By: David O. Monda
In 2018, Africa is littered with governments that function constitutionally but remain authoritarian, undemocratic, and de facto one-party states ruled by strongmen. The gains made by the Jubilee coalition in Kenya at the national and county level during the 2017 elections, increased the number of seats the party had in the legislature. With the opposition hopelessly divided on a strategy to confront Jubilee, this threatens the hard fought multi-party system developed in Kenya since the introduction of multi-party politics in 1991. Post 2017, Kenya is sliding precipitously towards a de facto one party state.
The Jubilee executive has emasculated key leadership positions in the legislature. It has used its majority in parliament to pass legislation without input from the opposition or ensuring wide consultation on controversial policy issues. The Jubilee led legislature has become a rubber stamp to the demands of Jubilee executive.
On its part, the opposition NASA coalition has not helped its case as being the viable alternative government and check to the sitting Jubilee administration. The opposition leadership is consumed with the ill formulated notion of People’s Assemblies, an obsession with swearing in a “People’s President” when State House has a constitutionally recognized occupant and an obstructionist “mass action” with no practical end game. This has further strengthened the hand of the Jubilee coalition and limited the opposition party’s ability to keep the government on its toes. In addition to this, both the Jubilee and NASA coalitions have failed to collaboratively build a viable multi-party democracy through bipartisan consultation to resolve national problems. Kenyan democracy demands the rule of law, respect for national political institutions, equity, and accountability in government.
While NASA and its supporters are clearly still aggrieved by the results of the 2017 elections, NASA accepted to be part of the electoral process knowing well that there would be a winner and a loser at the end of the electoral cycle. Whatever the rules of the political game in Kenya, all players must play by the same rules. NASA cannot conveniently reject court rulings when they are not in NASA’s favor and accept those that are. The current position of NASA to boycott its legislative functions only reinforces Jubilee’s hand at using majorities in Parliament to pass legislation and lead Kenya precipitously toward becoming a de facto one party state.
Since independence, Kenya has not had a tradition of a loyal opposition keeping the government in power in check. This is because historically the opposition has not offered the electorate a viable alternative or because the opposition has been co-opted or repressed by the dominant ruling party.
It is a welcome relief to see diplomats from the European Union and the United States midwifing a national constitutional dialogue around inclusivity, the independence of the judiciary, electoral reform and the reform of Kenya’s security services. This is a process that is long overdue and needs to have been done by the NASA and Jubilee coalitions not foreign envoys. After over half a century of independence, it’s time for the political leadership in both coalitions to take ownership of Kenya’s post-election challenges rather than play electoral brinkmanship till 2022.
The dominance of the political process by Jubilee hurts Jubilee, NASA, and Kenya as a whole because of the lack of wide consultation and discourse by all the stakeholders in the political process. A de facto one-party state will take Kenya back to the days of KANU’s monopoly over the political space. Kenya need not rely on foreign envoys to derive solutions its political leadership and institutions can easily resolve. The perilous alternative is a de facto one-party state.
David O. Monda is professor of Political Science at City University of New York – Guttman College