A choice between the Folly of Youth and Wisdom of Age in elections

America elections

In an election that will go down as one of the most curious presidential race in the country’s history, Americans elected septuagenarian Donald J. Trump as its 45th president. They elected the self-described billionaire instead of the more experienced, better funded, better connected, and arguably better informed former First Lady Hillary R. Clinton.

They elected DJT despite the unconventional, oftentimes crass nature of the man’s campaign. The GOP candidate was simultaneously refreshing and unfiltered as he was tactless, classless, and simply dishonest.

Mr. Trump’s victory also turned a hitherto sole purview of American foreign policy on its head: For the first time, a foreign power (Russia) meddled in and arguably impacted a presidential election in America!
Mr. Trump won because of four simple words.

He promised to “Make America Great Again!”

The expression captured the essence of a presidential campaign that was one big hillbilly lovefest. And while it was a campaign short on specific policy positions, that did not deter Trumpites (as his fervent supporters were/are called) who wanted to “make America great again”.

They also wanted to turn Washington DC upside down/inside out and effectively “drain the swamp” as this promise was monikered. There was also the silly “Lock Her Up” chant – in reference to the then-FBI investigation of HRC.

So the promise to “Make American Great Again” and “Drain the Swamp” garnered an outsider, who is actually a well-connected insider, the American presidency.

While Kenyan politics has its share of septuagenarians, the country’s current president is a product of the sixties having been born in 1961.
Only 59 years old, President Uhuru Kenyatta cut his teeth first as a member of the less-than-august Kenyan Parliament for Gatundu.

He was a project of the country’s 2nd and arguably its most authoritative president the late Daniel Arap Moi. As Minister for Finance, Mr. Kenyatta was – you guessed it – implicated in a “KShs. 9.2Billion, typo, glitch or whatever”.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is also a former crimes-against-humanity suspect for the violence that occurred after the disputed elections of 2007 between his godfather Mwai Kibaki and his nemesis Raila Odinga.

76-year-old Raila Odinga’s background is even more extensive and controversial than Uhuru Kenyatta’s. His nickname “Agwambo” or “Mysterious One” is a window into his political rap sheet; an “enigmatic” one as characterized by his biographer Nigerian Babafemi Badejo. Raila’s career includes involvement in the 1982 coup that sought to topple the government of Arap Moi. Scion of the founding father of Kenya’s opposition, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga has also been a cabinet minister and member of parliament.

With Kenya’s general elections less than two years away, those jostling for political office on either side of the aisle include personalities who have been in politics their entire life and have frankly exceeded their “Use By” date.
Job experience is usually a good thing. In this instance, it is not. These lifelong politicians have very little legislative and development records to hang their hats on. Aside from their spotty records, an alarming number of them have been implicated in gross malfeasance WITHIN the current seating of the legislature including President Kenyatta and his deputy Mr. Ruto.

Fact: I am yet to see a Kenyan politician who is clean or unbeholden to the ubiquitous and shadowy cartels.
It is also a fact that Uhuru, Raila, Mudavadi, Kalonzo, Wetangula, Moi, and any first-tiered politicos have followers who would not countenance their absence, deliberate or forced, from vying for the top job.

There are also the tertiary-tiered candidates who are simply sucking the oxygen from the field – on either side. People like Prof. Anyang Nyong’o, James Orengo, Kiraitu Murungi, Johnstone Muthama, and the likes should simply take their golden parachute along with the ill-gotten gains and go home.

It is a sad commentary on the country’s major parties and civic education programs not to mention a stinging indictment of Kenya’s political environment that the same families – Kenyatta, Odinga, Moi, Mudavadi – and their toadies continue to dominate the country’s political space.

As much as I abhor nearly everything Donald Trump stands for, I give him credit for breaking the stranglehold the Bushes, Clintons and Romneys have had on American politics. And before Trump, there was the neophyte and American-Luo Barack H. Obama. The fresh-faced “junior senator from Illinois” took on the Clinton machinery and wrestled the primary nomination on his way to the history-making win over John McCain in the 2008 Presidential Elections.

Obama’s message of “Hope” and “Change”, coming after eight years of George W. Bush’s war-mongering, was the right message for the zeitgeist pervading a country suffering from war fatigue. And as previously mentioned, Trump’s promise to “Make America Great Again”, as ambiguous and counterintuitive as it was, given Obama’s accomplishments (from what he inherited), resonated with enough (white) Americans in the battleground states of the Mid-west to give him the requisite 270 Electoral College votes.

As Americans, there is a definite disconnect between what most Kenyans say they want in their leaders and who they end up electing to lead them. Jubilee’s last seven years in office have provided incontrovertible evidence that age has very little to do with (a leader’s) policy proposal and legislative agenda. The so-called “digital duo” of Kenyatta and Ruto proved to be even more corrupt and ineffective than the much-maligned nonagenarian and “analog” regimes of Kibaki AND Moi and that is saying a lot! The matching white-shirt-wearing duo took Kenya back to the days of roadside pronouncements, brown envelopes full of cash, and use of state machineries to stifle opponents including extra-judicial killings.

Kenyans are angry at their politicians. They are also thirsty AND hungry!
They are sick of politics as usual. They are also sick and unable to fly to London for “specialized care”.

The country is divided along ethnic lines AND along socio-economic lines.
So while there is a dire need for new blood in the country’s politics, what’s even more pressing is the need for leaders with policy proposals and visions that capture the zeitgeist even as said policies offer a forward-looking vision.

By Dorcas Sarkozy

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