KENYA’S TRUMP MOMENT
The ideal conditions exist, including unprecedented levels of corruption, exclusion of certain communities from government, poverty, unemployment, high cost of living and hopelessness
There were some intriguing parallels between the approval of the Brexit referendum in the UK in June and the stunning election of President-elect Donald Trump. Voters aggressively unified across ideological lines in opposition. Despite having been described by media as primitive, racist, xenophobic, sexist and irrational, Trump caused one of the biggest upsets in modern history. He will be the 45th President of the US come January 20.
It is now emerging that institutions of authority in the West have relentlessly, and with complete indifference, stomped on the economic welfare and social security of hundreds of millions of people. Whilst they gorged themselves on globalism, free trade, Wall Street casino gambling and endless wars that enriched the perpetrators and abandoned the poorest and most marginalised to bear their burdens, they completely ignored the victims of their gluttony. These institutions and elite factions have spent years mocking, maligning and pillaging large portions of the population all the while compiling their own record of failure and corruption.
Brexit and Trump were angry protest votes in retaliation against systems rife with corruption and contempt for the citizenry and their welfare. The leadership lost touch with the people and failed to detect the intense but invisible resentment that had simmered under the surface for decades. Many are asking whether Kenya is now ready for a “Brexit-Trump moment”.
The ideal conditions certainly exist, including unprecedented levels of corruption, mafia-like cartels, exclusion of certain communities from government, poverty, unemployment, a high cost of living, hopelessness and a general sense of disillusionment.
Our method of voting, however, militates against a Brexit-Trump Moment. Kenyan voting trends during presidential elections are at best an ethnic census. Tribes rally behind their candidates, giving those in control of the most populous ethnic enclaves a distinct advantage. This makes the emergence of an independent candidate difficult as all are classified within ethnic lines.
One can state with a certain level of accuracy that the only genuine election held in Kenya was in 2002, when Narc won by a landslide. Immediately after that election, Kenyan optimism topped the world on the happiness index. Ethnic chieftains who have divided the national vote down the middle have controlled subsequent Kenyan presidential polls.
In 2002, Cord leader Raila Odinga transcended ethnic lines and supported Mwai Kibaki, an opposition candidate from the populous Central region thus turning the election into a protest vote against long serving President Daniel Moi and his preferred presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta.
Kenyans followed Raila’s cue and also transcended ethnic lines for the first time voting multi-ethnically. The effect was magical and electrifying as for the first time since Independence Kenyans united under one banner, burying Kanu in an avalanche of votes. Raila’s incredible act of self-sacrifice was not reciprocated as an MoU to appoint him Prime Minister was quickly trashed and he and his supporters were later fired from government. This led to the formation of ODM in 2005.
The key to change in our local political scene still lies with Raila. Like or hate him, he remains the centre of our politics. But for as long as he holds on to his vote bloc and remains on the presidential ballot, the Jubilee Party will sit pretty and win.
Jubilee stalwarts have learnt over time and are now adept at how to obtain the votes that cause the tipping point to their advantage in an electoral contest. Releasing his solid vote bloc to another candidate, however, would be a game changer.
At the very least, it would sway both the undecided and loyal, but disillusioned, voters to the opposition. The minimum effect of this would be to deny Jubilee the constitutional 50+1 requirement, forcing a runoff between the two top candidates.
Whether the Cord leader is willing to make one final sacrifice remains to be seen. Negotiations on a national Super Alliance are ongoing.
ONE CAN STATE WITH A CERTAIN LEVEL OF ACCURACY THAT THE ONLY GENUINE ELECTION HELD IN KENYA WAS IN 2002