Kenya: The laughable state of our politics and political parties ~ Alex Njeru
The political party primaries/nominations are over; we are now set for the general elections on 3rd March 2013. The nominations were farcical to say the least; as a matter of fact there are no political parties in Kenya. What we have in Kenya are political entities that generally appear at least a year before general elections solely as a means of conveyance to state house and parliament. A strip down of Kenya’s political parties reveals what they are.
The National Alliance, a newbie in Kenya’s political set-up and Uhuru Kenyatta’s chosen vehicle into State house is an amorphous entity in itself. The only thing holding, The National Alliance hereby referred to as TNA is the man himself, Uhuru Kenyatta, take him out of the picture and the party collapses and deflates like a pricked balloon. TNA is an ethnic outfit, very popular among the Kikuyu community of central Kenya, but as you will soon come to discover, most if not all political parties in Kenya are tribal outfits. Of course political parties are very good at disguising these ethnic truths behind facades of the odd party generals from different communities. TNA rallies around an agenda of, generational change, apart from that the party fails to coalesce around any real issue or issues apart from of course the pretty popular ‘our man and not our enemy must to make president’.
The Orange Democratic Movement ODM, arguably Kenya’s most popular party is no different; this one is a one man political machine, with an engine called Raila Odinga. Take Raila out of the picture and ODM sputters out of life like a steam engine in India running low on coal. The party runs on pro-equity and an overhaul of the status quo agenda. The party fails at the first hurdle of detailing how it will achieve its pretty utopic vision. It is also a tribal outfit, very popular among tribes in Western Kenya and particularly the Luos of Luo Nyanza. The party’s sole survival tactics revolve around merging various so ‘called disenfranchised communities’ into entities formidable political forces. For a party with the word ‘democracy’ as its middle name it is indeed ironical that this party is conspicuously lacking in internal party democracy. Raila Odinga dishes out political largesse to his friends and family in a most abhorrent manner. In this party the word democracy and law may be misconstrued to mean Raila’s word.
The other ones fare no better, the United Republican Party (URP) equally lacks in ideology and is pretty dependent on Messer William Ruto, and equally dependent on the Kalenjin community of the Rift Valley region. The United Democratic Front (UDF) is in itself dependent on the Luhya community. Then there’s the rather comical Wiper Democratic Party, led by the current Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka. To begin within how on earth do you call a party ‘Wiper Democratic Party’? This is a mockery in democracy.
This pretty short profile on Kenyan political parties is a pointer to our skewed democracy. For a country that claims to extol the values of multi-party democracy it is impossible to comprehend how we wryly ignore the very institution that lies at the very core of multi party electoral democracy, the Political Party.
Perhaps Africa under estimated the responsibilities that come with full fledged democracy. Africa’s undoing is her parochialism, never an issue goes in Africa without being examined under the multi-focal lenses of ethnicity, religion, sectarianism and kleptocracy. From these ruins political parties should rise, which in part explains the emasculated and ineffective organs we call political parties.
Democracy and the fruits can only be enjoyed in the completeness of an environment that has strong core institutions and I am afraid that until we have political parties with spine and back-bone like the USA’s Republican Party or the Democratic Party, or Australia’s Labour party, then I am afraid we shan’t have an Obama, Kennedy, Lincoln or Julia Gifford in any African country in the foreseeable future.
Alex Ndungu Njeru is a major contributor to the African Liberty “Voice of Liberty Africa, VOLA” platform