Thursday, October 25, 2007

The ghosts we must bury!

Published on October 14, 2007, 12:00 am

By Ababu Namwamba

Change versus the status quo — that is the cutting edge issue that could determine the outcome of the General Election.

Top challenger, ODM’s Raila Odinga, has fashioned his campaign around the clarion call of change.

His argument is that what Kenya needs is reconstruction (ujenzi) and not mere recovery (ukarabati). The incumbent, PNU’s Mwai Kibaki, is hanging on the mantra of continuity (kazi iendelee). The thrust of his campaign reflects the American saying that: "If it is not broken, don’t fix it."

The President is asking Kenyans to seriously question the prudence of firing a man who has turned around a vessel that seemed headed to the seabed when he became captain.

Kenyans could not have asked for a better platform in an electoral duel that perhaps has more at stake than any other since independence.
I have one fear though.

The aftermath of this election could well leave another foul taste of disillusionment, unless we remain hyper vigilant and the new leadership keeps faith with the dream of truly setting Kenya free.

My apprehension is fed by three fundamentals.

The first is the danger posed by political opportunists and brokers.

As troops mass on either side in readiness for this grandmother of all battles, there are amazing acts of somersaults as all sorts of characters excitedly hop to the side that seems poised to triumph. Many are fellows of questionable credentials that have never taken a serious risk in their political lives, only waiting to ascertain the direction of the wind before making a move. A few do bring some premium with them, but most are musketeers who add absolutely no value to the platoons they join.

Indeed, they are more of costly baggage that only get in the way of true soldiers, eventually distorting the tempo of change. Tragedy is that in a haste to swell the numbers, all sorts of charlatans will be received with glee, like some prize catch.

Second is the risk of re-emergence of hero worship and sycophancy. It is perfectly fine to garland and venerate our great leaders. But we must never forget that we are all fallible and only human, however towering our stature.

Holding back his image

The Kenyatta and Moi eras took sycophancy and hero-worship to sickening levels. The Kibaki regime must be credited for halting that slide, with little but significant measures like holding back his image from our currency and brushing patronising proclamations like "mtukufu rais".

We must not allow a resurrection of those ghosts. Our faith must be invested in strong institutions of State and servant leadership that recognises shortcomings of the individual while celebrating team play and a corporate management style.

But perhaps most chilling is this niggling apprehension that the more things seem to change, the more they actually remain the same.

I look at the leading teams in this year’s election, and I see such a confusing blend of characters, histories and interests on either of the sides. For this, my mind is left reeling as to which side really is sheep and which is wolf.

Confronted with this alarming reality, my prayer is that those heading the respective teams will somehow escape being held hostage to the demands of the confusion. Unless this is guaranteed, we could as well be headed for another false start. That would be a tragedy of monumental proportions, for our country craves a momentous transformation.

Kenya craves for real transition. We need a generational transition, not in terms of age per se, but in ideology. The neo-imperialist mindset should give way to vibrant visions in consonance with the third millennium. Kenya must slay the serpent of negative ethnicity, by replacing dark shadows that amplify our differences with a sunny mosaic that celebrates our diversity. We must give every Kenyan good reason to transfer their primary allegiance from the tribe to the nation-state. Those reasons are equitable sharing of the nation’s wealth, security for person and property, dignity, justice and fairness to all.

Kenyans deserve a new deal anchored on equity, which appreciates that there is enough within our borders for us all – what we must do is to nurture and share it fairly.

As Former South African Nelson Mandela would say: " Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. We can be that great generation, by midwifing the momentous transformation our nation craves.

The writer is an advocate of the High Court

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