“If you are emotionally attached to your tribe or political leaning to the point where truth and justice became secondary considerations, your education is useless, your exposure is useless. If you cannot reason beyond petty sentiments, you are a liability to mankind” Dr Yusuf Bala 

Kenya is a beautiful nation. Of that, there can be no question. A majority of its people are warm and welcoming. Deep down, we generally have good hearts but in the same breath, there can be no denying that we are a strange lot. We increasingly seem to gravitate towards shockingly poor decisions.We are skilled at locating the self-destruct button in our lives and are happy to thump it down every chance we get. Our habits and preferences invariably confound sober minded onlookers, especially those who are unfamiliar with our eccentricities. Far too often do we build up our nation only to tear down our achievements with our own hands. We truly appear to be our own worst enemies. Our inclinations around polling season are a perfect example of what I mean.

You see,2002 was, in my view, this nation’s finest political hour. The majority of those who cast their votes rejected the outgoing regime’s kleptocratic and totalitarian flavour of malgovernance. With one tribeless voice, the people expressed the yearnings of this nation’s soul. We wanted change and we went out there and got it. Not even our ethnic backgrounds could stop us. Luhyas, Luos, Kikuyus, Kambas, Maasai etc., we were all truly one in our longing for sound governance and the spirit of nationhood thrived. If there ever was an opportunity for us to banish the demon of tribalism from this land once and for all, that was it. But lo and behold! Our Kenyanness would not allow it to be so. We tasted the fine sparkling wine of true nationhood, spat it out and quickly cried out for our beverage of choice, the stale, bone-soup of negative ethnicity. We quickly reverted to our tribal cocoons, no doubt at the behest and prompting of our tribal overlords. A short five years later, the sad outcome was plain for all to see as we nearly drove this nation to extinction in a shameful display of hatred for each other. The ethnic complexion of the post poll violence of 2007/2008 remains a stain on this nation’s soul.

There are many other examples of our baffling deficiency of sound judgment. In a sober society, criminal charges of any sort would be more than enough to make a candidate a non-starter in any election (assuming such a person could even make it onto the ballot paper). But in Kenya, politicians drag the weight of international criminal charges across the finish lines of presidential races where they are greeted with mursik (sour milk) and overjoyed Kenyan voters gyrating their sisal skirts with unbridled enthusiasm. This month, we rejected Martha Karua, a woman who has a shining record of defending human rights. Instead, we chose to endorse a former cabinet secretary who barely managed to clear her name in the face of accusations of grand corruption that literally drove her out of public office. Now, before you burn me at the stake, my fellow countrymen, please allow me to say that I believe in the legal tenet of innocence until guilt is proven. I understand that your appointment of such souls to public office was, for all intents and purposes, an appointment of persons who were innocent at law.

However, would you agree that electing such souls to public office (before they legally clear their names) is cogent proof of a drug resistant strain of madness on our part? No…? Okay, fine, calm down. I concede and agree with you. It was not an act of national madness. It was a display of Solomonic wisdom…(shakes head)…but please do not stop reading yet. Allow me to pour you a gourd of your beloved stale, bone-soup which you can chug down as we proceed with this discourse.

In what normal society does a man who hurled unprintables on air during a live radio show stand a chance of even getting elected as the chairman of a local cattle dip association (let alone supposedly getting elected as the governor of a capital city)? I am lost as to how Kenyans were persuaded to believe that such toxic insults were a mere slip of the tongue as opposed to a deep insight into the man’s soul. “Your words show what is in your heart”, so said the wisest Man to ever come out of Nazareth. Even more baffling is that Kenyans are rubbing their hands in eager anticipation of having their capital city transformed into a magical wonderland through acts of arbitrary “generosity” dished out to each of them individually.

Tell me, in what sober society does a proven champion of human rights and a fearless crusader against corruption and abuse of public office lose in a parliamentary election? Where Kenyans are concerned, not only will such a candidate lose but he will arrive at the finish line a distant third, huffing and puffing and soundly trounced by a part time musician and a socialite. Well done Kenyans of Starehe, well done! Perhaps your new MP will fight the ills in society with the fervency of Boniface Mwangi who you rejected or perhaps he will just do what he does best…make music in his spare time. Something tells me that the Kenyans of Starehe would not feel shortchanged if all they end up getting are a few charitable donations here and there and a deluge of kapuka music.  I could go on and on but I am not one to belabour the point. We Kenyans are a strange lot!!

There is, however, a light at the end of the tunnel. We may be a strange lot but we are not hopeless. I believe we have the capacity to make sober decisions. We proved it in 2002 when we rallied around sober national ideals and elected Mwai Kibaki into office. We even did it this year in the Jubilee primaries when we put tribe aside and nominated Cyrus Omondi Odhiambo as an MCA candidate in a ward known as Kahawa Wendani in Kiambu County and thereafter elected him into office in the main polls. Again, we chose Esther Passaris (over her immodest rivals) as the Nairobi Women’s Representative. Her commendable public lighting initiative in Nairobi, achieved at a time when she held no public office, continues to inspire. The good residents of Machakos also refused to be carried away by a wave of typical Kenyan excitement premised on Wavinya Ndeti’s mutilation of a Swahili proverb.  They showed a capacity for rational thought by re-electing a governor who, though not perfect, made, what in my view, was a tangible effort at improving his county.

Now, by way of disclaimer, I am aware that election petitions could be filed and the courts could reverse the positive electoral results that I have given Kenyans credit for. We shall have to wait and see. I do however sincerely hope that such would not occur for if it does occur, the candle of hope for this nation shall grow slightly dimmer.

Shem is a Nairobi based lawyer and self-proclaimed advocate for integrity based governance



Author: Shem Otanga

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