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Kenya on the Path to Rebirth

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Kenya on the Path to Rebirth

Politically, Kenya is on a rollercoaster to transformation. In the ‘80s, exploiting the argument that Africans prefer openness, President Moi introduced the voter queuing system. Kenyans did learn through this “open system” that their vote didn’t count. Voices of dissent increased until early 2002 when voters’ ballot paper changed leadership at the State House.

In the spirit of openness, the then Narc government in 2005 facilitated a referendum on Kenya’s constitution. Similar to Moi’s unpopular ‘kura ya mlolongo’ (voter queuing system) outcomes that were never respected; the NARC machine literally trashed the sentiments of the ‘No’ vote that won. That set the stage for 2007. It is clear that the political elite are always keen to manipulate the democratic system to come up with favourable outcomes.

The 22-year Kenya political history clearly indicates that one can ignore peoples’ sentiments at their own peril. From Moi’s time to Kibaki’s time, the electorate has continued to show that they are well ahead of their leaders’ thinking.

I am writing this piece while attending the World Movement of Democracy in Jakarta, Indonesia. I am also reflecting on the upcoming campaigns for the new constitution.

I have written before that our white colonial governors offer us a great lesson: they wrote laws to protect their own interests. The proposed constitution of Kenya does offer an important step towards Kenyans taking charge of this country. It is a step that we ought to take and be keen to hit the ultimate goal – making laws that safeguard our country’s interests.

I will vote ‘Yes’ and keep my eyes focused on the next step, and the next that will deliver Kenya to Kenyans.

It is also important to note that people might choose to vote ‘No.’ Drawing from previous political history, such a decision too must be respected. What the facilitators of this noble process ought to do is to prepare the country for such an eventuality to avoid the schism that was experienced in 2005. Either way, it will be Kenyans making a choice. The upcoming referendum ought not to be used as a rehearsal for the 2012 polls.

Kenya is on the path of self discovery.

We should avoid framing the upcoming referendum in terms of political individuals. The document we choose to vote for or against is meant to have a life of its own, a life that will outlive each one of us. We should soberly analyse it in the sense that we are creating a new dispensation for this country as opposed to creating individuals. I applaud the individual Kenyans and political leaders who have facilitated this process.

Wealth creators

What is missing in this enthusiasm to have a new Kenya is the economic drive. After voting, Kenyans need services from the government; they need economic freedom. A new constitution on its own will not deliver this. It is also important then that we push for a discourse that will lead to a Kenyan-driven development.

Failure to build a constituency of Kenyan wealth creators will lead to voting machines that wait alongside the highway for handouts from politicians and international aid agencies. God forbid.

I call that we initiate an economic rollercoaster for Kenya and Africa. Democracy in a country plagued with extreme poverty will still amount to the tyranny of a few.

By James Shikwati.

Mr. Shikwati is Director of Inter Region Economic Network

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