God gave Kenya more than 42 communities to make a nation in 1963. The anxiety surrounding the ethnic debate stems from the unprecedented suffering of the people during the 2008 post-election violence following the disputed outcome of the 2007 general election. Local and international investigations have revealed that the violence had roots in negative ethnicity. The violence suspended vibrant national enterprise for more than three months, destroyed property and investment worth billions of dollars, displaced thousands of families and left hundreds of people dead.
Though these facts cannot be erased from history, the suggestion that ethnicity must dictate, the outcome of the 2013 general election is unfortunate, misplaced and unrealistic given that the people have proved their political maturity to peacefully decide their common destiny during the recent successful national referendum.
In 2010, all the more than 42 ethnic communities participated in the free ballot without violence, intimidation or undue pressure and adopted a new constitution to guide the future of the nation. It is therefore a gross error to assume, suggest or believe that the 2013 election must be decided by ethnic balancing rather than consensus and agreement.
The 2013 election will involve at least five or six major political players, some of whom will try to build ethnic blocs to fight for power. However, global leadership does not support negative ethnicity and requires that the interests of minorities be guaranteed. Reframing the ethnic debate in the context of the 2013 general election, calls for wisdom, clarity and understanding of the new realities on the ground. For example, whoever garners 35% of the vote in a two-way referendum will lose the poll. Nevertheless, whoever is able to marshal 35% of the vote in a general election amongst five or six players will be the Kingmaker! An election is not a destination; it is a point of reflection in the life of a nation.
The question at the heart of the 2013 general election is not ethnicity; rather it is the continuity of the nation. The election will decide between continued prosperity and the rule of law versus political uncertainty and economic stagnation. During the 2013 election, the people will decide the next step in the future of the nation and choose leaders based on their grasp and understanding of the importance of the twin issues of good government supported by sensible politics.
Over the last two decades, the government has made remarkable progress in democracy, infrastructure and made great strides towards the United Nations millennium development goals in free primary education, gender equality, combating HIV/AIDS and ensuring environmental sustainability. History will credit this government with birthing a new constitution, and placing the nation firmly on the path to realize vision 2030. The outcome of the 2013 general election must not compromise these advances, and voters will surely reject anyone with intent to reverse these precious gains. The vote must move the nation forward, and not undermine the collective will of the people to prosper.
Politics is more complex than government. But, this does not make the political question impossible. We need politicians, because we need law. We need right and just laws that will safeguard our freedom, human rights, economic progress, eliminate poverty and protect the wealth of all the more than 42 communities that form the nation against looters. No one with a record of negative ethnicity and short-term vision can lead this great nation to a global future.
As we look forward, beyond 50 years of nationhood, we must reject the prospect of celebrating our first Jubilee as a divided people and encourage everyone to positively engage in the process of nation building. We must be thankful that all our more than 42 communities are one nation united under God. Moreover, we must do our duty as citizens and deliver to our grandchildren a nation they can be proud of. Besides, we must show the world that Kenya is indeed, and has always been, a responsible member of the global community of nations.
God Bless Kenya.
©Allan Bukusi, November 2012