Why political history is very important now

Saturday November 16 2019

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri is questioned on various issues, such as the high levels of aflatoxin found in some brands of maize flour, by the National Assembly Committee on Trade, Industry and Cooperatives in Nairobi on November 13, 2019. Leaders should be held to account for their laxity. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Political history teaches us that national, regional and global social problems primarily revolve in the sphere of politics.

Understanding political history grants us the tools to grasp and critically analyse current problems.

This is because political history as a social science explores politics more broadly than state-centred approaches.

It encompasses civil society, media and various organised and unorganised forces, movements and people of interest.

Speaking of people of interest, Kenyans should be wary of the slow but steadily shifting narratives about politicians’ sudden concern over people's lives.

In the recent past politicians — particularly those in the ruling party — were never willing to admit the flaws of the regime.


They labelled anyone who questioned these flaws anti-government even as the consequences of these flaws became vividly visible.


The Kenyan political culture is built on active short-sightedness and extreme gullibility of the people, of course, not forgetting rooted tribalism.

This is the holy trinity of defunct leadership that keeps Kenya in the hands of mediocre people. Sadly, it is precisely what's happening now.

Leaders are tapping into the short-sightedness and gullibility of the people to position themselves.

Kenyans need to speedily abandon this poisonous behaviour if they want better leadership. The time to stop being gullible and shortsighted is right now.

The people paying for the flaws of the government don’t need to be reminded that the current regime has in many ways failed because they are paying the price for that failure.

Companies are shutting down due to the high cost of running businesses, health facilities don’t have basic drugs, majority of the food isn't fit for consumption, taxes are high, the cost of living is higher, while the standards of living are horrendously low.

I could go on and on about the several ways in which government failures cost Kenyans their lives but that is besides the point.

My point is, politicians, by and large those whose actions supported an exploitative regime, cannot admit these obvious failures and expect accolades.

Kenyans must stop confusing the act of admittance for accountability because admitting to having caused harm to those who have been harmed doesn’t absolve them from the accountability of harm previously caused.

We must all be aware that the primary duty of a leader is to protect people from the monster that is systemic exploitation.

Anything else is political manipulation at its best, which works even better when people lack historical memory.

Political history, therefore, reminds us to not forget that democracy is about vigilant citizen participation and clarity of political memory.

More so when the people with the most to lose from genuine social change place themselves in charge of social change.

The writer is a policy analyst [email protected]