Why We Need Direct Democracy
The problem with liberation movements is also the reason they must occur, namely a singular common enemy of a democratic government founded by the people and for the people. Kenya’s liberation movements found a common enemy in Moi and his regime which stifled the principles of democratic choice and governance. When Moi repealed section 2 (a) of the previous constitution to allow for multi-party democracy it was seen as the second liberation. Liberty to freely form associations and political parties, liberty to run for public office in opposition to state officials and the state party, liberty to segment and sectionalize the electorate who now were spoilt for choice.
But alas, the second liberation did not result in institutional democracy founded on ideologies and principles of good governance. And so, in 1992, and 1997, the state party repeatedly emerged victorious in the elections. Granted, the electoral process itself was heavily flawed with rigging. Not to mention a judiciary that failed to deliver justice on election petitions. Still, the matter of not having a sound ideology in governance and leadership and having only one objective i.e. remove a stifling dictatorial regime from power can be said to have been the real curtailing factor that led to the failings of opposition politics of the time.
By 2002, the liberation movement and its proponents had somehow found a way to work together, united in their quest to rid Kenya of their common enemy Moi. “Yote Yawezekana bila Moi” was the rallying call, giving hope to the masses that without this single person, democracy and good governance would reign in Kenya. Alas, that was not to be proven true. Almost immediately after winning the elections, the new regime split apart politically due to dishonored MOUs, and power wrangles over ministries. One cannot truly trace where the fault lay, as the government was opposed from within and supported from without; Uhuru Kenyatta became the leader of the official opposition that in fact supported President Mwai Kibaki’s reforms!
The third liberation was to arrive via a new constitution, a document that had been promised to be delivered within the first 100 days of the new government, but sadly arrived nearly 8 years later. Once again, in 2007, the rallying factor for the opposition was to remove their common enemy from power. There really was no other solid ideology stemming from the political campaigns other than to demonize and to paint the regime of the day in a dark manner. The result was excessiveness in negatives extending to even the communities that leaders came from; Tribalism took on new dimensions. The post election violence of 2007/08 was the metamorphic ogre of criminal democracy.
Criminal democracy is the state in which people have the liberty to even rob, rape, maim and kill because they have democratic freedom, in the name of exercising that freedom over and above the freedom and rights of others. It is the result of a continued and sustained ideology of liberation movements, and liberation movements and the culture of exiting a common enemy are directly converse to constitutional and institutional democracy.
Despite the 3 or is it 4 liberation movements Kenya has undergone, at the level of policy and governance, nothing has changed. Liberation movements do not institute reforms, they do not create policy to curb and put an end to corruption, they do not create a national state of security where democracy can thrive.
What liberation movements do, is just remove people from power, they do not give power to the people. Constitutional democracy is what gives power to the people, real power, to determine how they are to be governed and served by their elected representatives.
It’s clear what the end result is, of a liberation movement that does not transform into constitutional democracy. No matter how many times we change our leaders, the same ills of corruption and impunity hamper our progress as a nation.
The politics in Kenya are so stagnant in ideology, that despite us having multi-party democracy for almost 20 years, we still have no institutional democracy; we still grapple with a lack of concise policy as regards governance. But because we have the democratic space to do so, we resort to demonstrations and industrial protests in order to be heard.
The only way to make the much needed transition, from liberation movements to constitutional democracy, is by direct democracy acted by citizens. Direct democracy, demands that citizens themselves, take responsibility for how things are run in government, actively participating in policy creation and making sure that the ideology of the day is not politics of personality and ousting a common enemy, but is rooted in sound principles of good governance.
Direct democracy is about ignoring the noise generated by politics of personality, and demanding ideologies that are practical and focused on the running of the state. Direct democracy is about taking individual initiative to self-educate on civic matters, and to go a step further and educate others as well. Direct democracy is about taking into consideration the concerns of all members of the state, even as you agitate for your own interests. Direct democracy is inclusive politics, where the opinions, needs and values of others are as important to discourse and leadership as your own. Direct democracy, creates a state, that is stable, that has equity in distribution of resources, and whose economy is not destabilized by an election.
The real losers in Kenya’s elections thus far have been the citizens because of a lack of direct democracy. I can only say that for things to really change in Kenya from poor governance to good governance, from a failed state to a performing state, from a state of insecurity to a robust and stable economy, the people must endeavor to participate in the running of their country. The new Kenyan constitution has provided several opportunities to do. Isn’t it time, Kenyans took its tenets and implementation to heart?