For decades, Kenya’s political elite have hypnotized their tribes-people and pushed the narrative that inclusivity, developments, economic stability, affordable health and education, justice, and democracy can only be achieved if they are elected into office.
Through cleverly orchestrated campaigns, promises, manifestos, and slogans, the common citizens have often believed in these politicians and got carried by the political wave and sophistry.
Sadly, the much-awaited fulfillment of the promises has always metamorphosed into a disappointment, with most of the elected politicians crafting excuses and riding on blame games and unverifiable accusations aimed at justifying them for not delivering to the public.
The saddening part of it
But what pains me most is the thought of the many conflicts which come in handy with Kenya’s politics and, in general, Africa.
Within no time, best friends are quickly turned into worst enemies, families break and relationships crush just because the friends, partners and family members are supporting different political candidates and are of opposite political affiliations.
Violence quickly erupts and political fanaticism becomes thicker than blood and family ties. Peace eludes us that easily and swiftly.
Intolerance of political differences and scolding the beauty of diversity take the lead. It’s sad.
We still have fresh, bitter memories of politically-fueled tribal clashes, ethnic antagonism, unnecessary blood flows, and massive delocalization of citizens, all in the name of politics and general elections.
Cases of people hanging themselves because their candidate of choice did not win the election, cases of gender-based violence related to politics and elections, and cases of election-related murders are commonplace in my country.
When all this happens, the minors, who may not even be aware of what politics is, the women and people with disabilities (the differently-abled) bear the brunt as the biggest casualties.
Lives are lost. Young people’s dreams are shattered within no time.
It’s nothing to celebrate. Every sense calls for a change of the narrative.
Research by Accord on pioneering peace pathways reveals that since the mid-1990s, election-related violence has been evident in Kenya.
A deep-rooted fear among Kenya’s largest ethnic groups of being excluded from political influence and power, and a possible exclusion from access to resources, as they usually argue, has been driving the political conflicts and violence.
Kenyans are obsessed with the wrong idea that “unless one of our tribal kingpins occupies the top seat or other influential political positions, we will be sidelined and unrecognized.”
Accord further explains that the formation of inclusive political coalitions (to accommodate diverse political kingpins) has ensured (an almost fair) representation of Kenyans in both the ruling and opposition political parties.
However, these negotiated elite deals on democracy and sharing power have painted and cemented ethnic identity as the main factor for political mobilization, sidelining democracy and shifting focus from the fight against corruption and other issues wounding the country.
These elite yet masked, ethnic-based negotiations are evident today, even as we approach the hotly contested and much anticipated 2022 general elections, which are less than two months away.
For example, in May, Kenya’s top political elites seeking the presidency spent an unusually long time choosing their running mates.
Evidently, the tribe of extraction of the preferred candidates remained an important factor in this process.
Of more importance and urgency is the clarion call that the time is now ripe for Kenyans to declare a resounding “NO” to Kenya’s ballot of division.
Identity politics should not be the dividing line among Kenyans.
Instead, it’s time to look for the candidates who will deliver back to you as the electorate.
Is there room for ethnicity?
It’s time to sift through their slogans, campaign promises, and lies and see the one with the potential to deliver quality, affordable health and education, practical job creation strategies, food security, and other essentials of human life for a better, peaceful life.
It’s not the time to ask about the ethnic names, economic class, and identity of the politicians so that you may decide who to vote for.
That’s archaic and has proved us wrong all through.
Politics are not worth your life. They aren’t even worth breaking your family ties, friendships, and relationships.
Kenyans have suffered enough losses and pains from the wrong choices of politicians masking and branding themselves as saviors.
The idea of choosing an ethnic identity and tribal extraction has cost you and me enough job opportunities, a stable economy, unbiased development, affordable health benefits, and quality education, among many other nitty-gritties.
What should we do?
That is why every voter in Kenya and Africa should rethink before pushing a divisive conversation simply because their opinions and candidates of choice are not the best fit for the other person.
Democracy allows for the freedom of individual thought, opinion and decision-making without coercion.
But we must use that freedom well and make the right choices. We must sift through the lies and fake promises and see the forest for the trees!
We must rise beyond the temptation of using social media spaces to push and cement political propaganda, hatred, misinformation and disinformation.
Let’s use them to build political consensus, promote peace and knit a united country.
The drivers of change are you and I.
We must stand up against the divisive rhetoric and realize that our families, our friendships and our country shall remain many years after politics.
But in which state shall they be?
Change and pathways to a peaceful country require immense efforts and willingness by all actors.
They are neither linear nor self-implementing.
Civil society initiatives, democratic movements, religious groups, tech giants in Kenya, peace-building organizations, Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (which runs Kenya’s election process), and any other individual promoting peace, inclusivity and equality, must raise their voices and champion unity and oneness of thought for a united Kenya, before, during and after the general elections.
Thanks to the many organizations, activists and individuals already at the forefront, promoting peace and national unity, even amidst the unpredictable political times.
But even more significantly, politicians must unmask themselves and push an agenda of true unity, inclusivity, democracy and coexistence.
Hate speech, ethnic profiling, insults and circulation of any other potentially harmful content risking national peace and security must be avoided if Kenya is to emancipate herself from the shackles of politically-fueled conflicts and ethnic census in the name of elections and move forward.
The electorate must be firm on its decision.
It must aim at redeeming Kenya’s lost glory by installing the right leaders from top to bottom, considering their ideas and not their ethnic extractions.
Kenyans must embrace diversity throughout the electioneering period and remain intact after the elections.
They must rise beyond political differences, consider their similar roots and other unifying factors, and not yield to any form of division.
Family members and friends must be willing to tolerate unalike political affiliations and the choice of candidates.
It’s the spirit of democracy and must be embraced by all.
Politics and elections should never brew any divisions, be it in the family unit or at the national level.
Things that unite us are much more than who and what aims at separating us.
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