Kenya: What Next after YES Victory ?

The events of 2007/08 pointed out the dangers of what can go wrong when people have no faith in their governance structures. Each stone and machete picked up and used was an indictment to the country's governance institutions. The disputed electoral results could not be referred to the law courts because no one expected justice from them. Kenyans have voted for a new institutional structure that is expected to enable people to respect due process of law as opposed to resorting to the rule of the jungle.

Kenya has handed itself a great opportunity to craft a model in the region where institutional structures drive progress as opposed to the "big man syndrome." The overseers of global politics have experimented with benevolent dictators; elective politics and outright occupation among others as models to societal progress. The Kenyan experiment presented by the victory of progressive forces on August 4th referendum brings along with it great challenges.

A Greek philosopher Plato in his famous "Parable of the Cave" points out that a prisoner held in a cave all his life is likely to mistake shadows on the wall cast by passersby as real "people." Imagine yourself in the cave all your life; you are likely to assume that the shadows of people passing near the mouth of the cave actually talk - for it is only when the shadows roll on the walls of the cave that you hear human sounds.

Kenyans and by extension Africans are held up in a cave of governance - sounds by passing "humans" occasionally talk about leadership, democracy, mineral curse, youth, and corruption among others. In the world of Plato, to see reality, one has to get out of the cave. The obvious reality that will hit a cave man on the first interaction with reality will be a blinding effect of bright light.

By voting for a new constitutional order that offer citizens greater opportunity to participate in matters of governance; Kenyans should prepare for a short period of "blindness." Whatever Kenyans held in the cave as reality, for example: politicians know it all and that government will do everything for them, will soon fizzle out. But before it does, misinterpretations of what the new order presents to a people might lead to chaotic scenes. Others might choose to stall progress by specializing in placing roadblocks on efforts to progress in new-found fresh air. These forces must not make Kenyans loose focus of the fact that they have created a new republic and must take responsibility to make it prosper.

Another reality that is likely to hit Kenyans is that there are no Kenyans -at least in the thought process. The software that operates in the minds of the majority - the youth is alarmingly not Kenyan. Institutional structures will not of themselves solve this reality. Kenyan church leaders must have learnt about this reality the hard way - when they purported to speak for the flock. It is incumbent upon those who understand the country's history; geopolitical issues to develop software that will help reclaim the lost Kenyan. The new dispensation thus does offer milliards of opportunities for innovative citizens.

The most critical moment is the five years after the new constitution has been put to effect. This is the period of intense blinding light at the mouth of the cave. The citizenry must remain vigilant to ensure that they do not rush back to the cave out of fear for reality. The Kenyan youth must be proactive in "finding themselves" because a new dispensation is surely for them!

By James Shikwati.
The author [email protected] is Director of Inter Region Economic Network.

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