Friday November 10, 2017

By : Edward Wanyonyi

Time to deconstruct the fallacies peddled after repeat election


Time to deconstruct the fallacies peddled after repeat election

As the country prepares for the second term of President Uhuru Kenyatta, four major fallacies have characterised public discourse, contributing to the hardline positions taken by the two leading political bases- those in Jubilee and in the National Super Alliance.

In the gruelling contestation for supremacy, both political bases have sought to advance, counter, misinterpret these fallacies and thus in essence seek to reinforce the same as gospel truth.

Unfortunately, the media has not been keen to point out or even deconstruct these fallacies. Mainstream media has been captive of “experts” re-emphasising these party positions and social media is perhaps testing out the latest editions of fake news software updates in a bid to be steamier, sensational and alarmist.

First fallacy

The first fallacy that has been vigorously advanced is that we need to go back to our normal lives. What this statement simply means is that we should avoid using elections as a constitutionally acceptable intervention to reset the status quo and by extension alter the governance compass in the country.

That we should go back to the normalisation of inequality; endemic corruption and nepotism, lack of disaster preparedness, extra-judicial killings and a dysfunctional health system.

The purveyors of this fallacy seem to imagine that normalcy is a constant and therefore while they want to hurry to their normal which could be profiteering due to their proximity to power, the ‘normal’ of other Kenyans means a funeral of a mother who died while giving birth at home because nurses are on strike or it could mean walking from one public mortuary to another trying to trace the body of a young son, brother abducted by state agents on mere suspicion of being part of a terror group.

For these Kenyans, an election gives them hope that perhaps they can alter this state of affairs and so getting it right in the manner prescribed in the Constitution should not be taken with a careless remark of ‘to err is human’.

Second fallacy

The second fallacy that has also been put forward is that repeat elections in Africa always have a low voter turnout. This fallacy forgets to mention the context of the countries especially those which are post conflict and those which have highly repressive incumbents who invest more resources in tracking down opposition politicians than in buying kidney dialysis machines in hospitals or even construction of feeder roads.

Moreover, this fallacy does not explain the factors behind low voter turnout in a highly tribalised political context where two publics- private (ethnic community) and public (State) collide and conflate as advanced by distinguished Nigerian Scholar Peter P. Ekeh in his master piece “Colonialism and the two Publics in Africa: A Theoretical Statement”.

Third fallacy

The third fallacy that has also emerged distinctly after the nullification of the August 8 presidential election is that elections are too costly. This fallacy panders to the drumbeats of the ‘Will of the People’ narrative to avoid questions of accountability, verifiability, transparency of the entire election process.

Furthermore, this statement deliberately cleverly distances from the crime scene any possible acts of state interference and investment in an election.

If we are to take the argument that courts do not have the jurisdiction over election petitions because the monies for a repeat election could have been used for development, we risk allowing the previous under development to continue simply because we are too afraid of judicial light and so we would rather stay comfortable in the darkness of electoral fraud.

Fourth fallacy

The fourth fallacy that must be deconstructed is the totalitarianism of violence. While the history of state capture in Kenya has had incidence of violence, the continued invocation and instrumentalisation of violence in the run-up, during and after elections does not demonstrate power and popularity but simply the lack of trust in the electoral systems and institutions. Violence, whether advanced by State actors or politicians, only begets violence and this is counterproductive.

Mr Wanyonyi is a specialist on Strategic Communications and Leadership 

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