hii system ni ya majambazi,
na si vijana wa ghetto,
askari wazazi,( Kalamashaka, Mashifta)
One of the often-debated issues in Kenya is why the country is stuck in take off mode despite having all the requisite ingredients. This frustration has further been accentuated since the departure of Daniel Moi in 2002- who in the popular narrative was seen as the symbol of all what has prevented Kenya from being successful such reductionist mindset notwithstanding.
But Post- Moi Kenya has been only mildly successful. The question of how crop idealistic, well-intentioned, worldly and highly educated opposition leaders turned into the mirror image of the Moi’s state in a short period of time has been a source of disappointment for the majority of Kenyans.
Pre- Moi, the lowest common denominator that united the opposition was their desire to remove him from power. That state capture rather than the flowery rhetoric of governance and accountability was just a façade was made clear by the late Minister John Michuki when asked why they stalled on constitution reform; Michuki answered since Moi was no longer in power there is no reason for the constitutional reform. Just like the post-independence leaders who saw no reason to reform the colonial state since beberu left, those opposed to Moi saw no real desire to reform the state.
After the 2002 elections, according to the Gallup International Annual End of Year Survey, Kenyans polled as the most optimistic people on earth.
This was not without a foundation; many Kenyans truly believed the departure of Moi, would herald better things.
But very quickly the enormous goodwill invested in the regime evaporated under the weight of infighting, incessant mega corruption and a sense of entitlement by those in government who felt since they fought Moi, they shouldn’t be asked any questions- they were somewhat above reproach. They indulged in all malfeasance they campaigned against during their opposition days. This brought with it a distinct feeling of de ja vu.
Multiparty and its discontent
In Kenya, the introduction elections after decades of fighting was collectively celebrated. With the introduction of the multiparty elections many opposition parties were registered; and their overarching discourse at least rhetorically was Moi’s departure would herald a new dawn. Many drank the Kool Aid. Few if ever interrogated the existence of Moi-ism without Moi; despite his departure, the system he inherited from Kenyatta, and conveniently sustained was too sweet to be dismantled.
Many in civil society who invested tremendous amounts of capital in ensuring Moi’s defeat were surprised to realize their erstwhile “comrades in arms” once in power changed.
Banality of Evil
The New Yorker sent Hannah Arendt to Jerusalem to cover the trial of Otto Adolf Eichmann who was captured in Argentina on May 24, 1960. During the trial, Arendt in her seminal article banality of evil found the feared Nazi Lieutenant Colonel as banal. According to her, “the deeds were monstrous, but the doer … was quite ordinary, commonplace, and neither demonic nor monstrous.” According to her, Eichmann represented an acute thoughtlessness authentic inability to think.
In Kenya’s settings, even those with the best of intention are not immune to the bureaucracy system ya majambazi. Being a creature of routine, our intention and ethics aside, it is incredibly difficult to change a bureaucracy, and instead it changes many into unthinking zombies conditioned to follow “orders from the above.”
Kenya post-Moi is littered with well-intentioned individuals who have since resorted to what Arendt refers to, “clichés, stock phrases, adherence to conventional, standardized codes of expression” in defending their explicitly indefensible position.
Professor Kivutha Kibwana’s during his opposition days was one of the most respected reform leaders. He was one of the fiercest critics of the Kenya African National Union (KANU) regime. For his belief he was beaten multiple times for leading a demonstration for constitutional reform (he wasn’t the only one), images of him beaten up during protests littered newspapers. When he joined the National Alliance Rainbow Coalition (NARC) government after Moi left, the law professor was indistinguishable from the people he was fighting when he was in the opposition. In fact he sounded more like a member of KANU than the redoubtable former KANU Secretary General Joseph Kamotho.
Kivutha’s case is a perfect illustration of “it’s the system stupid.” Once you are in the system, one is socialized to stay within its limitation, and hardly want to rock it. Overtime, the “evil” of the system cease to be “evil” and instead becomes routine and the way of life.
The Kenyatta campaign was built on the buzz of youth and digital excitement, however recent appointments of old familiar faces have jerked plenty of jubilant into planet reality. Few whispers have started emerging from the hardcore jubilee supporters, who claim this is not what we voted for. The reality is once elected politicians become victims of the establishment; regardless of the anti-establishment platform they run their election campaigns. If in doubt, just look at the chief hope-monger, the President of the United States, Barack Obama.