When Voting Rationally is Not
Business Daily (Nairobi)
11 February 2008
Nducu Wa Ngugi
In a representative democracy voting is a fundamental exercise
without which its content becomes devoid of meaning. Voting is
therefore the cornerstone on which any pragmatic application of
democratic ideals must begin.
Politicians are by proxy the cement which must be mixed with
careful measurement so that the coagulating aggregate strengthens
and adheres to the fundamental aspirations of any democracy and
Campaigning for political office is not a formality, but a vehicle
through which the politician tells their audience where they
intend to take them once elected.
If that particular brand of political posture does not conform or
come near your socio-political and economic stance, then you shop
around for one who does. Failing to find one, there is an option
to lobby or debate and argue for your political views to be heard.
These engagements are healthy for a nation for it is through them
that we begin to emerge with a uniting vision of where we have
been, where we are and where we need to go, together.
We therefore support particular candidates because we feel
strongly that they are the best positioned to point us in a
progressive direction or at least get us started on that journey.
And yes, we do get passionate and overly enthusiastic as we try to
get our candidates into office.
There is nothing absurd about these impassioned deliberations. In
deed, they are a welcome vocation because politics is about all of
us and not just the few. This is an engaging democratic process
that gives visibility and voice to the people. Political
leadership then begins to look like, feel like and behave like the
people because it is part and parcel of that fabric.
Where we have problems is when we be become blinded in our
enthusiasm and begin to align into ethnic affiliations and resort
to violence and murder.
For a representative democracy to live up to its promise, we must
understand and hold dear that there is nothing inherently wrong
with a Kikuyu voting for a Kikuyu if they feel that is the
candidate that best
represents their vision for the country at that particular time.
Or a Giriama voting for a Giriama, a Luo voting for a Kikuyu or a
Therefore if you campaigned, voted for or endorsed Raila Odinga,
President Kibaki or Kalonzo Musyoka, you exercised a democratic
principle and in fact a guaranteed constitutional right. No one
has a right to call you a traitor if you are a Kikuyu who
supported ODM and voted for Mr Raila.
There is nothing sacrilegious about a Kikuyu voting for a Luo or
vice versa. And no one has the right to call you a Kikuyu
chauvinist or a Kikuyu sympathiser if you are a Kikuyu or Luo
respectively and voted for Mr Kibaki.
In Western democracy, particularly in America, we see the same
sentimentalities emerge time and time again. Senators Barrack
Obama, an African-American and Hillary Clinton are in a heatedly
race for the democratic ticket. While both represent historic
epochs in American history the conversation has been about gender
Should the African-Americans who vote for Mr Obama be seen to have
voted purely on race or because they feel that he is the best
suited to lead? What of the white women who support Mr Obama or
the men who support Mrs Clinton? Are they traitors to their gender
These are legitimate questions which beg to ask the question where
democracy ends and gender-racialist practices begin. In a country
where blacks are a minority and women are generally
under-represented in political office, race and gender do matter.
And the argument here is that racial or gender loyalties are much
at play here in the United States as ethnocracy was in the Kenyan
presidential race. We cannot deny that fact.
However, those who decide to vote "outside" their race or gender
must be allowed the freedom to do so without being labelled.
Democracy in its finite wisdom acquiesces to the belief that we
are fundamentally different in our views inside and outside the
familiar. It is therefore logical that even members of the same
family do not necessarily have to vote for the same issue come
We must have the wherewithal to believe that a lot of good people
voted with their conscience.
But in the December 2007 presidential elections it was evident
that an overwhelming number of voters chose to ethnocise the
democratic process by voting purely on tribal allegiance.
The escalating violence that has left hundreds of thousands
displaced is systemic of a renewed xenophobia bred by no political
ideology but by ethnocratism. What we need now are voices of
reason. Unrelenting reason guided by the search for truth, justice
and unequivocal reconciliation.
We cannot cure that which ails us if we misdiagnose the illness by
colouring the symptoms with nicely worded phrasing and sound bites
or even photos with palm-tree lined backdrops.
We must search for truth behind this ethnic cleansing and
escalating violence for it lies there with the people. We must
find out who is backing the perpetrators and with what promises.
Allegations of high-level sponsorship of the well organised
attacks must be investigated fully.
Those sponsoring this violence and those carrying it out are both
guilty of genocide and have to be charged with crimes against
humanity. Justice will not prevail for the murdered innocents if
they are not brought to book. It is only when we have these
murderers behind bars that we can begin a process of reconciling
our peoples and replacing the dispossessed.
To ensure that we never go through what one intellectual, in a
precarious misnomer, called "growing pains", we need to start a
soul searching dialogue between our peoples. The economic rifts
that separate the haves from the have-nots must be bridged with
comprehensive socio-political reforms.
But even as we do this, we must come to the table clean and
without demands except that we are all in this together.
If we must perish then let it be because we dared to dream of an
equitable Kenya for all, but not to retain Party of National Unity
or Orange Democratic Movement. There are worthier causes to live
or die for.