Categorized | South Africa

Why I pulled out of Kenya’s 2017 presidential race

NOVANEWS
Philip Kamakya

Elections in Kenya have become a ritual performed periodically to legitimise the control of power by a few, while the majority remain silent, but enraged, waiting for the opportunity to vent their frustrations. Just a few months before the August 8 poll, all indications are that the type of leadership the country needs to end corruption and tribalism has no chance of rising. Kenya has a long way to go.

In December 2016, I announced my decision to run for election as President of the Republic of Kenya. The pronouncement came after almost a long reflection on the terrible state of the circus that characterizes our country’s politics, which is today driven by the scourges of corruption and tribalism.

Over time, leadership and by extension the presidency, have become a matter of who can galvanize the tribal numbers or groupings using vast amounts of unexplained, and many times illegally obtained, finance. To effectively mount a bid for the presidency, most aspirants have fallen into the temptation to play by the same rules. In the prevailing state of affairs, our own history has shown us that the natural consequence of a disputed presidential election will be violence, if not outright civil war.

This state of affairs doesn’t bother many Kenyans, as over time, they have been conditioned to live in hope that they will be on the winning (eating meat) side. Indeed, Jubilee’s campaign platform is built around the economic opportunities that come with being in power, the latest being that all losers for party nominations will be given state jobs. Matters are complicated today by Jubilee’s premature campaign message is that it has already won 70% +1 of the votes, and the opposition’s (Cord and NASA) reply is that they will not accept a stolen election. A reminder, in case of a dispute, KENYANS WILL ALL LOSE, IT IS A ZERO SUM GAME!

Just how badly Kenya is doing politically, is graphically revealed in a sample of the results of recent nationwide poll conducted by the Jesuit Hakimani Centre (a Catholic Church institution), and published on 30th March 2017, as follows:

a) 80.3% of the respondents did not believe that electing credible leaders was a personal and constitutional responsibility.

b) 88.3% of the respondents did not find the connection between election and issues.

c) 90.3% of the respondents viewed party manifestos as “public relations rhetoric” only meant for campaigns.

d) 76% of the respondents are of the view that more education is a wasted investment.

e) 85.1% of the respondents do not approve of how corruption is addressed.

Our country needs a fresh approach to tackling the twin evils of corruption and tribalism, which not only divide but eventually destroy us. As Kenyans, we need to remove from power the increasing number of politicians and oligarchs who thrive and profit from the destruction of the delicate national fabric that holds us together. What has been sadly lacking in our top leadership is the political will to resolve the problems.

Many have asked me how I intended to solve the two deeply entrenched problems, and my short answer has always been: my honesty, courage and commitment to good governance coupled with my non-tribal approach is all I would need as an executive president to place our country back on its path to prosperity, and greatness.

Articles 10 and 73 of our constitution that prescribe the national values and principles of governance as well as the requirements of leadership for holding public office have been consigned to the dustbin.

The voting public, particularly sections of the less fortunate members of our society, have fallen prey to this addictive corruption driven electioneering, and have been conditioned to look forward to the largesse through voter bribery that comes with elections, simply as a means of buying an extra packet of unga [maize flour, a national staple]. Such voters have learnt to expect and demand hard cash as a condition to participate in campaigns at all levels, including attending rallies. The catchwords to describe funding campaign activities are “mobilise and facilitate”. Nothing comes for free. For the middle and upper classes, in many cases, it is a question of which side their bread is buttered.

One of the managers in my campaign recently requested me to stop admitting to the public that I did not have the billions of shillings that other leading presidential candidates had at their disposal. He stated that I would get no support at all if I were candid about my limited finances. I replied that we were campaigning on a platform of integrity and honesty, to which he stated that it was important to give the false impression of having the billions, and proceed to beg, borrow or steal in order to conform. As a last try, he asked me whether I would accept funds from a drug lord and saw his disappointment at my emphatic NO! He left soon thereafter in search of a more lucrative campaign. Such is Kenyan politics.

There is a whole industry of service providers for election campaigns, all of who assume that the candidates running for office, have come upon limitless funding, and therefore should splash it around without insisting on value for services. It is evident that this feeding frenzy is informed by the fact that significant amounts of the available cash spent during elections in Kenya generally comes from proceeds of corruption, crime, including narcotics trafficking for which no accounting will be required. Almost all service providers to the electioneering industry suddenly present all manner of products at inflated rates.

Large sections of the print and electronic media spend four years playing an oversight role over government, and society generally, but in the countdown to elections on the 5th year, they become deaf and dumb, and the unfortunate purveyors of all things negative to society. Cash handouts determine the direction, extent and flow of news coverage. The Kenyan media must restore its credibility, and continue to cover and critique all sides in the political contest.

The presidential campaign in Kenya is largely driven by negative tribalism. The main formations coalesce around a tribal leader, after which, everyone else is a traitor or spoiler. Tribalism has today risen to the point where many Kenyans (28%) have declared that they will not vote, to protest against the perceived choices, which they consider indistinguishable from one another, in their negative attributes.

This negative voter sentiment transforms to apathy in the belief, sometimes justified, that the outcome is predetermined, by an electoral system that is neither free nor fair. As the Hakimani survey proves, eventually elections will become a ritual performed periodically to legitimise the control of power by a few, while the majority remain silent, but enraged, waiting for the opportunity to vent their frustrations.

Based on the above considerations, having not held political office, but equipped with relevant and valuable public service experience as a former and very effective Director of Public Prosecutions, I had in December last year offered myself to Kenyans as a reform and radically different presidential candidate capable of dealing with corruption. Most reactions to my announcement were disbelief and skepticism, confirming how disengaged we had all become.

I was repeatedly asked the simple question about where I would obtain the required support from a tribal base, and whether I had the billions of shillings required, to throw around in the countryside.

To all these, I responded that I believed Kenyans were not inherently corrupt or tribal, but driven into this state of decadence by the tribal chiefs, who dominate our present day politics. I insisted that all that Kenyans needed was a credible option, a candidate who historically had proven him or herself as non-tribal and not corrupt. I remain convinced that Kenyans do indeed, hope and pray for the day that they will have such a leader and government.

Today, I have come to the realisation that I announced and embarked on my bid for the presidency too late in the present unregulated, and free for all, circumstances. The IEBC [Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission], the official referee in the general elections, has set the official campaign commencement date as June 28, 2017. However, President Kenyatta, for the last year or so, has led the country on premature and illegal campaigns. The opposition candidates have reacted by giving chase, so as not to be left behind. Recently, when I requested the IEBC to order a stop to the unlawful campaigns, the lame response from the Chairman was that IEBC had no capacity to enforce the regulation on campaign timelines.

Generally, IEBC appears to already have lost control of a contest which, to many, has become a matter of life and death, going by the prevalence of violence.

Kenyans should note as follows:

i) This violation of the election rules constitutes grounds for challenging the eventual outcome in the Supreme Court.

ii) If the aspirants pick and choose the regulations to obey, with impunity, we will end up in anarchy and chaos.

iii) The rationale behind the limited period for electioneering worldwide is designed to ensure minimum disruption to a country’s social and economic affairs. This is particularly true for developing countries, like Kenya, where elections are extremely disruptive.

iv) Failure by IEBC to enforce the limitation to the campaign period is likely to result in tribalism, clanism, and even general competition being inflamed to the point of violence. Kenyans only need to refer back to the PEV in 2008, and its catastrophic consequences.

As matters stand, the lawfully permitted five weeks of official campaigns will be very costly. To conduct campaigns for several months is unsustainable for any bona fide candidate, of modest and accountable means. Tragically, most Kenyans do not financially support political causes, and only do so when it appears likely to be successful. Matters have been further complicated by the ever-changing IEBC timelines, making it difficult to plan or budget for a campaign.

As a champion for the rule of law, I would be remiss if I joined the bandwagon of bending and breaking the law governing the election process, particularly campaigns. A government led by me would ensure the strict enforcement of the election laws and campaign regulations to minimize interference with the lives and economic activities of the Kenyans.

In addition, on the December 6, 2016, upon declaring my candidature for the presidency, I immediately requested the Mr. Joseph Boinett the Inspector General of Police (IG) for the provision of an armed police bodyguard for my personal security, both as a former Director of Public Prosecutions and a presidential candidate. Despite attaching a letter from Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta, as then Chairman of PAC dated February 28, 2006, and a letter of 1 March 2006 from the Amos Wako, the then AG, directing that I should be provided with adequate security, the IG summarily, and casually, rejected my request on grounds that it was not within an alleged police policy to provide me with a bodyguard, and further that I would be provided with security after presentation of nomination papers to IEBC, sometime in May 2017.

I protested, indicating that the failure by the IG to provide me with security was, inter alia, discriminatory, and the application of double standards, but to no avail. Subsequently, assurances by the Mr Joseph Nkaissery, Cabinet Secretary for Interior and National Coordination, that the matter would be looked into, not surprisingly, have come to naught.

The lack of personal security has therefore prevented me from traversing the country (not necessarily holding campaign rallies) like all other presidential candidates and party leaders, to market United Democratic Movement (UDM) as a political party, or my candidature generally, given the current violent nature of campaigns, political activity, and insecurity in the country generally. In most cases, pictures have been published of the politicians (including opposition) being protected, or whisked to safety by their police bodyguards. Why have I been denied security? What is unique about my case? Whose interest is the IG serving?

It is clear that the refusal to provide me with security was deliberately calculated to ensure that, for security reasons, I would not be able to engage in any political activity at all. The effect being that I would only have myself to blame, if I exposed myself to risk. The irony of the IG’s decision is that all other aspiring presidential candidates have adequate government security, whether currently serving in government or not.

The upshot is that, having reflected, and consulted with my family, friends and supporters, with profound regret, I have decided to pull out of the 2017 presidential race. I, however, assure Kenyans that this is not the end of my determination to bring about positive, corruption-free, detribalised politics to our country. I end with a quote from an American Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, in the recent US elections:

“This campaign was always about our citizenship –taking back our country from a political class that serves only the big, the powerful, the wealthy and well connected. Election after election, the same empty promises are made and the same poll-tested stump speeches are given, but nothing changes. While I suspend my candidacy today, I will continue to travel this country and fight for those Americans who refuse to settle for the way things are and a status quo that no longer works for them.”

So, too, as I suspend my candidacy, I assure all Kenyans that I will continue the difficult journey of pushing for the awakening our citizens to the critical need for radical change if we as a nation are to survive and return to the path of prosperity, self-respect and patriotism. I remain a member of UDM and shall continue to support all its activities, and I encourage aspirants to seek nomination through the party for all categories of elective positions.

In the meantime, I thank the many Kenyans I met along the relatively short but difficult journey and who encouraged and supported my quest to bring about positive change to the politics of our great country. And to those who believed that in me, they had found a transformational leader, with the unique ability to steer our beloved country away from the path of destruction through tribalism and corruption, I urge that you do not surrender your hopes and aspirations for the restoration of our country to the path of sustainable peace and prosperity. I will continue to walk with you in engaging and agitating for radical change in the affairs of our beloved nation.

To the many “undecided” voters who may not vote, unless there is a truly transformational candidate, I appeal to them not to abdicate their civic duty and ensure to vote on election day, for the candidate that best represents at least some measure of positive change, taking into account the following advice of Montesquieu:

“The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of the citizen in a democracy.”

Finally, I assure Kenyans that I will keep my options open for the presidential elections in 2022.

GOD BLESS KENYA.

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