On 13 September 2001, Sir Iain Duncan Smith was elected leader of the United Kingdom’s conservative party. In the last 22 years since his election, the Conservative Party has had six different leaders. This includes Rishi Sunak, the latest Party Leader who is also the UK Prime Minister. Clearly, UK continues to develop because political parties are defined by ideologies, not personalities.
Meanwhile in Kenya, none of our parties which played a central political role in the 2002 General Elections is still standing strong on the national scene.
The National Alliance of Rainbow Coalition (NARC), under which President Mwai Kibaki won the 2002 elections is lying comatose somewhere in Kenya’s political graveyard. In 2013, President Uhuru Kenyatta was elected under the Jubilee Alliance coalition which morphed into the Jubilee Party under which he was re-elected in 2017. Even though The Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga has vied under the same party – ODM – since 2007, we can all respectfully agree that he is its lifeblood. Are the ideologies of these political set ups known to Kenyans including that of Kanu our independence party?
Political parties shouldn’t be reduced to mere vehicles of getting into power. Nor are they exclusive clubs for a few owners who determine the composition and direction of the Party. Rather, we can choose to make them powerful tools for parliamentary excellence and national development.
Kenyans will be shocked to know that most political parties are not really fulfilling their constitutional mandate. In sections 91 and 92, the Constitution lays out the roles and responsibilities of political parties. They include: promoting and upholding national unity and abiding by the democratic principles of good governance. Further to this, the constitution makes it clear that parties should not be founded on an ethnic or regional basis. Can anyone honestly say that our parties are living up fully to these constitutional mandates?
Political parties are the guardians of politics hence the funding through National coffers. They can elevate politics to a transformative enabler of national development or reduce politics into deadly game of division. Unfortunately, most Kenyan political parties have chosen to play the fatal game of discord in the following three major ways.
Firstly, lack transparency and inclusivity has led to pervasive mistrust within political parties. Members wake up to unflattering news headlines after dramatic resolutions made by their leaders. Barely a week goes by without accusations and counteraccusations amongst members of political parties. The current squabbling in political parties is only the latest example. How can the Nation develop when our political units are rambling?
Secondly, I dare say that we are suffering from ideological bankruptcy. Most parties have focused on ethnic horse trading where political coalitions are purely based on the number of ethnic votes that one ‘brings to the table’. Effectively our electioneering process has become an ethnic census which reduces the value of people to goods that can be sold to highest bidders instead of citizens with transformative ideas. Parties’ registered Ideologies have been stashed away to only exist in the files of Office of the Registrar of Political Parties (ORPP). However, all is not lost as The Green Thinking Action Party (GTAP) founded on green communitarianism and principles of sustainability continues to share the light of its candle. Regardless of how many members a party has, I suggest that each political party worth its salt must focus on its ideology. Once the huge wheel of political ideologies starts to turn, Kenya will develop in leaps and bounds!
Thirdly, parties lack discipline. Members speak in loud differing voices even as they pull in different directions. Members should toe the line of what their parties believe in and stand for. Period!
A country can only be as successful as its Political Parties commitment to their constitutional mandate. Failure to this we shall keep going round in circles. ‘Tusijidanganye’. Think green, act green!