.

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