Saturday, September 13, 2008



The Standard
September 13, 2008
By Barrack Muluka

If there were a nation of gods, it would be governed democratically. This is what the Philosopher Jacques Rousseau says in The Social Contract. But a nation of gods does not exist, anywhere. No society, therefore, is governed democratically.

The Philosopher is emphatic.

"There has never existed, and never will any true democracy," he says in the fourth chapter of this volume (also known as The Principles of Political Right). It is on account of this that he urges every individual to be courageously vigilant against all government, even if we assumed it was comprised of gods and sundry angels.

"The citizen should arm himself with strength and steadfastness and say, every day of his life (and) from the bottom of his heart, ‘I prefer a perilous freedom to a peaceful slavery.’"

Do we often imagine that political edifices, which we are partial towards are in the hands of gods? Beyond that, do we have the propensity to mistake anyone and everyone who as much as points a finger in the direction of such outfits to be the Devil himself? Writing in The Standard on September 11, 2008, Jerry Okungu, accuses independent political voices in the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Party of what he calls ‘party promiscuity’.

As if reading from the overbearing outdated Kanu script, he goes on to say, "political party managers must reign in those bent on party promiscuity.’"

He paints the portrait of a political shop in the infallible charge of saints, but at the risk of being sent under by wicked imps.

He does not understand, he says, why anybody would want to challenge Kenya’s Grand Coalition Government in Parliament.

Okungu says those seeking an official alternative voice in Parliament "harbour a sinister tribal agenda."

They behave as if they are spokespersons for "tribal communities that are a bunch of lesser beings with no brains of their own."

The rest is appalling and undressed diatribe. It craves no affinity whatsoever with scholarly thought, idiom and diction.

In typical anachronistic Kanu-speak he concludes, "The only way to instill discipline in political parties is to act tough. In this regard, the riot act that was read to ODM members in Naivasha over the weekend was not blunt enough. These MPs should resign now…. It makes sense to get rid of a problem now rather than later."

And I would have thought that we had travelled this primordial path before and found it grossly slippery? This kind of fanaticism was very much in vogue in the heyday of the Kanu hegemony. You spoke against the party and its owners at your peril. Party expulsion and consignment to political Siberia was the order of the day. The party supremo spoke with the infallibility of the Holy Father.

The principal of Papal infallibility is predicated upon the belief that the Pope cannot err when he addresses Christian doctrine, its interpretation and practice. He cannot therefore be challenged, for his voice is the voice of Christ. Does Kenya’s governing elite want to arrogate itself political Papal infallibility?

Toe the line or quit

As in the old Kanu days, it is increasingly getting accepted that different shades of opinion on any one matter cannot co-exist. Only one opinion is right. You either toe the line or quit (Fwata Nyayo). It was the British novelist Arthur Eric Blair who sardonically wrote in Animal Farm, "Comrade Napoleon is always right. Thanks to the good leadership of Comrade Napoleon; how sweet this water tastes!"

I doubt that arbitrary scholars like Okungu deliberately set out to return Kenya to a dark age. As Barack Obama would say, "They just don’t get it."

They don’t understand that popular and democratic government has high propensity to transform itself into a dragon, hence the need to keep it in check before it begins its metamorphosis. Scholars of Okungu’s extraction are right on one thing though, "Now is the time to strike – while the iron is still hot." But they are wrong in the application of the thought. The iron is not the iron of democratic voices.

It is rather the iron of creeping intolerance. Ought it not be nipped in the bud now rather than be allowed to blossom into full autocratic plumage tomorrow?

ODM is first a movement and only secondly a political party. A movement is a journey of the common minded. But to be common minded is not the same thing as being like minded. The movement is open to all who may flow in the general direction of thought. They are welcome to join in and "flow with us." The strands of thought in a movement are not unlike the distributaries of the Fraser River of the British Columbia in Canada. The Annacis and the Annieville temporarily part ways at the tip of the Annacis Island only to meet later at the bottom of the island and crisply flow on to the Hudson Bay.

If it is true that we are not a nation of gods then we must open up our political institutions and their leadership to political audit. Good governments are best audited by the voice of the official opposition in Parliament.

Those who claim affinity to democracy and good governance will be loathe to throttle alternative voices in their parties and in government. As Chairman Mao Ze Dong of China used to say, "Let a million flowers blossom."