Tuesday, February 6, 2018


This week Raila Odinga purported to take an oath as the people’s president of Kenya.

The much anticipated event was noteworthy not only because of Raila’s swearing but also by the conspicuous absence of Kalonzo Musyoka, who was supposed to be sworn too as his deputy.

Musyoka’s absence had two effect on the politics going forward. One, is claim to be heir apparent to Raila as leader of the opposition may have suffered a fatal blow. Wycliff Mudavadi who was also absent will struggle to lay claim to the mantle too.

"But the events may also have given Raila, who it was believed had run his last challenge for state house a new lease of life. Raila can now argue, and convincingly that he has brought his people this far on the journey to Canaan and it would be irresponsible of him to pass over the mantle to people who cannot stand by the struggle at one of its most important junctions. There are no age limits to run for the presidency in Kenya...

So what seemed like clutching at straws, that the swearing would draw massive crowds and once done would ignite a groundswell of civil unrest which would push Uhuru Kenyatta out or at least force him to sue for peace, may have turned out to be very good for Raila anyway. Time will tell.

The events have very useful lessons for Uganda.

While some people think that Raila’s theatrics and the subsequent response of the Kenyan government in shutting down the media has dented the East African nation’s democratic credentials, I think otherwise.

Democracy is an evolutionary process. The process is essentially a series of experiments which allows the fittest of the fittest to survive. For faster evolution you need a rapid succession of experiments to happen, essentially you have to fail faster to allow the best to emerge quicker.

Raila challenged the first election of Uhuru and had the Supreme Court throw it out setting a useful precedent for time to come. Raila boycotted the rerun, unthinkable but setting another precedent. His civil disobedience campaign may have fallen flat since but still helps the democratic process.

On the flip side Raila is also learning the lessons of our very own opposition. That no matter how much bombast you can muster if your networks are not in place, if you are not prepared for the worst and if you think that you can shame the powers that be into good behaviour when you think they are out of line, good luck!

"The pervasiveness of social media – seven in every ten Kenyans owns a smart phone, can seduce one into thinking they are more influential than they actually are. That you begin to think you can flip a switch and do away with the hard of work of building grassroot support and hope to pull off a smash-and-grab operation to get in to state house...

It is foolhardy, even downright foolish, to believe that the incumbents will give up without a fight.
But we can also learn from Kenyan politics.

That the courts are there to address disputes. That even if one loses precedent is created. The overturning of Kenyatta’s election hinged on a ruling made in his favour from an unsuccessful Raila challenge of his victory in 2012.

Courts cannot help you if you do not refer to them. Judges do not take it upon themselves to determine a breech of the law has been committed and order the suspects before themselves. One may argue of course, Like Raila did for a long time, that the courts are in the government’s pockets, but you won’t really know until they are tested. Put them to the test.

It was amusing to see commentators writing off Kenya as a county that has fallen off the democratic path, but that is not to understand the evolutionary process or development of anything for that matter.

Progress is never a straight line trajectory. It can often even seem like that regression has taken root. 

But as they say failure is not the opposite of success but part of success.

Events in Kenya rather than dented our eastern neighbours’ political progress will in hindsight have been crucial to strengthen it democratic progression.

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