The opposition parties recently gathered at the Bomas of Kenya. The National Super Alliance mooted by the Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi seems to be taking shape. We wish the new outfit all the best.

It’s amazing that Kenya’s post independent movements that altered the political landscape of this country were birthed in western Kenya. The Kenya People’s Union (KPU) founded by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga opposition to KANU was the first one.

Yet the question that begs an answer is why there is a huge democratic divide in the womb that supposedly delivered the baby to the larger parts of Kenya? It’s been argued that Nyanza is the most undemocratic region in this country where intolerance to divergent opinions is ruthlessly crushed. Further, voting for another presidential candidate who is neither supported by our own or isn’t from our region is unheard of. Uhuru Kenyatta got less than 1000 votes in both Siaya and Homabay counties while Raila bagged enough votes in Uhuru’s strongholds.

From face value, it might look like one region is more open to divergent views. while other people have argued that one region is generally more cosmopolitan than the other based on economic activities available there. Finding foreigners who are willing to support another candidate than the region’s favourite, therefore, is easy.

One of the objectives of democracy should be to lift up the people from the miry clay of poverty and destitution. Democracy should encourage free speech, free choice of leaders who we support or not and it should also avail tangible economic benefits to the electorate.

When my brother died in a fatal road accident in 2010, only a handful of people came to our rescue as a family to offset the discouragingly humongous bill. Yet if we had been allowed to have our way, without societal expectations, a simple burial ceremony would have sufficed. Yet we were told that we couldn’t bury a 25-year-old man like we bury a child. Overwhelmed by pressure from all sides, I plunged myself into debt. I borrowed Kshs 50,000 to offset part of the bill. Because though we had meetings to raise money, it wasn’t simply coming forth and I was getting impatient.

In my culture, the value is placed on send-offs. Because we believe that the dead need to be honoured. It’s a tradition that I respect and I believe that it has its very important place in our community. Yet when the rubber hit the road, I remember one of my cousin, who is a well-established businessman with over 20 years of experience in business contributed Kshs 1,000.

He did not only contribute 1k for the burial, we also carried him in the hearse that ferried my brother’s body to Kisumu. It was like he paid a one-way trip then he hitched a ride back to the city.

While the presence of loved ones during grief cannot be replaced with anything, we cannot bury our heads to the reality of the economic demands of burial ceremonies in Nyanza and Western Kenya.

Well, someone might argue that the scenario I’ve raised above could be an isolated case. While that might surface as a cure for those who like superficial solutions to problems, it is necessary for us to dig deeper to find exactly what ails this region. While I claim no specific expertise in this area, I will delve into a pattern that could help cure this region:

Historically, superstition held the region on chokehold for so long. Allegations of people being killed because of a ‘bad eye’ were ripe. When I was growing up in Kano, even people who died of HIV/AIDS somehow found a reason to attach it to the power of the supernatural world. To their credit, HIV/AIDS was still stigmatised and there wasn’t much information about it. Therefore suspicion governs how we related.

Therefore suspicion governed how we related.

It’s 50 years after independence but we still fight about things that have been proved to be false. Some of us are still fearful of going back home to invest because a black eye might ruin our plans. While I’m extremely excited when I go home, I feel like individual progress is good but we must also learn to pull resources together and work to uplift our communities. It is time for our people to develop Sacco’s that will solve the perennial problem of financing.

When I was doing my research on the smallholder rice scheme irrigation scheme of South Kano, I found out that one of the issues that the smallholder farmers (the largest part of the scheme) are a lack of a revolving fund to assist them in their planting cycles. So they work so hard but their efforts get scattered and carried away just like the wind blows the rice chaff.

While I understand the role of politics in the distribution of wealth and power, I also know how fickle it is to place our dreams and hopes on a political process to lift our people from poverty. You know the history of this country and how achieving credible results are so hard in a political process.

If we were a mature democracy that believes in the equitable distribution of wealth, we would put our hopes in governance. But so far, with the season of the launching of roads and projects to specific parts of the country to lure voters, as has been alleged by political analysts show that ours is still a backwards country where patronage and your last name are the key ingredients to success.

By all means, let us form alliances and insist on having credible elections. Let’s trust that the political process in this country will reflect the true will of the people. But even as we do that, let us have plan B. Let us go on and invest in our alma matas. Let us adopt children in our rural schools and pay their fees. Some of them cost what some of us would gobble up in one night.

I want to urge us to form a national super Alliance of ideas. Where we will raise money to combat HIV/AIDS even as we complement government efforts. I would like to see a scenario where we go back to our villages and help to remove scales from our kinsmen’s eyes because we have experienced the Damascus road miracle.

I don’t want to act ignorant of the many endeavours that people from West Kenya are doing to make life better. I just want us to have the same passion we have for politics and try to convert it into tangible benefits for our people. If with the same zeal we have for politics, but we used a chunk of it to change lives, we will not be ceding our rights to live better lives or depending on the benevolence of our leaders.

 

Loved the piece? Follow the writer on twitter @dannishodongo and like his page Dannish Odongo. He is a political commentator and for any enquiries, you can reach him on +254720348865.

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Politics & International Affairs
Author: Dannish Odongo

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