Is it just me or has anyone else observed how queues turn (seemingly) normal Kenyans into tantrum toddlers with comical absurdities? You stand in just the right place and you’ll be able to see a surprisingly large amount of locally brewed queerness. Chief among them is how my fellow citizens throw away any respect of personal space, a treasured solace for some of us. So many people seem to be eerily comfortable with backing up into you like squeezing a car in one of the CBD’s parking slots. Some ignore queuing altogether, while others feign sickness to get ahead. I’ve seen a man cause a commotion only for him to somehow end up at the queue’s tip. Any resistance at being cut off or any sign of protest may very well attract an elbow in your face. Stay calm and queue.
It’s just not at the queues. Those who come last want to be served first at dukas and marketplaces. Buses and other transport vehicles over-speed and drive recklessly to get ahead. A parent will bribe, beg or beat anyone to ensure his child gets into a ‘prestigious’ school even without the proper passing grades. Pedestrians are forced to negotiate their way with other vehicles on the road as cars are parked on pavements. In an election, people suddenly become parents or pregnant, blind and crippled just so they could vote ahead of others. Even at weddings, some deploy underhand tactics to make sure they at least have a bite of an eighth of a chapati or a bottle of soda before they run out as is the norm.
Kenyans are obsessed with winning. Getting ahead. Earning a shilling from a penny. Whatever you want to call it.
And on any other day, that would be a compliment, wouldn’t it? Except that for some strange reason, no one really cares how they win. No one cares how they get ahead as long as they do. As long as they beat their opponents. Thoroughly and embarrassingly preferably. No one minds trampling over everyone, not even their family, to get to their goal. And it is almost always a selfish goal. Wealth. Power. Opportunity. Better work. Government jobs and tenders. It’s a lewd culture ingrained in us; If you are unwilling to turn devil for your goals, you are weak. And sadly, it permeates and manifests itself in the way we choose our leaders. And even more precisely, in the way those leaders sell themselves to us.
The Supreme Court’s nullification of the Kenyan August polls has been rightly hailed as a milestone in an African continent dogged by systemic sham elections and a mediocre justice system. Where rivals will do anything to win. The ruling was unprecedented. But the main sticking point for me, as clearly pointed out by Kenya’s Chief Justice, was that an election is not an event, it is a whole process and the process is just as important as the result. And it is. You can’t take a bath in dirty water and expect to be clean.
And make no mistake, the process held by the ‘independent’ electoral and boundaries commission (IEBC), Kenya’s election body, was rife with childish incoherence and blatant mismanagement. From the not so mysterious death of the head of IEBC’s ICT manager days to the election to results written on exercise books papers instead of serialized IEBC forms. IEBC’s refusal to adhere to transmission laws ingrained in the constitution was jaw-dropping. The chairman’s unawareness that his account had been used to access sensitive servers and compromise the election’s integrity was pitiful. Election results suspiciously started trickling in even before some polling stations had closed and their source was questionable. No one knew where those results were coming from. The most telling of all was IEBC’s outright refusal to open their servers for inspection by the courts.
But the court did worthy diligence and showed its duty in its verdict. It has wetted the appetite for a revolution. Here’s the thing, it would be unfortunate to let the ruling be an isolated event. A one hit wonder. We abridge our destiny and the future of our children by failing to realize that an election isn’t just about winning and losing. About how ‘my man’ beat ‘your man’. Elections are about giving the mwananchi a platform to promote better leadership for our country. That is true patriotism. When we choose leaders who will put us first, point us to the right direction and lead us into a better future, we can never lose. We all win.
Let us carry on from the precedence set by the Supreme Court. Just as they have proven their independence, let wanainchi prove their independence from the tribal bigotry that constantly pegs back our nation. Let us throw away the inadequacies of democracy and shun away electocracy (a more accurate assessment of what we have been practising as a nation in my opinion) and embrace a citizen-led form of governance where we pick our leaders and directly participate in decision making. A citizen-cracy if you will. It is time to get in the driving seat of our future. It is time for a citizens’ revolution!
First published here.