Let us try out ‘pro rata’ democracy

Tuesday September 12 2017

President Uhuru Kenyatta AND Nasa presidential candidate Raila Odinga

President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) speaks during a meeting with Kenya Private Sector Alliance members at State House, Nairobi, on September 11, 2017. Nasa presidential candidate Raila Odinga addresses journalists regarding his opposition to the tetanus vaccination on September 11, 2017 in Nairobi. ‘Nusu mkate’ (half a loaf) politics may be the cure for exclusivity and tribal animosity. PHOTO | SAMUEL MIRING'U AND KANYIRI WAHITO 

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Winston Churchill quipped that democracy is the worst form of government, save for all else. I tend to agree with the first half of his wisdom.

Democracy, as defined by Western ideals, is far from perfect but I reckon that it would be lazy of us to assume, as Churchill did, that we cannot improve it.

The ‘winner takes all’ democracy is not practical for Africa, Kenya in particular.


Thanks to the colonial ‘divide and rule’ policies, we don’t have cohesive nations but a grouping of tribes that tolerate one another.

After the democratic space was fully opened in 1992 through the repeal of Section 2(a) of the Constitution (to remove the provision of Kenya being a de jure one-party State and usher in multi-partyism), emerging political parties have been defined by ethnic and not ideological composition.

It was no surprise that tribal clashes erupted soon after the 1992 and 1997 elections as tempers flared over mainly lack of tolerance in sharing economic and political resources.

The tribal nature of the parties was clearly evident.

President Daniel arap Moi and Kanu party had a loyal following in his native Rift Valley.

Raila Odinga’s National Development Party (NDP) was a North Nyanza party, Wamalwa Kijana’s Ford-Kenya a Western Province outfit and Mwai Kibaki’s Democratic Party (DP) a Gema grouping.

Moi rode the disunity in these tribal conglomerations to cling to power — albeit with a weak majority.


This explains why his second term was at one point such a weak regime that he invited NDP to a merger with Kanu.

The offspring of this ‘marriage’, New Kanu, was actually Kenya’s first coalition government in the multi-party era.

This brought about internal democracy in Kanu, where members could now publicly disagree with the President — as happened when Moi handpicked Uhuru Kenyatta for his successor.

This freedom bore the breakaway Rainbow movement that formed Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which united with National Alliance of Kenya (NAK)— a congregation of three communities: Wamalwa’s, Kibaki’s and Charity Ngilu’s — to form the national Rainbow Coalition (NARC).


Easily one of the largest nationally representative coalitions ever in Kenya, NARC was not a political party per se but a loose coalition of many tribes and it — unsurprisingly — won the 2002 polls by a landslide.

In the hotly contested 2007 elections, President Kibaki left NARC to vie on the Party of National Unity (PNU).

Some claimed Orange Democratic Movement’s (ODM) Raila was rigged out, which led to post-election violence.

As a truce, Kibaki and Raila crafted the Grand Coalition government — the third in the multi-party era, this time round, however, coded into the Constitution.

Notably, this relationship was very fruitful.

Despite the expected wrangles, with both factions playing as each other’s check and balance (with no major opposition in place), the team achieved a lot.

Top on the list was the promulgation of a mutually accepted Constitution in 2010.

Besides marked economic growth, virtually every part of the country felt represented in government.

I call this pro rata democracy — where everybody gets a share of government in the ration of popular support.


In a country where being in government means controlling 70 percent of national resources, it is foolhardy to expect calm if all you need is 50 per cent-plus-one vote to occupy State House.

Beware, however, of the possibility of having a coalition of a few big tribes — which would meet this threshold but exclude the rest of the country from leadership.

That only two tribes have led the country since Independence in 1963 and are poised to continue for the foreseeable future should make us worried.

Let’s relook at our Constitution and include sharing of power to accommodate the best loser in an election.


The presidential runner-up would become a semi-executive prime minister with power to appoint a percentage of the Cabinet positions equivalent to the votes garnered.

In the August 8 General Election, for instance, Raila would have become the premier with an effective control of 44 percent of the government — going by the official results since nullified by the Supreme Court.

‘Nusu mkate’ (half a loaf) politics may be the cure for exclusivity and tribal animosity.

They say if you want to walk fast, walk alone, but if you seek to walk far, walk with others. We certainly want to go far.

Mr Sissey is an entrepreneur. [email protected]