In 399 BC, philosopher Socrates stood before a jury of 500 of his fellow Athenians charged with vague crimes like “worshipping new gods” and “corrupting the young”. The trial took place in the heart of the city, the jurors were seated on wooden benches surrounded by a crowd of spectators.
After three hours of the accusers presenting evidence and Socrates also given three hours to respond, it is startling that such accusations led to a death sentence. The irony is that Athens was a radical democracy that prided itself on freedom of speech, and all that Socrates did was talk.
When I scan the political landscape in Kenya, I hold my heart because it skips a bit. While there is a lot to celebrate, the baggage weighing us down are equally numerous. The current onslaught against independent institutions by political leaders should be condemned in the strongest terms possible by all Kenyans of goodwill. The fully fledged war that is currently being waged against the media should alarm all the right thinking citizens.
Misinformation, mud slinging, name calling, innuendos, character assassination among other dark and vicious crude methods only reserved for the underworld war of fighting legitimacy have now been unleashed in Kenya.
You see, sometimes we forget how fragile democracies may be. There is a rise in demagogues who thrive in division, fear mongering and lies to run their agenda. In the US, the roots of independent accountability institutions are being eroded as tyranny sweeps back the gains made over decades. France almost fell into the hands of the far right leader but Macron emerged the winner. A party that believes in the ideals of Hitler made gains in the last German elections. Have we forgotten how these democratic gains were achieved? Have we forgotten the blood, souls, sweat and tears of the people who died to get us here?
Democratic societies are governed by a political theory called social contract. Staying in a Republic implies an agreement to abide by the Laws and accept the punishments that they mete out. It is therefore in the best interest of every citizen to submit themselves to the convention of the rule of law whether it favours them or not. The same should be expected of the state, to obey laws so that they are not seen as the breakers of the same laws they ought to enforce.
As a young leader, I’m worried by how deeply steeped we are charging towards the land of lawlessness. Court orders are not being honoured, civil rights are being trampled upon and those who are not favoured by the Courts are taking the law into their own hands. Yet as a country plagued by a far much worse disease than any known calamity that has ever inflicted this country of division, walking towards the land where laws are applied selectively is akin to poking a tiger with a stick.
Kenya is a very youthful country. The median age is estimated at 19 years, and about 80 percent of Kenya’s population is below 35 years. Yet the political class who are busy running amok in this nation are made up of people whose average age could well be 45.
The Country we want
As the custodians of this nation, I want to ask young people one question, which kind of a nation do you want to live in? Do you want a nation where 50 percent believe that it doesn’t matter how one makes money as long as one does not end up in jail? Do you want to live in Kenya where 47 percent in a survey last year admitted that they admire those who make money through hook or crook, (including hustling)? Is the nation where 30 percent believe that corruption is profitable where you want to live and probably raise your family too?
It’s worrying that in addition to a whopping 73 percent who were polled confessing that they are afraid to stand up for what is right for fear of retribution. While the moral fabric of our society is clearly strained, the last line of defence will be strong institutions that are governed by the rule of law and not subject to the predictable whims of politicians.
There’s an old saying: the dead will have their revenge. Gravestones have been known to move, and trees to speak, to bring guilty men to justice. The craftiest murderers have been exposed by the mystical signs made by crows and magpies. How late at night is it?
So what is the role of a leader today?
The leader today should lead better than their great-grandfathers because they have the gift of hindsight and an endless pool of knowledge.
The leader today should not chest thump and lead people to the streets just for the sake of it. He has to sell a compelling vision that will make the lame to walk towards it.
The leader today must be a communicator, a mobilizer, a minister a merchant of hope. He must rise above the tyranny of negative ethnicity that plagues this country.
We are being called upon to be leaders who will build bridges to cross the valleys of division that derails this country. We must be leaders whose words are seasoned with love and tongues installed with the brakes of self-control?
Leaders who will transform this country must be willing to set aside their selfish needs for the bigger benefit of mother Kenya.
Are you that leader?