If I spoke too soon when I gave Kenya’s electoral governing body a clean bill of health over the organisation and running of this year’s General Election, I own up and beg my readers’ indulgence.
But then, my apology will not be anywhere near self-flagellation for not seeing that the fat woman had not sung when I lauded the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for a job well done. For, indeed it was done well, up to that point.
Up to the point when I was writing my piece, I had observed, as many others had, the orderly fashion in which the results from constituencies across Kenya were streaming in, being received, collated and posted.
It was that discipline, that serenity that had overwhelmed me and, naturally desperate to get a sweet story once in a while does not hurt anyone.
I am not going to change tack and see too many glaring shortcomings in the way that the election was run, because, simply, there were very few, especially when we compare them with what Kenya’s neighbours to the south and to the west are used to doing.
The point here is that in all matters developmental, even the best is not good enough, and there is always room for improvement.
For me, it has been a grim struggle all along for Kenya ever since I started following the politics of the country at various stages, since I was in my early youth.
Even today I still remember one Ronald Ngala of KADU, who advocated the policy of “Majimbo” until he died in a motor accident caused, we were told then, by bees invading his car on Mombasa road.
Is it not ironical that the policy of “Ugatuzi” embraced and practised by all today has its intellectual genesis in Ngala’s seminal labour back then?
Many a time it looked like the Kenyans were so hopelessly divided along ethnic lines that there was no possibility for them to organise along more serious issues, until it started getting accepted that the tribal units, though too often vilified, are the building blocks on top of which national cohesion could be crafted.
And why not?
Before the colonial expeditions that came to capture our land masses, we had neither Kenya nor Kenyans, and the colonial political organisation was just for the organisation of the forced labour into which we were shoehorned to supply the metropoles with whatever they needed to make themselves more powerful.
Kenya’s example can fascinate. The British colonists who stumbled onto the rich and seductive lands around Mount Kenya and the Rift valley — remember Happy Valley? — were perhaps only passing through, going to Jinja to secure the source of the Nile, to make Egypt and the Suez Canal safer, so as to protect the passage to India!
There was precious little concern for the welfare of Kenya and Kenyans except as cogs in the great imperial wheel with its axel in Bombay.
Even these names, Kenya and Kenyans, were a British invention, just as Tanganyika was German.
Ngala’s quest around the policy of “majimbo” was a recognition of the diversity of Kenyans and the desire for the various communities to have governance structures and processes corresponding to the imperatives of their localities and cultures.
If all politics is local, devolved politics becomes king.
Of course, after 2010, there have been complaints to the effect that devolution has somehow translated into corruption being devolved to local counties, but my response to that is that it must be a good thing if that is true, as efforts to fight that corruption will also be devolved to the local levels, making every Wanjiku at the most basic level a full-fledged participant in the anti-corruption crusade.
So, as far as I am concerned, devolution has been a good thing for Kenya, and only needs to be fine-tuned to make it more efficient and responsive to local needs.
That said, I have to register my reservation around a number of issues that I observed.
One arises out of what has come to dominate the conversations around the powers of the chair of the IEBC, who seems to have been given absolute powers (by the constitution) to make decisions without taking into consideration the views of other commissioners.
In the instant case, where a majority of the commission would effectively be in the minority by operation of constitutional provisions, I think there needs to be urgent changes to those provisions, because it is a no-brainer to have a commission that is in effect a one-man ‘commission’ in certain crucial matters.
As it seems certain that the losers in the presidential polls will challenge the chairman’s results in court, is there a possibility that more than half the commission will side with the petitioners against the results given by the chairman of the commission?
I have no way of knowing, and time will tell. It looks like the fat lady has not sung yet.
Jenerali Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: [email protected]