Political seasons all over the World rain promises! In other words, if one is interested in human wants, simply listen to the promises escaping the lips of political aspirants. Which vehicle do our future leaders propose to deliver their promises?
At independence, African leadership set out to address the economic imbalances among the people without seeking to understand that the world works best through predictable structures and systems that limit human whims as much as possible. The assumption was that the wealth that white colonialists had amassed for themselves would simply be given to all. Due to lack of a proper constitutional and legal mechanism, African custodians found themselves growing richer than the people they had set out to assist. The vehicle they used to get rich is called “discretionary power!”
What is evident in all our political parties in Kenya is the belief that some leaders are good and others are bad; in other words, the “discretionary power” vehicle is still very much the principle in place. No single party in Kenya can offer a consistent vehicle and structure through which it can claim it will deliver its promises. They all depend on the benevolence and magic of its leaders.
In his book, “A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles” Thomas Sowell aptly discusses what I describe as modes of promise delivery. Says Thomas, “A vision is our sense of how the world works.” One’s sense of causation determines the mode of delivery of whatever he expects. For example, if one believes that drought is caused by annoyed ancestors, and that such ancestors need to be appeased by a black goat, a promise to such a person will be delivery of a black goat! The same can be said about earthquakes, if you believe that it’s an annoyed God that causes them; then whatever prescription your religion determines might as well work out for you. What about politics?
The common cross cutting promises from all members of different political divides is that of “eradicating poverty.” What causes poverty? I am sure we have as many answers as we have humanity. The late Lord Peter Bauer argued that poverty is not caused…one can only cause prosperity! That is debateable isn’t it? Back to our politicians, how do they propose to deliver the promise of eradicating poverty in Kenya? Both the government and opposition sides are not clear on this issue because they lack an ideological vehicle that has a clear structure of delivery. For example, what should Kenyans attribute the much touted 6.1% economic growth, to an individual, a political party system of governance or a chance occurrence? (Owing to global dynamics)
Kenyans must demand that political party vehicles state clearly their economic ideology, the mode through which they propose to deliver prosperity. Ever since the independence founding parties used “Uhuru” as the main ideological drive - political parties in Kenya have remained outfits for individuals to gain power. Influence from the Western world has made things even worse by making each of such outfits to claim “democracy” as an added value. Kenya at 44 years after independence is surely ripe for ideology driven politics.
I propose an ideology that recognizes that no single person or groups of people can ever grasp the wants of millions of people; that all individual-people need is freedom to address their wants and that Kenya and Africa must reposition its global relevance. So far, both government and opposition share one ideology…that they know what is best for Kenyans, hence the many promises! Political Parties should set Kenyans free to plan long term and cause prosperity through a structured, predictable system that can live beyond its leader.
This article was first published by Business Daily, a publication of Nation Media Group
By James Shikwati
Mr. Shikwati is the Director of Inter Region Economic Network
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