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The real choice in coming elections

Monday June 26 2017

A Starehe resident votes in ODM party primaries

A Starehe resident votes in ODM party primaries at Ziwani social hall on April 30, 2017. It is time for the citizens to look at the bigger picture and move with dignity and purpose to change the State architecture forever. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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It is that season again! Politicians are all over by air, land and water, making all sorts of promises and outdoing themselves on insults and the number of political rallies.

It would be the biggest entertainment season were the issues at play not so serious.

From a gubernatorial candidate plucking tea on a constituent’s farm to candidates giving out branded maize flour and loaves of bread for free, the political landscape is not short of comic relief.

Looked at from a historical and socioeconomic standpoint, the August 8 General Election is significant, both symbolically and literally, to us, our children and our children’s children.

It reminds us of a disappointing past, presents us with an opportunity to break with the past and heralds a brighter and prosperous future.

The stark choice Kenyans are faced with is not that between Nasa and Jubilee or between political parties and independents.


It is a choice between holding onto the attitudes that have kept us in indignity for decades and charting a new path that will lead to a cohesive, trusting, ethical and dignified future driven by sound, effective, transparent and accountable leadership.


I pray that Kenyans will choose the latter, but should they opt for the former, I hope the guilt on our shoulders will be heavy enough to force us to make amends in the very near future.

I have no problem with those who will vote for Jubilee flag-bearer Uhuru Kenyatta.

I also have no problem with those who will cast their ballots for Nasa presidential candidate Raila Odinga.

I know there are many who will vote for my friend Dr Ekuru Aukot, Prof Michael Wainaina, Mr Joe Nyaga or the other presidential candidates. I have no problem with them.


Here is my problem. For more than five decades, the roles have been reversed slowly, but with determination, for the benefit of a few politicians, and to the chagrin of the voters.

Instead of the voters picking the candidates, the candidates are themselves picking the voters.

Instead of the politicians working for the voters, the voters are working for the politicians.

Instead of the voters holding the politicians to account, the politicians are holding themselves to account.

The politicians have zoned us so accurately along tribal and regional lines that it is possible to predict what each candidate will get just by looking at the number of registered voters. They know from our history that we are not persuaded by ideology, manifestos, integrity and respect for human rights, consistency, competence, track record or any of those ideals that make a nation.

Instead, we identify a tribal leader, deify and accord him unquestionable support, his character flaws notwithstanding.

When the leaders make economic choices that drive millions to poverty, we rally around them to protect them from those we have labelled as “others”.


Never mind that we will all suffer the same consequences when food inflation rises to 20 per cent.

When they make promises that seem outrageous, we don’t question where the money will come from or how this will affect taxation.

When they incite communities against one another, we make excuses for them.

When they insult each other, we cheer and when they steal, we celebrate and honour them with re-election or even hand them more consequential positions.

The politicians, with strong ethnic following have studied our thinking.


They know they can get away with anything – from mismanagement of the economy, to theft and murder.

Sadly, other elected politicians dare not speak out, even if they hold different views.

They have to be seen to be supporting the tribal chief or risk being thrown into political oblivion.

The community whose member is in power is made to feel that they co-own the presidency. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. The presidency cannot be co-owned.


It is possible to hold a leader accountable and still vote for them when they do your bidding.

Who benefits when the leader does his job properly?

The answer is as clear as the daylight sun, the vigilant citizens and the nation.

Thanks to years of misrule, a feeling develops that the tribe whose member is in power is benefiting more than others.


The others, too, rally around a leader to champion their rights.

That leader rises to a god-like status. Sadly, in this election, many will be driven by the siege and victim mentality and we could get it wrong again.

The nation cannot continue this way.

It is time for the citizens to look at the bigger picture and move with dignity and purpose to change the State architecture forever. That day is August 8.

Mr Nyang’aya is Amnesty International Kenya country director. [email protected]