Press Room

My reflections on key political changeovers

I have been actively involved in national politics for a couple of decades now.

In that time, I have played important roles in a presidential campaign that was defeated, another that the result was disputed and three other successful campaigns.

I have been in the Government, opposition, a coalition arrangement, quasi-opposition and back into Government again.

There has been a lot of drama, suspense and excitement as well as anxiety, horror and heartbreak along the way.

But importantly there have been rich and important lessons for our leaders and our nation through all of these cycles.

Those who have learnt, have learnt. Those who haven’t, we pray that the Almighty God will make them learn. 

This year ends as the embers of a bare-knuckle, hammer-and-tongs electoral contest cool down.

For a while, many Kenyans feared that the political temperatures had reached a point where the country would combust and get consumed in carnage, anarchy and disintegration.

There are those who did their best to start the fire but to our credit Kenyans never took the bait and we give thanks that we concluded the electoral process peacefully.

Some have continued to fan the embers of violence, but Kenyans have outrightly rejected this path.
Talk by some politicians that elections results of August 8 can only be found in “servers” is wild, far-fetched, abstruse and an abstract excuse meant to dupe supporters.

Servers don’t vote. It is the people and anyone who commands support of the majority of the people cannot purport to hide under such abstractions.
Neither can they chicken out of elections. 

Reflecting on the events of 2017 the mind is naturally drawn to comparison though mildly with the 2007-2008 cycle. 

The Kenya that went into an election in 2007 is a different country from the one that persevered through two elections in 2017.

We are clearly stronger, more mature and operating from firmer ground, thanks largely to the new constitutional dispensation. 

The country was governed by a centralised Government in 2007, which decided the allocation of all resources.

There was a feeling of exclusion and systematic marginalisation among various communities while minorities felt they had no space in the set up. 

National institutions operated under the gravitational force of the executive, as a result of which checks and balances, as well as the rule of law were weakened.

In this environment, traditional inequalities, historical injustices and trans-generational grievances festered, repressed and unresolved. A necessary national conversation was not happening. 

The spontaneous post-election violence that followed the swearing in of Kenya’s third president was a culmination of all the pent-up anger and frustration. The election was the trigger of the suppressed emotions.

Kenya lost an opportunity in using a democratic process offered by the elections as a platform to dialogue on the Kenya all citizens envisioned. This would have prevented the violence. 

One group of the nation’s leadership became agitated and angry, and the other defensive and reactionary.

Kenyans picked the cue and all hell broke loose. Within a short, too much had been lost. 

The Serena negotiations afforded Kenya the opportunity to confront the ghosts that had haunted our nation from its cradle.

The Serena negotiations that came up with National Accord and Reconciliation Act proposed constitutional, institutional and land reforms.

National cohesion and unity, accountability, addressing inequality, marginalisation and unemployment were also tackled.

The National Accord and Agenda 4 codified bipartisan consensus on the way forward on each of those issues.

In the end, we undertook a large-scale systemic transformation by radically re-imaging all of our important institutions entrenching decentralisation, sharing, devolution, public participation, the rule of law, fundamental rights and social justice as non-negotiable elements of our social contract.

It is this that quickly propelled the change in the Constitution, which had had several false steps.

The Serena talks precipitated enormous changes in the management of the country, with the realisation of a new constitution in 2010.

Apart from participating in the Serena peace talks, I was also involved in the Parliamentary Select Committee that delicately crafted the constitution.

Today, Kenya boasts independent and robust institutions like the Judiciary, which can easily rule on an issue without fear or favour, something that could not have happened under the previous constitution without severe and serious consequences.

The Supreme Court nullified the election of August 8 Presidential Election and ordered a repeat to be held 60 days later, as envisaged in the Constitution.

Although, we differed with the ruling, we obeyed it. These are the freedoms that came with the Constitution.

We also have several independent commissions which have questioned the government, without fear.

We have a robust Parliament, which puts the executive on check. Above all, individuals take issues on their own motion to challenge Governments decisions.

Sometimes they triumph, other times the Government triumphs.

Jubilee was born out of the spirit of this new covenant; as a political organisation committed to the reconciliation and unity of all communities in the republic starting with those whose unity was long written off as a political impossibility.

Kenyans have continued to respond eagerly and warmly to our message of unity and shared prosperity.  As a consequence we have come far and achieved a lot as the people of Kenya.

Jubilee now strides all parts of Kenya. It has brought many communities and people together.

It is getting rid of small, briefcase community parties. Parties that were used by some leaders to segment the country to bargain for positions. Credit to Jubilee, the last elections were largely contested on issues and between two main parties-Jubilee and the National Super Alliance (Nasa).

However, Nasa still remains an amalgamation of four small distinct parties from mainly three regions headed by regional leaders.

The idea to quickly bring together these parties was mainly informed by the formation of Jubilee Party.

In most world leading democracies elections are mainly a contest between two to three parties.

Kenya has earned its respect courtesy of a difficult and even tragic past. We have laws.

We should not attempt to bend them to favour us. We should not discard them because we are not comfortable.

We should not ask to change them because of self interest.

The future’s only promise lies in protecting these laws and enhancing them whether they favour us or not. 

H.E. William Ruto ~ 31 December, 2017