Did Kenya Kwanza mishandle their honeymoon?

Friday, June 2nd, 2023 04:50 | By
Image used for illustration. PHOTO/Print

Every regime in coming to power tends to have a window of the grace period some people have christened the honeymoon. It is the season during which a regime is given time to transition from the campaign mode to governance, to learn the ropes and to get their act together. Governance is a difficult art. It has many levers to be balanced. But while at it those in power must watch out because the opposition would be preparing to scrutinise and offer alternative positions to the government plans or oppose simply for the opposition sake.

These earlier days are consumed with identifying people fit for office, making appointments, and learning where the files are and what is in them. In a government transition about a decade ago, the new regime learned that the old one had spent their last days in the office removing certain computer keys.

A new regime also needs to gather all the goodwill it can get. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has just won probably one of the fiercest elections he has faced in his 20 years in power.

But on being sworn in his first message was on reconciliation. There is a good reason for this. The new leader is, in fact, the leader of all – those aligned with him and those opposed to him, after all, there is one nation.

Losing elections is hard on the team. Those defeated were in the opposition for a reason in the first place. They had an alternative vision and were just as passionate about it. Election results mean that they are being told to shelve their plans and adopt the platforms of the victors. It helps if the victors don’t gloat too much.

Kenya’s elections suggest that we have both bad winners and bad losers. Most of the losers hold on to their pain while a few of their number crawl to the winning side. When they succeed in getting to the winning side, they are almost unrecognisable – you would hardly believe that a few days or weeks earlier they had an alternative view.

It is however the behaviour of the winners that worries. First, they do not seem to believe that they have won and continue to behave as if the fight is still on making it harder for the losers to come to terms with their loss.

In their mode of continued fight, they lose time.  Instead of focusing attention on what keys may have been removed from the computers, where the files are and what is in the file, they are busy throwing stones across the fence to keep the fight on.

So, what would have been the honeymoon period for consolidating gains and laying the foundation for the new administration is lost in virtue-less fights. In the new age of keyboard warriors, bloggers who probably should have turned their attention to other engagements are kept on pay to continue with the campaign period propaganda.

Lost in the drama is the understanding that propaganda, to be successful, requires at least some substance. Just crowding the channels with messages however outlandish, and silencing the other side does not win the information war. In the season after the elections, with the emotions somewhat toned down, cooler heads take more time processing what they are being fed. If they do not find good substance or good proof of the claims being made, then the propaganda risks losing credibility on a long-term basis.

By their own behaviour and conduct a new administration could lose their honeymoon period goodwill by how they behave.  Unfortunately for the new regime, this could earn the opposition sympathy and a new purpose.

It took the Kenya Kwanza so much time even to transition from campaign dress mode to governance dress code. The former complement and perpetuate the protest message when those in the office are supposed to stop protesting and start implementing policies.

— The writer is Dean, School of Communication, Daystar University

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