NEWTON'S LAW OF KENYAN POLITICS

Just like Sudan and Hong Kong, it’s 50 million of us against a formidable wall

If we watch quietly on the sidelines, nothing will ever change.

In Summary

• In Kenyan politics the question is not always “does it benefit the people?”, but rather, “do I personally benefit enough?”.

• Those are the people building their wall higher and stronger.

A protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask waves a national flag outside the Defence ministry compound in Khartoum on April 24.
PEOPLE'S POWER: A protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask waves a national flag outside the Defence ministry compound in Khartoum on April 24.
Image: FILE

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. We learnt this law as children in the classroom, and it was introduced as a purely scientific concept. But what we learn later in life is that this calculation extends well beyond physics.

In layman’s terms, Kenyan politics today is like playing tug of war with a brick wall. However hard we pull, it feels like there is an unmovable object on the other side. We see this in the actions of those who oppose unity, the handshake, and the efforts to root out corruption.

The handshake was one such example. There was joy and relief among huge swathes of the public when President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition chief Raila Odinga let bygones be bygones and showed Kenyans that there must never be a reason to be divided.

The equal and opposite reaction was strong and continues to date; those who have much to lose from divide-and-conquer politics are busy attacking the handshake from behind their wall.

And now that Uhuru has appointed Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka as his Special Envoy to South Sudan, we are likely to see more opposition.

Bringing in a new, senior and influential figure to the inner circle is a sign of unity, on top of the fact that he is very qualified for the position. This move should be applauded, and in many corners it has been. However, once again I see the needless politicisation of the issue.

When you have a position as delicate and complex as a special envoy to an unstable neighbour, and political partisans judge the appointment not on its merits, but on the age of the envoy, you know there are some people among us who are truly lost.

In Sudan, the people are forcing the military to reconsider its entire trajectory and plans for the country. This is possible because the number and influence of the people protesting are more than an equal match for the abilities of the military. In Hong Kong, nobody thinks the protesters can achieve anything more than a small and symbolic victory at best against the Chinese state. And yet they succeeded in ‘killing’ a pernicious extradition law that would send suspects to China for ‘trial’. It’s not over yet.

Former presidential aspirant Martha Karua knows that there are angry people in the Jubilee Party, but not all anger is equal.

There is righteous anger, and then there is the anger of those who are happy to watch the house burn down if they do not get their way. Uhuru is trying to bring a country together, with some of its parts almost kicking and screaming as they are dragged along.

In Kenyan politics the question is not always “does it benefit the people?”, but rather, “Do I personally benefit enough?”. Those are the people building their wall higher and stronger. No  matter the potential benefit to the people and the country, their personal prerogative comes first.

Where are we, the Kenyan people at large, in this tug of war? If we watch quietly on the sidelines, nothing will ever change. If we lose hope and become cynical,  we will always see the wall prevail.

We all learn Newton’s law at some stage in life, but Einstein also had something to say about the nature of politics, albeit indirectly. We, in particular, can take note of his famous theory of relativity.

The force that an object exerts on another object is relative to its mass. That sounds irrelevant, but let us look at Sudan and Hong Kong.

In Sudan, the people are forcing the military to reconsider its entire trajectory and plans for the country. This is possible because the number and influence of the people protesting are more than an equal match for the abilities of the military.

In Hong Kong, nobody thinks the protesters can achieve anything more than a small and symbolic victory at best against the Chinese state. And yet they succeeded in ‘killing’ a pernicious extradition law that would send suspects to China for ‘trial’. It’s not over yet.

In Kenya, we are not faced with such dire choices, thanks to decisions by people such as our President. We are not fighting for our very survival, nor are we facing down the forces of a superpower.

We are a democracy, where fighting for the right to be heard is a winnable battle, but only if we show up for it. When 50 million of us pull against the wall together, it will come down.

I think those people hiding behind the wall know what is coming. Political drama, contrived distractions, and consistent focus on 2022 are their go-to tactics. We must continue to support the president in his battle to pull down their wall, for the good of all Kenyans.

Igembe North MP