Sense of occasion is one of the hallmarks of a person of honour. It reposes in the simple ability to advise yourself about where you are and how you should behave. Thursday’s crass conduct in Parliament was accordingly totally uncalled for.
President Kenyatta’s State of the Nation address was held back for half an hour. This solemn constitutional function had to wait for hecklers to do their thing first, all decorum thrown to the dogs. This was their way of protesting against what they see as the failings of the Jubilee Government.
Like all governments, this government has failed in some critical things. It has done particularly poorly on some of the issues the President is supposed to focus on in the State of the Nation address. Yet disrupting what is supposed to be a solemn address is entirely without merit. Nothing redeems such misconduct and poor example to children and adolescents.
Parliament is constituted so that honourable ladies and gentlemen may disagree there as robustly as possible. But even as they disagree, they must remain honourable ladies and gentlemen. In this forum leaders fight with the might of the mind. They employ the power of persuasion in the search to carry the day. If such a forum did not exist, they would probably settle their differences violently. You don’t, therefore, carry atavistic conduct to the house of dignity.
Yet this is where Kenya has come. President Kenyatta is wrong when he reports that the health of the nation is good. Kenya is ailing. And it is not afflicted by a passing common cold. It is in the throes of mortal ailment. The atavistic activities in Parliament speak to this truth. We are precariously perched between an ochlocracy and a kakistocracy, both pretending to be democracy.
Let me explain. Prof. Peter Kagwanja has recently told me that democracy is a game of numbers. He agrees with those who have talked of a tyranny of numbers as legitimizing government. In truth, however, the notions of parliament and democracy can never sit together with tyranny. This thing called tyranny of numbers is a hopeless oxymoron. It is a meaningless formation of words in the effort to justify dictatorship. When raw numbers are all that matters, democracy dies. In its place, the rule of the crowd is born. Social science calls this ochlocracy – the rule of the mob.
Kakistocracy, on the other hand, has been defined as government by the worst men. Those who attempt to be a little charitable to this kind of government define it as government for the benefit of crooks at the cost of fools. The philosopher Voltaire says that scoundrels reign because there is a class of fools ensuring that they reign. In the volume titled Candide, or Optimism, Voltaire compares this relationship to that between a mongoloid who is caressing a serpent that is devouring him. He will wake up – if he does – when the serpent has eaten his heart.
This is where Kenya is. Raw numbers have replaced conscience. Even legislators have become sheer statistics. They are ethnic zombies, waiting to be directed on everything. More ethnic zombies out there lend them fanatical ethnic support. This class litters the social media with appalling ethnic hate. It lacks the capacity to attack ideas. It attacks people instead. And so Kenya is at war in cyberspace. President Kenyatta buries his head in the sand when he ignores this war. Yet even his own officials in State House engage in this cyber war. Someday this war will burst into our homes and streets.
Kenya needs preemptive intervention ahead of next year’s general election. The presidential address did not capture public grievances that drive this cyber war. There are grievances on national unity, inclusiveness, equity, good governance, rule of law, participation of the people and non-discrimination. Others are concerns about protection of the marginalized and sharing and devolution of power.
Kenyatta was quick to attack the Opposition and the Governors while saying nothing about the National Government on the same issues. The President circumvented the values and principals that are prescribed and circumscribed for him by articles 132 and 10 of the Constitution. He safely focused on what he perceived to be sustainable development. Here he did an outstanding window-dressing job.
However, you need national cohesion first, if you will have sustainable development. Window-dressing and Orwellian statistics aside, the most urgent job for the Kenya Government is the building of one Kenyan nation. This was the dream of independence. The heckling in Parliament was a primitive way of telling the President that he is failing. Today the Presidency leads in betrayal of the Kenyan dream. It fosters ethnic nations at the expense of the Kenyan nation. The less said here the better.
The rest of us need to ask how we are contributing towards the search for Kenyan nationhood. The leader of the majority in the National Assembly emerged from the chamber gleefully running down a whole tribe for the disruption of the President’s address. Juvenile legislators from the government side went into cyberspace with ethnic hate. This is unacceptable profiling of tribes.
As part of our search for national cohesiveness, Jubilee may want to wear a less choleric face and be less confrontational. Jubilee is in government and is the government. The burden of leadership in the values in Article 10 of the Constitution sits squarely on their shoulders. They must provide leadership. Blaming others is abdication of duty.