«Disorder over the presidential election Since the beginning of this century the Kenyan economy has enjoyed strong growth. The growth rate of 7 % was ...»
Such oppression and discrimination often found the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin as an outlet of frustration. At the time of elections since 1992, violence against Kikuyu inhabitants in the Rift Valley and even in the coast areas were repeated. I would like to make it clear that the resentment against those two ethnic groups was generated in a large part from the ‘generalization’ or ‘perception’ that all member of those ethnic groups were beneficiaries.
That is obviously not true, but is a conceptual trap producing serious results. It is often said that the Luo have been discriminated against, but there is a study reporting no statistical proof found of such perception being the fact. However, unfortunately many documents and speeches that incite misunderstandings and wrong perceptions are rife at the time of elections.
Under the authoritarian government the vested interests enjoyed the benefit accrued from exercising power in controlling and distributing national resources. It could be combined as the result of weak awareness of the nation state and the protection of their interests by 5 political elites in newly independent countries. They abused the ethnic, regional and religious identities. I would conclude at this juncture that ‘tribal’ conflicts as quoted often in the media are struggles for the control of power and national resources among the groups of the vested interests and violence and conflict were often incited by historical misperception of ethnic, religious or regional identities.
Kibaki’s miscalculations and beyond
In previous presidential elections, irregularities provoked violence but it was limited to certain localities and the government was able to control them. At this election, Kibaki and his entourages clearly underestimated the extent of the social unrest and the depth of accumulated political and economic discontent especially among the poor and unemployed youth, and overestimated their ability to control over the rebellious people.
There was a series of big and small miscalculations on the part of the Kibaki’s side. The recent prosperous Kenyan economy is in reality only for the privileged, and there is a widening social and economic disparity between the haves and the have-nots, the root causes of which are perceived in the arbitrary use of power and the vested interests. In short, it is the authoritarian regime itself.
Since the late 1980s, the donor countries imposed democratic political reforms, economic reforms following the liberalized market principles, and good governance as conditions for their assistance to Kenya. In response, Kenya revised its Constitutions in 1991 and conducted the presidential election under the multi-party system. Nevertheless, in both 1992 and 1997, Moi was re-elected, due to the inability of the oppositions to consolidate themselves and Moi’s skilful manipulation of ethnic groups. Election under the multiparty system in Africa is regarded as a major indicator of democratization but there are disparaging views by political observers that it is illiberal democracy or Africanized democracy to appease the donor countries. It would be unfair not to recognize genuine progress made on media liberalization, civil education and awareness of privileges and duties by the people. However, politically and economically, it is still a country of neo-patrimonial system underneath of which overtly and covertly the rival groups of the vested interests engage in perilous struggle for power, since the winner can takes all.
Politicians may not agree with me but the mayhem this time is a manifestation of this conflict In the presidential election of 2002, Moi had chosen Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Jomo Kenyatta as his successor and lost to Kibaki who received the support of the majority of the Kikuyu. Odinga was in Kibaki’s election team, but left after two and half years on the account of Kibaki’s failure to keep agreements made with him before the election. While Kibaki displaced many senior Kalenjin from the important positions in his administration, he nevertheless did not intrude with the business sector, and is said to be contributed to 6 the recovery of the economy. However, his administration was not free from corruption and abuse of power.
In the election of 2007, Kibaki had Uhuru Kenyatta’ and Moi on his side, and the opposition, Odinga’s side had a number of Moi.’s protégés. Policy wise,the focal points in the election were the reduction of power of the presidency by revising the Constitution and devolution of power to regional governments. But ironically it also seems to me that it may be a re-organisation of vested interests. Not all the Kenyan leaders are driven by patronage and greed, and there are many political leaders from the time of liberation movement who have the vision beyond the confine of ethnicity and authoritative use of power. But unless management of government and the people’s expectation for the patronage system have to be severed, the vested interests and the patron-client relation will never disappear from political scene. This is not confined to Kenya alone, but any country under the sun. This neo-patrimonial system is a combined outcome of the pre-colonial traditions, the legacies of the colonial era, and the post-independent political system. Unless both people and political leaders are willing to change, there would be little progress. In short, the political regime must be changed. Rivalry among vested interests can be observed in any country, but factors such as ethnicity, land ownership, large scale unemployment set higher hurdles to resolve in the case of Kenya.
Implications for donor countries Kenya has been a major recipient of ODA. My question is what the donors have been doing last thirty to forty years. Income gap is wide and unemployment is more prevalent. It did not take more than three days in December 2007 to destroy the confidence in governance in Kenya. There are many successful aid projects. But what did aid contribute as a whole in national building of Kenya? The question does not apply only to Kenya, but a large number of Sub-Saharan countries. I would speculate that if the number of employed youth in poor areas were half of what it is, this mayhem would not happen or could be contained in small areas. This is not the place to review aid but two priority areas of aid could be emphasized – one for employment creation and another for improvement of governance, i.e. a framework for a democratic political regime.
Firstly, this is going to be a controversial proposal. At this juncture, we cannot wait for economic growth to provide adequate employment opportunities. By the use of the public and aid fund, employment opportunities have to be created. An action plan should be designed in such a way that employment opportunities induce growth, and not vice versa.
We need to tackle unemployment issues in Kenya rather than poverty reduction and MDGs, as advocated by the donors. If a family has an income, it is possible to buy water and medicine, and to send children to school. According to the ‘Afrobarometer’, an African public opinion research institute, employment opportunity comes as the top issue which the African public asks for governments to address. Other important issues such as AIDS 7 treatment, infant mortality, safe drinking water and other social issues follow employment.
It is jobs they want.
What would be the answer to unemployment? Africans have the answer, not donors.
Unemployed people have a sharp awareness of the issue, which, I believe, is the reversed side of solution. It is then our job to draw out their own solutions, which may not be focused at first, and to enhance their potential. And how can we do that? By genuine dialogue we can only develop practical solutions and plans. The true meaning of the word ‘partnership’ and ‘ownership’ must be realized. I would hasten to add that I do not underestimate the importance of creating favorable environments by the government and donors to resolve unemployment issue. If vocational training program does not result employment, the program should be revised. It is a job to create, not trained unemployment.
Secondly, we need to improve the large disparity of income and the system that supports it.
While the donor countries have assisted governance, democratization, social services, and economic liberalization, but it seems to me that they are all superficial and flaked off in mere three days. Am I exaggerating? As far as governance is concerned, the oversight functions of the parliament and local councils have the institutional prerogative to control the patronage system and the vested interests But they are not functioning effectively, because of the limited capacity of parliament, local council and political parties In other words, no effective checks and balances are functioning. Donors should give the utmost focus on the capacity building of parliament, local councils and other institutions which have the role of oversight of the management of government Donors have always maintained in assisting in nation building and billions of dollars have been spent as aid, but how can we evaluate ourselves faced with the mayhem? This is not a story of Kenya alone, but many countries in the region..
, 2001 Afrobarometer “What are the most important problems facing this country that the government should address”,2002, Anyong’ Nyong’o, “The Challenges of Transitional Politics in Kenya”, 2006 Carol Lentz,”Tribalism and Ethnicity in Africa”, 1995 Kiraitu Murungi, “Ethnicity and Multi-Partyism in Kenya” 1998 L. B. Marrison,”The Nature of Decline: distinguishing myth from reality in the case of the Luo of Kenya”, 2006 D. R. Peterson, “Be like Fir Soldiers to Develop the Country: Political Imagination and the Geography of Gikuyuland“, 2004 Atieno Odhiambo “Hegemonic Enterprises & Instrumentalities of Survival: Ethnicity & Democracy in Kenya”, 2004