In the next six months, Kenyans will be exposed to a charged political situation. Our country will experience the rebirth of all sorts of manoeuvres aimed at winning elective posts.
Unquestioningly, in the attempt to free ourselves of the enemy without, we might be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and chauvinists is the best way to take their place. That is an option we must all reject.
Our nation with its open wounds that affect many, demands that we resist all forms of cynicism and polarisation, which would divide us into us versus them. Campaign gatherings should reflect the decency of our people, foster a sense of common purpose and usher in a new beginning where we rise and fall as one.
During this period, our efforts must be geared towards promoting the well-being of all Kenyans. We must move forward together in a renewed spirit of solidarity. Thus, the voice of mwananchi should be the guiding star. For it is a voice of love and fraternity; hope and fairness. For many, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet others remain disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence and despair. If we want security, we must give security; if we want to be heard, we must listen. By so doing, we recognise a simple but powerful truth: we need one another. Moreover, our National Anthem directs us to constantly relate to one another; to reject hostility and instead adopt reciprocal subsidiarity, in an effort to do our best. It calls us to be our neighbour’s keeper as no man can be fully free if his neighbour is not.
On August 8, a generation raised in the shadows of the stifling single-party politics will seek responsibilities in a nation warmed by the sunshine of political freedom, but still threatened by omnipresent ethnic hatreds, socio-economic inequalities and deep political divisions. Though these challenges are fearsome, so are our strengths.
We must resist complacency; keep our resolve; and never let down our guard. We must rededicate ourselves to the very idea of Kenya. An idea born in a pre-independence revolution; an idea ennobled by the knowledge that we can summon from our diversity the deepest measure of unity; and, an idea tempered by the conviction that Kenya’s heroic journey must forever be forward. As we enter this crucial phase of our nascent democracy, let us do it with love and hope; with effervescence and discipline. Let this election be the thread that enables us to weave our multi-coloured coat into the fabric of unified Kenya. Let it unite us around our common values. Leaders should invest in building bridges, not walls; morality, not corruption; peace, not chaos; unity, not disunity; love, not hatred; and, tolerance, not bigotry. Good leadership excites, energises and stimulates. It shakes complacency and inertia into action. Political leaders are important as they influence the distribution of resources and make decisions with far-reaching implications. It is worth paying attention to the following qualities when electing leaders this year.
A good leader is an exemplar of integrity to the people he represents; is honest and responsible for his actions and decisions; is beyond egoistic need for power and or attention; has no attachment to any agenda as his beliefs are informed by those of his followers; has goals that are specific, achievable and measurable with no unsustainable quick fixes; thinks globally but acts locally as he recognises that in order for the country to prosper, individuals must realise their dreams; and uses reliable information to make decisions as he does not take what is similar to his views as facts.
Candidates should lower their voices as Kenya has suffered a fever of words; angry rhetoric that fans hatred.
Leaders must stop screaming at one another and speak quietly enough so that their words can be heard as well as their voices. We all have solemn responsibilities!
Prof Wanjohi Kibicho is author, 'Sex Tourism in Africa: Kenya's Booming Industry' and 'Traditional Martial Arts: A Portrait of a Living Art'.