Opposition shouldn’t take eyes of ultimate goal: A just society

Maina Kiai by Maina Kiai
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The Jubilee regime would like nothing better than for the opposition and the angry half of Kenya to focus on 2022, and to see the ongoing commotion in Nasa continue as different individuals turn their attention to 2022.

Why? Because preoccupation with tribe, personalities, and whose turn it is to contest in 2022 means we relegate the critical issues of inclusion, and electoral justice and reforms to the periphery.

Meaning then that Jubilee can pretend there is normalcy, bolstering its low legitimacy. 

Moreover, it can then also focus on its internal wrangles and machinations, which it is unable to do now as it combats Nasa resistance efforts. 


It is disappointing that much of the Nasa leadership — whether in ODM, Wiper, ANC or Ford-Kenya — seem besotted by 2022. 

Yet, if attention is shifted to 2022, reducing focus on non-violent actions, boycotts, and expressing the palpable anger of half of Kenya to force the necessary changes, 2022 will be a Jubilee walkover. 

Yes, politicians generally prefer to focus on power and how they can get to exercise it — rather than on the hard work that is needed to make power useful to majority Kenyans — perhaps because some of them are really only interested in what they can personally get from being in power. 

But I believe this positioning for status and position misreads the current mood in the country, and the common political habits of the past may not work this time.

These self-serving habits, instead, will open up space for others to rise up and embody the aspirations of the majority who want a better Kenya that is inclusive, that conducts unimpeachable elections, that is not governed on a winner-take-all system, and one that focuses on raising the living standards of our majority poor as the engine of our development and dignity.

And how soon they forget even recent history! 

In 1992 after the repeal of Section 2A of the constitution that decreed a one-party state, it was clear we needed to reform the constitution, and change the laws and structures that facilitated and enabled one-party rule. 

It was clear without these changes, the elections would be manipulated, and divisions in the opposition engineered and amplified, meaning Daniel arap Moi would return to power.

But perhaps blinded by the size of the crowds and the excitement in the air, leading politicians heeded the advice from Smith Hempstone, the US Ambassador — who had played a positive role in pushing back against one party rule — that they go into elections and change the constitution thereafter. 

That was disastrous and predictable, Mr Moi wangled his way back to power. 

It took 18 years before we successfully changed the constitution and at great cost to human lives, the economy and our value system. 

In fact, it is arguable that had the 2008 crisis not occurred we would probably not have a new constitution now. 

The intervening years from 1992 were horrible. 

The corruption we see now has its roots to that time, as those in power grabbed everything — forests, public land, and outright looting via Goldenberg scandal. 

They even printed money without a production base! 

The economy was a mess, as growth stagnated and investing became impossible except for a few. 

Opposition leaders who were critical and defiant were routinely harassed, beaten, arrested, tear-gassed and persecuted in ways quite similar to what is going on now. 

But that resistance clarified which opposition leaders best embodied our aspirations.

The big mistake then, as now, is that opposition leaders took their eyes off the real prize that Kenyans want and deserve: A better, fairer and more just society that is inclusive. 

Instead they focused on themselves and their “turn to eat”. 

It seems obvious that the leadership we need and deserve as Kenyans is one that will prove itself by focusing on the common good. 

We seek leaders who have vision, but also who have the guts to stand up to the state and its machinery, rather than those serving narrow interests.

If the Nasa leaders continue chest thumping, they could well find themselves marginalised, perhaps replaced by leaders from the counties who show courage and vision.

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