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Politics never takes a break

Not even WWII was allowed to interfere with 'politics as usual'.

In Summary
  • This fairly routine effort to clip the DP’s wings has provoked loud wails of dismay, mostly among the DP’s supporters.
  • They say that with the country faced with an unprecedented set of crises, surely this is no time for politics as usual.

The coronavirus pandemic has dominated our local news so completely in recent months that it is almost a relief to see politics return to the headlines.

The focus currently is on a scheme intended to politically neutralise Deputy President William Ruto, by taking down his key supporters in the National Assembly and the Senate. And this process is apparently well underway by now.

 

None of this should come as a surprise. Historically, the Kenyan vice presidency (or deputy president as it is now) has always been a crown of thorns. And of the spikes of these thorns, there is perhaps none sharper than the fact that while the DP may be no real threat to the President himself, there will always be people around the President who have grown accustomed to the benefits of close proximity to the centres of power, and who foresee that proximity ending if the DP takes over.

And thus, do we generally arrive at a situation in which virtually all the top leaders who have real influence are united in an effort to get the DP sidelined. It has happened to every DP since the first one, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.

Nothing surprising there to anyone who has studied Kenya’s political history.

But all the same, this fairly routine effort to clip the DP’s wings has provoked loud wails of dismay, mostly among the DP’s supporters. They say that with the country faced with an unprecedented set of crises – a locust invasion of biblical proportions; major flooding in various parts of the country; the coronavirus running rampant through the general population; and the threat of famine, surely this is no time for politics as usual.

However, they are wrong. There is never a time when politics takes a break. Once engaged in the struggle for political power, men and women will continue to support their allies and also to try and bring down their political opponents, regardless of what else is happening.

This was illustrated recently in international media reports of an anniversary which under normal circumstances would have been celebrated with great pomp and circumstance. May 8 marked the 75th anniversary of the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany to the Allied nations in 1945, and thus the end of the Second World War in the European theatre.

Once engaged in the struggle for political power, men and women will continue to support their allies and also to try and bring down their political opponents, regardless of what else is happening.

Such reports usually featured an iconic photo from the Yalta conference (February 1945) of “the big three”—British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, American President Franklin Roosevelt and Russian leader Josef Stalin.

 

There were other conferences involving “the big three” in the weeks and months ahead, as the leaders set out to agree on the structure of a post-war Europe. But by the time of the final conference some things had changed.

The Potsdam Conference held in Potsdam, Germany, from mid-July to early August 1945, also featured the three most consequential leaders of the time, and these were Stalin for Russia, Harry Truman for the US and Clement Atlee for Great Britain.

So, what had happened in the previous four months to bring about this change?

Well, Roosevelt had died and been succeeded by his Vice President, Truman. And Churchill, for all his heroic stature, had lost an election held during that period. His Conservative Party had lost to Clement Atlee’s Labour Party. Atlee was the new Prime Minister.

Stalin, of course, was an absolute dictator whose rule only ended when he died in 1953.

Now what these powerful leaders were engaged in was nothing less than the creation of a new world order. And this was in the wake of a global catastrophe incomparably greater than the current coronavirus pandemic. A total of 85 million lives were lost during that war, and entire cities reduced to rubble.

This was also the war that gave us The Holocaust.

And yet none of this was allowed to interfere with what we may call “politics as usual”. Men continued to strive to gain power. Elections were still held. Losers were sidelined.

Why then should Kenyans not continue with our usual politics, in this time of the coronavirus?