Why Political Parties are The Weak Link in Our National Development

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!


About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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