By Jerry Okungu
January 23, 2013
I didn’t like the mayhem that was visited upon us most of last week in most parts of the country. If it wasn’t happening in Kisumu, Homa Bay and Siaya it was happening in Kajiado, Mombasa and Othaya. And the mayhem, destruction and business disruption was in equal measure. Old tyres were the preferred choice of expressing our displeasure against whoever had wronged us.
I have this strange feeling that elections as we know them are as alien to us in this continent as those who imported them into our region. In better days, in those days of my grandfather and my father, their democracy was a simple process. It did not require lorry loads of imported voters to come and confirm that so and so was the people’s choice. It did not require elaborate long queues of people losing their sleep over an election only to remain in the cold, sun, rain and still return to their homes because some clever chap diverted their voting papers to the other corner of the country.
Our forefathers were a lot cleverer than us. They did not need democracy as we know it today to run the affairs of our society. We had elders and wise men of the village who had taken ages learning from their seniors the art of governance, conflict resolution and even meting out punishment to criminal elements in our society. In extreme situations those who committed murder, rape or incest were ostracized from their communities and word spread to neighboring communities not to give them shelter. The tag itself was punishment enough. The same elders had the added responsibility of recruiting new ones in to their ranks such that continuity was ensured.
Looking at what happened in recent elections in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, DR Congo, Nigeria, Senegal and Egypt, one gets the feeling that this thing called democracy is not working for us. We have to find another way of electing our leaders. In any case the very people we strive to elect in to offices are normally the first ones to break the rules of engagement. That is why elections materials are hijacked and destroyed as happened in Murang’a and Homa Bay during primaries. In some constituencies like Nyando, Muhoroni and Kisumu West, they were not so lucky. Voting materials arrived four good days long after the elections were over. Of course considering that these constituencies are all in Kisumu County with an international airport, one assumed that since the voting would start at 6am on January 17 through to 6pm on the same day, a good elections planner, if he cared to succeed would fly in all the materials on the morning of January 16 and ensure they are all distributed to constituency election supervisors. This was not to be.
Prof. Nyong’o himself a victim of this latest fiasco in our election process wrote an interesting article in the local press where he competently cited mature democracies such as Britain, France, Israel and the USA. In all those states he quoted, local party officials have the powers to nominate state representatives, national assembly representatives and councillors.
It is the reason we never hear of primaries for senators in the USA or Lords in Britain. That is the work of party managers who have all the data on all members including their competence either as legislators, senators, governors or county representatives. We only hear of them when they are competing in general elections. It was the reason Obama’s replacement as Senator of Illinois was not contested. It fell upon the sitting governor to nominate a replacement.
To some extent, what Prof. Nyongo’ was vouching for on the eve of our disastrous primaries was actually being implemented by Narc, Narc Kenya, UDF, New Ford Kenya, Reclaim &Restore Kenya. Ironically, those parties that take pride in large following were the worst hit by this wave of violence. The big guns fell on their swords because they failed the test right from the beginning.
If what Mr. Gichuki Mugambi, the Othaya aspirant is saying is true; that in Othaya nursery school, goons and Administration police led by one of the aspirants invaded a long line of voters at 7pm, put out the lights and chased away voters, why would any civilized person do such a thing in the President’s backyard? It can only mean one thing; these thugs simply don’t understand the kind of democracy the society is trying to impose on them. This ignorance was displayed everywhere in the strongholds of popular parties. This flagrant abuse of the process was more obvious in URP, TNA and ODM voting areas. It was the reason there were riots in Kondele, Yala, Rodi Kopany, Homa Bay, Mombasa, Eldoret, Kericho, Muhoroni, Bondo, Siaya and Ahero.
It is time we changed cause if what we have cannot work for us.