Welcome Kituyi; bring back politics of ideas, policies and ideology

Wednesday February 24 2021
Mukhisa Kituyi.

Former UNCTAD Secretary-General, Dr Mukhisa Kituyi, in Nairobi on February 14, 2021. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG


Former head of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development , Dr Mukhisa Kituyi, is back in Kenya to prepare to run for president next year.

In an interview on a local TV channel, he talked about his qualifications for the position, his views on the current political culture, and how he intends to accelerate Kenya’s development.

He mentioned, for instance, the immense opportunities in IT and how that sector could be the engine of growth. His arguments were scholarly, technical and ideological. He was eloquent and dignified.

In his commentary on our political culture, Kituyi mentioned two worrying trends: what he called the mainstreaming of bad political manners, and growth of politics of tactics as opposed to politics of purpose.

How the media in Kenya — wittingly or unwittingly — facilitates mainstreaming of political bad manners has been a recurring theme in this column.

The media does this through two related ways. First, it gives disproportionate coverage to politicians who engage in behaviour that would under normal circumstances be considered unsavoury.


Today, some of the most famous politicians are those who engage in outlandish or criminal behaviour. One politician, for example, became such a national political star through constant coverage of his antics that he could pick and choose where to stand for an elective post. He became an MP in two different constituencies and a governor in a different county.

Second, the media does this by ‘laundering’ dirty politics. For example, during the last election, a former senator was captured on TV throwing stones at opponents at a rally. A day later, he was on a morning TV show debating important national issues. Not once did the host of the show refer to his behaviour. What the show had done was sanitise, normalise and mainstream criminal behaviour.

We have come to understand politics as machinations, scheming, tribal arithmetic, buffoonery, tribal mobilisation, etc.; what Kituyi calls politics of tactics. Thus we cheer and elect into parliament masters of the political sleight of hand for the entertainment value of their buffoonery, not because they can help the country achieve any development goals.

We cheered as Nairobi came under incompetent, even thuggish, governance. And because we equate politics with ethnic nationalism, we elect the most rabid tribal demagogues.

The entrance into the presidential politics of Mukhisa Kituyi, Kivutha Kibwana and, hopefully, others of similar ideological and intellectual ilk, will bring civilised and purposeful politics back into the mainstream, and push buffoonery and thuggery back to the fringes. We will begin to understand the relationship between politics and issues of roads, hospitals, and reduction of poverty.

We will juxtapose a politics of ideas, policies and ideology against a politics of tribe and deceit and see where the rain started to beat us.

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator