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Broken promises to blame for Kenyans becoming cynical lot

Sunday April 16 2017

Members of the public queue to register as voters

Members of the public queue to register as voters at Kenya Medical Training College, Eldoret Campus, on February 14, 2017. The botched 2007 elections further reinforced the perception that this leadership is not about the people. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

RASNA WARAH
By RASNA WARAH
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Several people I have spoken with say that they will not bother to vote this year because of one or more of the following reasons: a) they are not convinced that the elections will be free and fair;

b) they believe that the elections will be rigged in favour of the incumbent;

c) they are disappointed with the opposition, which doesn’t seem to have its act together and whose leaders appear to want power for power’s sake and not because they want to make this country a better place;

d) they think that by endorsing candidates who are known crooks or who have been implicated in major scandals, both the government and the opposition are “vomiting on Kenyans’ shoes”; or

e) they believe that no matter who wins the elections, Kenya will not change for the better because corruption, tribalism and mediocrity have become a way of life in the public service, especially among the national leadership.

ELECTION VIOLENCE
Although the sample of the people I spoke with is extremely small, and is, therefore, not representative of the entire country, I am beginning to believe that voter apathy has become the defining characteristic of the August 8 elections.

Those who will bother to go and cast their ballots this year will have personal or political motivations for doing so, none of which will have anything to do with patriotism or civic responsibility.

It seems that after a long struggle for political pluralism, the Kenyan electorate has decided that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Will there will be violence during or after the upcoming elections?

I think that there might be party-instigated violence during the elections but little or no violence after the election results are announced because even the poor (the main casualties of post-election violence) have realised that their bodies are not worth sacrificing for leaders who enter public office for personal gain.

FIGHTING CORRUPTION
It seems the last four years have numbed us into a kind of self-induced coma and bred a cynicism that even a new Constitution and devolution could not diminish.

On the contrary, devolution has provided another opportunity for leaders to “eat”, a sad reality that makes many of us want to vomit on our own shoes.

These “acres of cynicism” were sown at independence and nurtured by successive governments that entrenched tribalism and corruption.

Even the optimism that swept President Mwai Kibaki to power in 2002 died when it became apparent that his government was not serious about tackling both tribalism and corruption.

A golden opportunity was lost then to steer Kenya on the right path.

ANGLO-LEASING

This missed opportunity has brought us to a place where hairdressers are awarded government tenders worth billions of shillings while petty thieves are shot dead by police or lynched by a mob in broad daylight.

If President Kibaki had not broken the promise that “corruption will cease to be a way of life in Kenya”, we would not be where we are now.

In the months after his victory, ordinary people were “arresting” police officers who demanded a bribe.

The “This is a Corruption-free Zone” signs at every government office were taken seriously – but only for a short period.

The Anglo Leasing and other scandals made it clear that it was business as usual at the top, despite the Kibaki administration’s transformative economic policies that combined sound economic strategies with targeted infrastructure development.

DISPLACED PERSONS

The botched 2007 elections further reinforced the perception that this leadership is not about “the people” but about tribe-based politics and personal ambitions.

It is worth noting that neither Mr Kibaki nor Mr Raila Odinga, his co-principal in the Grand Coalition government, ever visited a camp for internally displaced people or sent their condolences to the families that lost their loves ones in the violence that followed the 2007 elections.

It has become evident to a lot of people that the ideals set out in the 2010 Constitution are being trampled upon by those who swore to protect it.

If the political parties took Chapter Six of the Constitution on leadership and integrity seriously, they would disqualify more than half of all the candidates who want to be MCAs, governors, MPs or senators or who want to hold public office.

Kenyans have endured more than 50 years of broken promises; no wonder so many of us don’t care about elections anymore.

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