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Appointing political losers to posts an assault on democracy

Monday June 17 2019

President Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta issues a statement at State House in Nairobi on May 22, 2019. Getting the loser to have another bite at the cherry by appointing them to a state organisation undermines the democratic ideals required to establish fairness in elections. PHOTO | COURTESY 

KALTUM GUYO
By KALTUM GUYO
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In recent years, it has become common to see election losers appointed to positions of authority. Such appointments are allowed by political parties as one way to appease communities or the aspirants themselves.

FRUSTRATE

Winning and losing is the end result of any election. The winner, in many cases, deserves to rule the roost because they have become victorious by having been democratically elected. Getting the loser to have another bite at the cherry by appointing them to a state organisation, as a CAS or even CS undermines the democratic ideals required to establish fairness in elections.

There is no rule against Kenyans being appointed to state offices. However, it amounts to a form of recycling only a certain calibre of individuals. This causes the feeling that there are people who are indispensable. It also threatens the very essence of democracy that election is supposed to adhere to. Further, it does very little in tempering tribal conflict in areas that are prone to pre- and post-election violence.

The whole exercise of going into politics has become an easy route to appointment to public offices and makes a mockery of our democratic process. Essentially, it means there are no losers in Kenyan elections. Political patronage ensures that a crop of Kenyans would always occupy powerful positions in government, regardless of how badly they fared in the elections.

Politics in Kenya has become a lucrative business and source of employment. On the other hand, most of the aspirants’ intentions in politics is to acquire power (and, hence, wealth). When a political loser in a political race is appointed to a position that is higher than that of the victor, it shifts the position of power and places it into the hand of the former. This, no doubt, creates further tension between the two parties.

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In our volatile political scene, that is not wise. It gives the loser, who now happens to be wielding more power than the bona fide winner, extra muscle to frustrate the work of the latter. It also has the potential of stoking further violence as the election loser, who now is closer to centre of power, acquires the wherewithal to fan tension on the ground by use of state machinery at their disposal.

DESERVING

The recent spurt of violence in Matungu and Marsabit have the hallmarks of the scenario of a power shift between the loser and winner that, potentially, may have led to tension. Whether interference of the now-powerful loser is real or imagined is immaterial. What is realistic is the threat posed by the power wielded by previously politically injured party in an election.

President Kenyatta, in his quest to appease party members, may have ended up creating tension in areas that needed every help to reduce political tension. His intention may have been good, but it has not helped to reduce tension and violence, which are the hallmarks of our politics.

Appointment of political losers is also damaging to social mobility. When we recycle people as a token of patronage, the upward progression of youth is hampered. It also denies those from marginalised areas the opportunity to occupy higher offices, especially if the recycling has an ethnic bias.

The appointments also affect the principle of separation of powers. When known politicians are appointed to the Cabinet, contrary to the Constitution, that has the potential of interfering with smooth running of the Executive. The interest of politicians, at the end of the day, is how to survive in the political sphere. Their loyalty to work would be split. They will always have one eye on politics rather than fully concentrating on the job.

Losers in political posts now feel entitled and expect appointment to public bodies or even to the Cabinet. I do not believe this is right or fair on many Kenyans who are deserving to rise to these positions.

FAIRNESS

What such appointments mean is that it mostly takes participation in politics to rise to a powerful position, regardless of whether you win or lose in an election. That should never be the case.

This system has the potential of locking out many experienced and deserving ordinary Kenyans to serve their country. Such appointments add very little value to national development. If anything, it has the potential of stagnating it since every decision is influenced by politics or politicians. Depending wholly on politicians when their interests will always be self-centred around politics is a powder keg just waiting to explode.

Appointment of political losers should not be about getting ‘jobs for the boys’; it should be an exercise that is based on competence, integrity and fairness. It must have the interest of Kenyans at heart, not those of politicians or political parties.

The best option, however, would be to outlaw the practice in order to maintain peace in the country and enhance fairness in our democratic process.

Ms Guyo is a legal researcher. [email protected] @kdiguyo

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