We're in this fix because of you and me

Wednesday October 25 2017

By JOHN WALUBENGO
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For the first time since I started writing this blog, I realise that whatever I may share technology wise will amount to nothing, unless Kenya successfully navigates this election week and beyond.

So this week, let us pause and engage as Kenyans, because being Kenyan is paramount and supersedes matters ICT.

Siasa mbaya, maisha mbaya’- bad politics, results in bad life. This was the parting shot from our former President, Daniel Moi, who was discredited then but his words of wisdom have become appropriate and prophetic.

It is ironic that over the last 15 years, Kenya has made remarkable progress in ICTs, Transport, Education, Energy amongst other sectors but stubbornly remained pre-historic and primitive in its politics.

In technology lingo, we have basically failed to come up with an ‘app’ that can fix our tribal politics. How can we be home to the globally acclaimed M-Pesa, Konza Tech City, Digital Learning amongst others, while failing spectacularly to innovate our politics?

Kenyans icons like David Rudisha, Victor Wanyama, Humphrey Kayange, Ngungi Wa Thiongo, Ali Mazrui, Wangari Mathaai, Lupita Nyongo and our biggest and most famous export - Barack Obama -  make Kenya the envy of countries across the globe.

We lay claim to some of the new wonders of the world, like the Masaai Mara, stunning coastal beaches, the majestic Rift Valley, spectacular lakes, mountains, deserts and many other God-given natural habitats. 

Yet over the last fifty years, we have remained trapped in a vicious, deadly game of thrones, fuelled largely by voting machines permanently configured along tribal lines.

How did we get ourselves here? Perhaps more importantly, how can we get ourselves out of this political hole?

Our biggest weakness as Kenyan citizens is that we are predictable, from a political point of view.  We are as open as a book. Politicians can read our voting minds, crowd us in a single basket, and then confidently hawk us around like groundnuts to the highest bidder.

POLITICAL GROUNDNUTS

Like what the old the colonial masters did in the 1800s, during the scramble and partition of Africa, today’s colonial-masters will sit in a board room and partition Kenya along tribal lines with scientific precision.  The science they use is not sophisticated but is simply based on your last name. 

And true to the programmed voting machine code, we the citizens of Kenya never disappoint. We will wake up and troop to the polling stations to vote - or not to vote - as planned by our latter-day colonial masters.

We, the citizens of Kenya are therefore our own biggest problem, not the politicians. Luckily, it therefore means that we are also our own solution. We are indeed the political fix or ‘App’ that we have been looking for.

Unless and until, we shake ourselves out of the tribal spell that has been brewed and cast on us by the politicians, we shall forever remain the political groundnuts to be traded and untraded for short-term political expediency.

We must therefore become Kenyans first, and then decide whether to be Nasa or Jubilee thereafter. After all we concede that Nasa, Jubilee, URP, TNA, CORD, PNU or whatever other outfits we have experimented with, are just tribal constructs that come and go – as and when the politicians deem fit.

We need for a moment to forget that we are neither NASA nor Jubilee and instead remember that we are simply Kenyans.  A group of discordant tribes privileged enough by God to occupy some of the most beautiful parts of Africa.

KENYA REMAINS

As a Kenyan parent, teacher, nurse, student, journalist, doctor, plumber, priest, entrepreneur or whatever it is you do to put food on the table - what contribution can you make to ensure that we continue to enjoy this privilege?

And we are not talking about voting or not voting. That is already settled. Many will vote, but also many will not vote.  So the question is really about what contribution you can make to ensure that after Thursday 26 October, 2017, project Kenya remains a going concern.

Whether you vote or abstain, the root cause of our dysfunctional, tribal-driven political system will survive Thursday 26 Oct 2017, and perhaps become more reinforced and entrenched.  We shall therefore have to continue searching for that magical ‘app’ that can fix our political problem. 

That ‘app’ will not come from the politicians since for them, the current tribal arithmetic works perfectly for them.  They do not have to work hard to convince you about manifestos and other irrelevancies; they only need to remind you about your last name and you fall in line.

In short, we're in this fix because of you and me.  And only you and I can get us out of it.

Mr Walubengo is a lecturer at Multimedia University of Kenya, Faculty of Computing and IT. Email: [email protected]u.ac.ke, Twitter: @Jwalu