Many scholars on the African continent have explored the question of what ails Africa particularly in the arena of politics and governance. Perpetual conflict and poverty as inevitable consequences of poor governance have made Afro-pessimists to describe the continent as a scar on the conscience of humanity.
Many argue that adversarial politics driven by ethno-centric political parties whose ideology is nothing but the tribe as the major rallying call is bad for the progress of the continent. In this sense ethnic-based political competition, winning an election in Africa, according to PLO Lumumba, is akin to winning a lottery – some kind of a gateway to personal accumulation of public resources for private use.
Ethnic political parties are used by ethnic warlords to ascend to power, retain power or bargain for power for selfish gains often touted as community power.
Because of the high stakes involved, electoral competition has increasingly become a matter of life and death and whoever loses a presidential contest always believes that he has been rigged out and therefore his community has been denied access to power and resources thus leading to deadly post-election violence.
In order to address this, many African countries end up with bloated governments so as to appease the warring parties as aptly captured by PLO Lumumba in his address to a Security Conference held Kigali – Rwanda in May 2019.
Lumumba says that “under the guise of democracy in a number of African countries we create offices which are siliquas:- you will have a president, a first deputy president, a second deputy president, a prime minister, first deputy prime minister, second deputy prime minister….all those useless offices which make no sense because you have to appoint people into those offices and give them a motorcade so that when they go to their villages they look important, and the people own them as “ours.” People want to be included.”
This is exactly what Kenya seems to be gearing up for. We have been there before during the Grand Coalition Government (2008-2013) led by Mwai Kibaki as president, Kalonzo Musyoka as Vice President, Raila Odinga as Prime Minister with Musalia Mudavadi and Uhuru Kenyatta as Deputy Prime Ministers together with many ministers and their assistants.
Does anyone remember the legacy of Raila Odinga as Prime Minister or Mudavadi and Uhuru as Deputy Prime Ministers? Your guess us as good as mine. To the contrary, Raila’s best legacy is recorded during the struggle for multi-party democracy in the early 1990s. As for his legacy in Grand Coalition Government, a reading of Peeling Back the Mask can be helpful.
The truth of the matter, however, is that the Grand Coalition Government was assembled to appease the major ethnic warlords’ appetite for political power. At the heart of it were representatives from the 4 major ethnic communities namely the Kikuyu (Mwai Kibaki as president, Uhuru Kenyatta as one of the Deputy Prime Ministers), the Kamba (Kalonzo Musyoka as the Vice President), the Luo (with Raila Odinga as Prime Minister), and Luhya (Musalia Mudavadi as another Deputy Prime Minister).
This arrangement was arrived at after weeks of post-2007 election pogrom that senselessly claimed many innocent lives and displaced thousands others. However once the representative ethnic warriors were comfortably accommodated in government, the violence ended though animosity remains to this day.
Although the 2010 constitution that was widely praised as progressive and overwhelmingly endorsed by Kenyans sought to correct the perceived weaknesses in the previous constitution, it is emerging that it is equally a bad constitution that is not “inclusive” enough! That it promotes the winner to takes it all political culture.
However a careful look at the past close to 7 years reveals that the genesis of the problem is more to do with individual lack of faith in our institutions than the constitution.
Both the 2013 and 2017 elections were bitterly contested; again by the two major ethnicities; the Kikuyu (Uhuru Kenyatta) versus the Luo (Raila Odinga) with others aligning themselves as was appropriate for the representative lead hunters.
Had Odinga accepted electoral defeat in 2017 and moved on like he did in 2013, we would not be here talking about the referendum less than 10 years after adopting a new constitutional dispensation.
Raila unleashed a strategy he knows how to use best: the threat of post-2017 electoral violence triggered by his refusal to accept election results, perpetrated by his supporters, fueled by the merciless Uhuru-led security forces and augmented by Uhuru’s own ethnic base supporters.
Fearing what befell the country in 2007-2008, Uhuru gave in to the Raila blackmail and the duo engaged in a political intercourse dubbed “Handshake” that led to the conception of the Building Bridges Initiative.
Although the nation is still pregnant out of that politically illicit affair, political gynecologists have already run scans and they report that the child likely to be born has deformities namely a very weak presidency, a deputy president or two, an inflated prime minister and several deputy prime ministers.
Those in support of the BBI argue that the “winner takes it all” system is bad because it is not inclusive thus creating the aforementioned positions is the hallmark of inclusiveness. Of course they know that inclusivity is already guaranteed in the constitution but such is not their version.
They want a situation where whoever loses an election does not become the leader of opposition but rather is accommodated in government as Prime Minister! Why then should we go for an election? Other BBI enthusiasts have hinted that because we have a young president, there is need to create space for in government after his two constitutional terms come to an end.
In the final analysis, the inclusivity sought by the BBI proponents has got nothing to do with creating of jobs for the millions of unemployed youth from all corners of Kenya. It has got nothing to do with having an Ogiek occupying State House as the next PORK after Uhuru. What is being sought is an accommodation of the current traditional political players in this country by creating for them offices for status rather than function.
I have asked many times about the whole idea of BBI and I will continue asking….What bridges are we building? For who are we building them? What are they linking? Who is doing the building?