KENYA’S ABIDING SHAME: A permanent electoral campaign mode, thanks to ‘Joshua’ Raila Odinga

Winston Churchill who, commented on the hapless Weimar Republic in Germany between the two World Wars, warned against a nation being permanently in electoral campaign mode.

The post-Kanu and post-Moi era Kenya can hardly be said to be a hapless period. However, we have been afflicted, as a society, by a politics of permanent campaign. And this has happened across two general elections (2002 and 2007) and two national referenda (2005 and 2010).

This condition of national permanent campaign mode has infected every sector of our society, including the mass communications media of newspapers, radio, TV and online. Visitors to Kenya who dip into the newspapers, blogs, social media networks and radio and TV complain of how heavily-laden with politics and politicking our communications are.


Wherever two or three Kenyans are gathered, even juveniles, the conversation soon turns to campaign-mode politicking. Even our comedy and music are overburdened by undertones of the ubiquitous theme of Presidential succession.

Indeed, it would appear to be the case whenever an incumbent President of Kenya happens to hail from Central Province; talk of succession politics starts from Day One of his incumbency. This happened to Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, in 1964-1978. It has happened constantly to President Mwai Kibaki, in office since 2002 and leaving State House within the first half of 2013. However, not so in the Daniel arap Moi Presidency, from 1978 to 2002, until his fifth and final term (1997-2002).

In all three cases, the clamour for permanent campaign mode has been led by dynastic contests and aggravated by a sense of unjustifiable entitlement by one axis in a perpetual challenge. It may seem seekers of the 2013 that of the y that has itself never produced a President but is now convinced that without Kibaki in the running the time to take over and recreate Kenya in its own image is nigh.

Having weighed and considered the matter at length, as well as consulted widely, I believe it is high time that the perils of being in permanent, all-pervasive campaign mode were brought to Kenyans’ attention.

The only way of doing this is invoking one of the most frightening examples in history of where such a state of affairs can lead — the Weimar Republic and rise of Adolf Hitler, the most horrifying totalitarian dictator in history.

By electrifying the country permanently on high-octane political campaign mode, I sincerely believe Kenya has entertained the pitfalls of incubating its own Hitler over the past 20 years or so.

Seemingly, it’s unbeknown to the intelligence services, academe, the Diplomatic Corps, the 40 million Kenyans and our nearest neighbours in the region.

Indeed, it is in the nature of the Hitlers of history that the dangers they pose are not detected until virtually too late! And then it takes years of what Churchill described as “blood, toil, tears and sweat, ordeal of the most grievous kind…many, many long months of struggle and of suffering” to defeat a Hitler.

Kenya’s own Hitler-in-waiting has been assiduously riding on the crest of the change process, wearing the veneer of a change-agent democrat.

Delusions of grandeur

Like his Germanic forerunner, Kenya’s incipient Hitler has completely hypnotised bedrock following in his own home region. He is a circus master totally devoted to extreme political emotionalism.

Kenya’s incipient Hitler and tyrant-in-waiting is well aware of these factors and has put them to barbaric use in recent years, particularly in the genocide-friendly 41 communities versus one community campaign strategy that resulted in the 2008 post-election violence.

Thinking Kenyans are well aware that delusions of hypnosis built on the quicksand of an individual’s delusions of grandeur, mountainous ego and unbridled emotionalism cannot be the basis for the way forward in post-Kibaki Kenya.

This Hitler-in-the-making is a pitiful figure indeed. But this is not the same as saying that he is not potentially extremely dangerous. Far from it, he poses clear and present danger. Among these dangers is the continued disenfranchisement of the people of Central Kenya by the strategy of 41 versus one. Allow me to hasten to explain, as a Kenyan, what this entails. A Hitlerian policy that seeks to turn as many Kenyans as possible against Kenyans from one community is, essentially, a policy that seeks to transform a national identity card and a voter’s card into displacement and death warrants for one community.

If Kenya’s incipient Hitler is allowed to replay the ethnic hate game of 2007 it risks even greater loss this time round. Remember that nowhere else on earth are ID cards and voter’s cards passports to threats to limb, livelihood and life. Indeed, there is no more primitive scenario in civilised society, short of widespread cannibalism, than this conversion of IDs and voter’s cards into warrants of disruption, harm, displacement and mass murder.

This is Kenya’s abiding shame. The land of the economist President Mwai Kibaki; land of the Colossus of Athletics David Rudisha; land that pioneered mobile cash and banking via M-Pesa; hosts the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Great Migration in the Masai Mara — this land of ours turns ID cards and voter’s cards into instruments of destruction and election periods into moments of murder, mass rape and mayhem. Vision 2030 cannot be delivered in a country where election cycles are also cycles of fear, hate and massive violence.