Maandamano Mandamus, But To What End?


Maandamano Mandamus, But To What End?

My 20s were mostly employed on the political street beat with maandamanos that took place in the agitation for an end to the one-party rule and the clamor for a new constitution in the ‘80s into the ‘90s. Many in our midst were killed, maimed and imprisoned by Daniel arap Moi’s government. 

Our reward would come more than 20 years later when Kenya would enact a new constitutional order, this coming after the return of multi-partism in 1992 and an expanded space for civic engagement in later years. So yes maandamano can bear fruit, albeit in the long term. However, the question on my mind today, with the on-pause maandamanos by Azimio La Umoja One Kenya, is whether maandamano is the ‘form’ needed 30 years later after the return of multipartism. One would have thought there would be better ways of agitating rather than sacrificing our youth, our poor businesses, and the torturous daily rigors to eke out a living. 

The expanded civic space should have created modern champions with better strategies to foster change. Our new politics should have anchored itself on a higher pedestal than the romantic old ways. There should be new and effective ways of agitation in the august house when things take a turn, ways in which the three arms of government can robustly check and engage each other without allowing the peasantry to take their frustrations to the streets. 

By now, it should not be the political partisan class that should be setting the agenda. Rather, our academia, our business community, our civil society and media should all be way ahead of the cacophony of political noises. 

Truth be told, there are genuine causes out there that need to be attended to. 

The high cost of living alone is a concern for all of us. Not least the whole world. The electoral justice issues will require some synthesizing as I have argued before. Some of the questions on the outcome of last year’s election may be a bit futile, for the horse has already bolted. Kenyan laws subscribe timelines to the arbitration of election results through the courts. As we now know, this process was exhausted after the Supreme Court rendered its decision following the petition against the declaration of the presidential election results by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). 

Indeed, more than two hundred cases for the other electoral positions have also been heard by the lower courts and justice dispensed (only a few cases are so far successful.) 

What is admissible, however, is that we can assess how the election was conducted with a view to reviewing or reforming the process as part of the broader electoral reform agenda. This would, in my view, address the ‘open the server’ questions that are being raised by the opposition. The best way of going about this is to seek the setting up of an inquiry into the election or to conduct an independent assessment or audit of the 2022 electoral process, much more akin to the Kriegler review of 2008. 

On the question of the selection of the new IEBC commissioners – now that a selection panel has been set up – one option that exists is to closely track and contribute to the process as an interested entity. The Panel is already having engagements with different stakeholders, seeking advice on what to look for in the applications for the commission jobs. This presents an opportunity to the opposition to state their issues of concern. Another option is to wait for the appointment process to be completed then engage the new Commission on the same.  

I have posited before that there is a good opportunity in having the Commission set up in good time because it allows for robust engagement with all actor’s way before the 2027 general election. 

A final political option is to have a bi-partisan approach that would address the IEBC selection headache. This is something that the country has employed before under the same circumstances. During the so called machozi (tears) Mondays of 2016, when the opposition demonstrated against the IEBC, the then president and the opposition leader agreed to set up a bi-partisan parliamentary joint select committee that was co-chaired by James Orengo and Kiraitu Murungi. The Joint select committee mid-wifed the termination of the services of the then IEBC commissioners and came up with a raft of electoral reforms that were adopted by parliament. This approach will require the consent of the president as well as the opposition leader. It would also lead to the suspension of the current process of the already-appointed selection panel. 

My argument is that while the constitution provides for picketing and demonstrations, our leadership has the responsibility to explore many other options that do not require the use of ordinary Kenyans as pawns in the political chess game. But if as the old adage goes, the more things change the more they remain the same, then I would rather blunt my sharpened spears and arrows, mold and hone them for the rudimentary hoe and remain based in the village and grow just enough for my flock.


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