Monday, April 1, 2013

Uhuru na Kazi In the Shadow of the Election

Photo of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, with his son, Uhuru.
 If you do not know by now, the Kenyan Supreme Court upheld the election results this Saturday. Kenyan Supreme Court upholds Kenyatta's Win The decision was unanimous, which gives Uhuru Kenyatta some political capital going into the presidency. 

Uhuru na kazi. This phrase variously means Freedom and Work or Independence and Work. That was the motto of Kenyan independence, and some say it was one of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta's favorite phrases. Kenya attained independence in 1963. That makes 2013 the Jubilee year of Independence.

Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta was born the son of Jomo Kenyatta--who would become Kenya's first President-- in 1961. He was named Uhuru, in anticipation  for Kenya’s upcoming independence

Kenya's National Flag

 I took my time to write about the Court's decision, because I needed time to think about what it meant. I was happy at a visceral level, because as an observer, I saw a free and fair election. So I was happy to know my observations were not mistaken. I was also very happy that the Court took its time to make a thoughtful decision, that they ordered a partial recount, and that the errors which were present in the election were not so severe as to prevent it from being free and fair.  I am sad, however, that we have simply elected another representative of the Black Colonials, the political class, which knows no tribe. Who Will Mourn Wanjiku?

Kenya has proven that it can run a peaceful, free and fair election. Kenya has shown the world that it has strong democratic institutions, a strong and free press, and a competent and even-handed judiciary. Kenya has shown that it can maintain peace in a sea of conflict, even as wars rage in nearby Somalia and the Congo. Hongera. Mungu ni Mwema. 

The election has just ended, however, I also think that now is as good a time as any to reflect on whether dynastic succession is what is best for Kenya. One could argue that even if this election went peacefully and (relatively) fairly, the victors are not likely to implement major political change.  Both Uhuru and Ruto were politically groomed by President Moi. Why former President Moi is a political genius.  Rather, they are likely to maintain the status quo. Their incentive is to protect the "political class" and not the common wananchi.

Now that we have gotten through an election in one piece, the next challenge is to elect a person, whether male or female, who can challenge the extreme inequality in Kenya, and represent the aspirations of the people. Kenya has a robust constitution, with well laid out rules and procedures. The challenge will be to implement its vision, and give the document a lived meaning. This election, with all its flaws, is a good first step.

So now we have had a free election and we have some kind of Uhuru, yet, I suggest, it is not the real Uhuru the Mau Mau fought for. Now comes the kazi, the work. And indeed, it will be kazi kwa bidii. Can we all pull together to reach that vision of a free and independent Kenya that so many have fought for?

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