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  • Writer's pictureIrungu Houghton

Time to pull out the red-cards, the party primaries are upon us

First published Sunday Standard, April 16, 2017. Kindly reproduced here with permission from Standard Group

If you are like me, you may be wondering whether to have a sigh of relief or hold your breath this holy weekend. On one hand, the long-awaited rains have thankfully hit our farms and dams. Simultaneously, the elections are upon us. Over 20,000 individuals and their campaign teams have formally launched a scramble for 1,871 seats for the positions of Governor, MP, Senator and MCA. Only seven counties offer a real contest between the various parties. These seven counties contain “swing” constituencies in places like Nairobi, Narok and Garissa. For all the other parts of the country, the real election takes place over the next two weeks of the party primaries.

Depending on your level of “awokeness” you have probably internalized the elections calendar, are following IEBC and your party on twitter and Face Book and ready to flash your party membership card by now. For others, you are probably wondering why all the fuss given the elections are four months away. Is it necessary for all the aspirants to deface our walls with posters and why the sudden sensitivity of strangers to you wearing orange, red or yellow in public? Regardless of where this moment finds you, a hornet of bees has begun to swarm, and you, the voter, are the honey they seek.

From community leaders to corrupt public servants, distinguished businesspeople to disgraced doctors they come before the 19 million registered voters. Many seek public office to serve their own private interest while some have a vision for their ward, county and the nation. All will be pre-occupied with photo-shopping their profile, exercising their networks and resources to reach as many party supporters as possible. What ultimately matters is none of this.

The depth of corruption and impunity in our public offices and among us, the public, makes this election season a critical moment for continuity of the same or a radical break. The theft of public resources, national divisions and violence has become the new normal. Left unchecked, the seeds of corruption will grow into large trees of impunity spreading a dark shadow over us personally and the nation.

For this reason, we could do no better than start to note who the candidates are, what they stand for and as importantly, what their track records are. We must start asking the real questions in the house to house meetings, community dialogues and party rallies. What changes do they seek to bring about? How are they financing their campaigns? Who is paying for those T-shirts, posters and especially, those helicopters? Have they ever been mentioned adversely in the Office of the Auditor General’s reports, disbarred by their professional association, declared bankrupt or are they being prosecuted for economic crimes, bribery or fraud?

We can start demanding zero-tolerance of our churches, mosques and temples. No. We don’t want to turn our places of worship into political platforms and corruption havens for stolen tax-payers’ monies. We can challenge our integrity vetting institutions and especially the EACC and the IEBC to define and apply Chapter 6 without favoring one party aspirant over the other. If twenty-two players on the pitch and all the audience loses faith in the referee, not only does the referee lose power, we all lose the game.

The members and national party election boards across our sixty or so political parties also hold the future of our country now. The Constitution and various laws including the Political Parties Act requires political parties to set and enforce ethical and integrity requirements and procedures for identifying, vetting and approving aspiring candidates.

It is worth reminding our party leaders, there is a high cost of ineffectively doing this. Unethical party nominees will probably be subjected to costly public ridicule and rejection. They could also be disqualified by the IEBC or legally petitioned by responsible citizens. Lastly and most importantly, ferrying corrupt, divisive and violent aspirants into our public could open a hole that swallows the nation alive in future.

For me, I am printing red-cards and preparing to flash them in the face of anyone who offends our constitutional standard of Chapter 6 on leadership and integrity. Join me, I dare you


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