End political rhetoric to foster unity, development
In a world of mounting challenges of ever-increasing complexity and interdependence, Kenya is still shockingly stuck in the muck of divisive politics, misinformation and bad governance.
Citizens need pragmatic leadership focused more on forging democracy and national unity to tackle critical development challenges, the economic meltdown, the climate crisis, food security, crime and insecurity than political polarisation.
The continuing showdown over the last election is not a healthy recipe for the growth of democracy, entrenchment of constitutional principles and progressive development programmes. Government must focus on ending extreme poverty and boosting the prosperity of the millions of Kenyans that desperately need it. It should particularly give maximum attention to the impacts of climate change that has contributed to the vulnerability of many communities.
The nation is deeply divided along ethnic lines and public appointments are based on political affiliation rather than regional balance. Distribution of national resources is concentrated in the centre, although the Constitution established devolution as a pillar of the two-tier national and county governments. Devolution has distinct devolved functions, including agriculture and health which require substantial funding beyond the current allocation of 15 percent of all revenue collected by the national government.
Ironically, during the heated debate on the ill-fated Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) thediffering political figures seemed to be divided on virtually everything else except the clause that recommended the allocations to be increased to 35 per cent.
How far will national leadership drive this agenda for devolution that has proved to be a game-changer, especially for rural development? Surprisingly, the Ministry of Devolution that supported county governments through policy formulation, capacity support and intergovernmental relations was scrapped in the new cabinet.
Chapter Eleven of the Constitution states four fundamental objects of the devolution of government – to promote democratic and accountable exercise of power and to foster national unity by recognizing diversity.
It gives powers of self-governance to the people and enhances their participation in the exercise of the powers of the State and in making decisions affecting them. It also recognizes the right of all communities in Kenya to manage their own affairs and to further their development.
The current political situation does not favour this constitutional obligation. National leadership needs to re-examine its commitment to this crucial element for cohesion, and the growth of democracy and development.
Poverty, high cost of living and other economic and social hardships have affected Kenyans across the ethnic and political divide. It is imperative that the Executive adopts a pragmatic national agenda that fosters reconciliation and recognizes the regional diversity and adversity of all 42-plus communities.
Vengeful political rhetoric based on the last election that promotes a “winner-takes-it-all” mentality and fosters exclusivity instead of inclusivity is unhealthy within the schism that exists in the country . Ever since the “tribal clashes” of the 1990s elections to the near catastrophic 2007 election, national unity has become elusive, fueled by reckless and manipulative political rhetoric that has bred a culture of sycophancy and corruption.
Chapter 6 of the Constitution on Leadership and Integrity has been watered down to the extent that we have individuals with questionable characters occupying sensitive positions in all the three arms of government, public institutions and constitutional commissions.
National leadership requires positive dialogue that fosters unity and all-inclusive development instead of a hardline stance with a demeaning tone towards adversaries that unnecessarily raises political temperatures in the country.
—The writer comments on political and environmental issues – [email protected]