In matters of politics, Kenyans live in their own tribal cocoons

Friday April 21 2017

Agents of Jubilee Party aspirants nominations

Agents of Jubilee Party aspirants on April 21, 2017 protest delay of nominations at M.V Patel Memorial Hall in Huruma Ward, Uasin Gishu County. In our peculiar brand of democracy, nominations have become more important than elections proper. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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A huge number of lucky folk are in a celebratory mood, for without breaking too much sweat, they are already assured of gratuitous honour and mouth-watering wealth in the next 109 days.

That is reason enough for jubilation for, of course, if you can win an election without expending too much of your money and energy, you are in clover.

Not so those hapless souls who have to fight every inch of the way to win elections.

The majority in Jubilee are in this unenviable position — unenviable because, apparently, nobody is getting free lunch in this party.


But even then, once they are nominated, they are as good as elected.

That is why, in our peculiar brand of democracy, nominations have become more important than elections proper.

That explains why aspirants have been fighting with everything in their arsenal, including dirty tricks, to win nominations.

If the violence already experienced during nominations in parts of the country is anything to go by, then we are in for very difficult times.

By the time this piece was written, only parties in the Nasa coalition had gone some way towards completing their nominations, and the emerging picture was not very encouraging.

For some reason, Jubilee had decided on a one-day venture, which was fraught with risk, but then wisdom prevailed and the nominations were staggered, with Nairobi as a stand-alone.

The kind of optimism that had informed the decision to do everything in one day had not been backed by past experience, but perhaps, in the final analysis, it was prudent to wait and see what would happen in opposition zones.

Politicians are all the same under the skin, and those in Jubilee are unlikely to behave any differently.

Considering the number of incidents already recorded in various Jubilee zones — kidnappings, staged or real, beatings, brainless attempts at rigging — nobody can say with any confidence that Jubilee nominations will not be equally shambolic.

Beyond nominations, there are weightier issues to think about, and they concern the reasons why our politics seems to be making huge strides backwards the more “progressive” we declare ourselves to be.

Clearly, politicians have succeeded in polarising this country to the extent that during elections, it seems like we inhabit different territories.

Just consider this. Anyone who might decide to run on a Nasa ticket in Central Kenya will be given very short shrift, just like would happen to anyone foolhardy enough to run on a Jubilee ticket in Nyanza.

Can we really say we are citizens of one country in matters politics?

Will there be a time when we can regard ourselves as true nationalists?

Only an incurable optimist would think so, and if it does happen one day, it won’t be in our lifetime.

This is because, in our collective wisdom, we cannot think beyond tribe.

We eat tribe, drink tribe, dream tribe, and when we wake up during elections, vote exactly the way our tribal chieftains want us to.

Is it any wonder that we end up electing so many imbeciles and ne’er-do-wells?

The only time some of us think about mundane matters like animal skins and hides is when our shoes pinch or the belt develops cracks due to old age.

But beyond worrying where the money to buy new ones will come from, we really don’t pause to wonder how those articles are made, or whether we are not paying too much for them.

Two years ago, I went shopping for a belt in a leading supermarket, expecting to buy one made from the hide of a Maasai bull.


Imagine my consternation when all I could see were over-priced imports from China.

This is when it struck me just how dependent we are on imported stuff even when we have the raw materials to manufacture those same products.

But this sort of behaviour may become history once the Kinanie Industrial Leather Park is set up at Athi River.

A part of Vision 2030 flagship project, Kinanie is supposed to eventually lead to the development of 36 tanneries and 18 value addition parks in which leather will be transformed into high-value products.

The strange thing is that at the moment, despite the huge number of animals starving to death in the drought-hit pastoral north, this country is deficient in hides and skins and we actually have to import them. Don’t ask me why.