It is becoming increasingly clear that Kenyans in many spheres of life do not know how to deal with the democratic space that they have.
This manifests itself in many of the problems that bedevil our society.
At the end of each fifth year, Kenyans get the chance to elect their representatives to various positions in the local government, the national assembly and the head of the executive arm of government. In droves, Kenyans queue to vote for their leaders.
A few months later, problems set in as it is discovered that most of the leaders that were elected are not up to the required standards.
By taking a vote for a councilor, Kenyans vote not only for their leader of the civic ward, but for their representative who shall carry their votes in the subsequent elections for the post of mayor or chairman of the county council. Thus the choice has to be taken very seriously so that the chances of ending up with a rogue mayor or chairman of county council are minimized.
Most Kenyans who live in urban areas like cities or municipalities choose to register as voters in their upcountry areas and thus deprive themselves of the chance to elect persons who shall be their leaders in the areas they inhabit for most of the five year period after the elections. I have been amazed to see Kenyans make fun of the practice of some councillors being holed up in a hotel prior to an election for the post of Mayor forgetting that the same Councillors have been put in office by the same Kenyans. At times, we deride the choice made by the same Councillors in the form of the Mayor yet in actual part we took part in the initial process of getting that Mayor in office.
Thankfully, there have been plans mooted to have the elections of leaders of local authorities placed firmly in the hands of voters, but I wouldn’t hold my breath that proper choices shall be made.
We have witnessed situations where members of parliament have been elected and after some time, they take part in perceived corrupt practices including raiding the coffers of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) or appointing their relatives and friends to the respective CDF Committees. Thereafter, the same constituents expect sympathy from other constituents when their rogue MPs misbehave.
This situation is replicated in the Presidential vote where a President elected by majority of the voters will end up with a cabinet of ministers and assistant ministers that the same Kenyans do not like and complaints are raised.
It is time that Kenyans understood that they have the initial power. If they choose to waste their vote (or worse still, if they choose not to vote at all), they hand the power to civic leaders, members of parliament and presidents who will be wrong for their positions.
When the same civic leaders make by laws that seem unfair, or even absurd; when the same leaders make policy decisions that are not in tandem with the visions that Kenyans have for their country, the only persons to blame are ourselves.
When we whine about the leaders that we put in place, we are basically making it known that we were not very brilliant in our choices for leaders. At times, the answer Kenyans will give you is that the choices they have for leaders are not good choices: that at times you have to choose the one who isn’t the worst, but the reply to this is that there have to be brave and honest Kenyans in every position that is available whom we can encourage to stand for positions of this nature.
This ‘save us from ourselves’ cry runs though most areas of our lives. Recently, some MPs have been complaining about how farmers in their areas are suffering in the tea sector. Yet the truth is, these farmers get a chance to elect Directors in their respective Tea Factories. Those directors then get a chance to elect Directors in KTDA. Ultimately, those Directors of KTDA get to appoint persons in management positions. It is a simple chain and once the farmers get the wrong people to positions, they have themselves to blame. They also have mechanisms to correct these anomalies rather than cry for government intervention that smirks of ‘save us from ourselves.’
It is time Kenyans took their democratic space seriously. It is time Kenyans voted with clear conscience on persons with vision and integrity at every level they take part in elections. This could be tea factory elections, it could be student body positions, it could be elections for the Parent Teachers Association, it could be elections for the Estate Security Committee, it could be elections for our respective Labour Unions, it could be elections for Mothers Union in our churches, it could be elections for the Kenya Football Federation, it could be elections for civic seats, it could be elections for Member of Parliament or it could be elections for Presidency. For only when we take our responsibilities seriously, will we break ourselves from the ‘save us from ourselves’ syndrome.