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08 Oct 2008 06:00
On the flat earth we live on the measure of a man or a woman does not take into account the infrastructure that carries them.
The businessman in Nairobi or Lusaka who must manage without credit, without electricity, without assumed running water or even a coherent policy environment must compete with the guy in Holland who is carried in a European Union-regulated, wireless-enabled, organic wicker basket while sipping a blend of vegan vitamin-enriched soy food.
The word “bail-out” does not exist in Africa, or the words “farm subsidy”, or zero-percent interest loans.
Wall Street can play Russian roulette with our billions and expect to be bailed out.
So, when we in Kenya look at Thabo [Mbeki] dearest with a new-found fondness, please excuse us. In Kenya a political party is an empty chassis which carries the Ferrari and the Ferrari is our president. To us it is a bit confusing to hear that Mbeki was ousted by his own party.
This whole year a new virus has been spreading to countries where elections are taking place. It is called “Doing a Kibaki”.
To do a Kibaki is to sit in one place after an election which you may have lost (we can’t tell if you did or did not, because you deliberately weakened the electoral commission one month before the election) while still commander-in-chief, sit and sit until the other side capitulates.
Doing a Kibaki needs an equal and opposite force. This one is called “Doing a Raila”. It means flapping your arms up and down helplessly when the country is burning and saying it is not me, the people and their machetes have spoken. So, both of you are each yo-yoing on a different side of the stage and from behind the gospel choir of 500 politicians start to chorus: “Me too, Me too — ooooo —”
So, it turns out what the people want and are prepared to kill for is the largest government in Kenya’s history, all being paid the largest salaries in Kenya’s history. In a new kind of massed choir called coalition government, which means a government of the political class, by the political class and for the political class.
This model has the potential to solve all Africa’s political problems because a warlord on a payroll starts being concerned more with manicures and Hummers than with AK-47s and youth militia.
Back to Mbeki dearest. Kenya became so notorious that even the very edgy politico, the man with the longest upper lip in the world, Mr Mugabe, actually borrowed our political model.
Mbeki had to go. He had no choice. He had no choice because the ANC is much stronger than him; because the courts have power; because the economy is not in the hands of the political class.
This may change, but for now, South Africa remains a vibrant democracy.
What we have in Kenya is an amended version of the one-party state we had 20 years ago. The effect of our election has been to destroy the public’s faith in the electoral process.
All those weeks we begged. Begged Raila and Kibaki to shake hands. What we were saying was that we are powerless against these individuals and their power bases.
Today much of our development funds are distributed by grants given to parliamentarians to distribute to constituents. Political parties have no meaningful memberships.
So, what our political class has said is: give us back the power and the influence we had before multi-party politics. We will make sure we perform well. So far, they are performing well. But it is only a matter of time before the usual glad-handing begins.
If there is no public accountability, no faith in the power of the vote, the political class can do what they want.
Justice Kriegler, who was in Kenya to investigate the post-electoral violence, said that our electoral commission needs to be disbanded.
He was right. He was right also to say that the commission needs to be overhauled and rethought.
This will not happen in the way he wants. This will not happen because the real problem is the power of the presidency.
Our president is more powerful than the combined efforts of all the constituent institutions of the country. Our Constitution is stranded because the presidency will not cede power.
Today the Kenyan electorate has been beaten to submission. Gikuyus are grateful for Kibaki; Luos are grateful for Raila; the Kalenjin thank God for Ruto.
The single overriding issue in Kenya is no longer jobs, or the economy, or democracy or human rights. It is fear. Kenyans fear the bogeyman on the other side and will accept any contortions to law and electoral processes either to keep their warlords in power, or have another coalition.
Mbeki has been ennobled by the institutions that enabled his presidency. We have been immeasurably diminished by our leaders.
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