An ongoing discussion led by some of Kenya's key opinion leaders entails the quality of leaders who ascend to power after the elections.
Do Kenyans perpetually vote for 'criminals' in elections? [Expert Opinion]
As Kenya trudges toward its 2022 General Election, voters, pundits, and politicians ponder questions of who will win, what it will take, and what the next five years may look like for the Kenyan people.
Human rights activist Boniface Mwangi posited: "Lots of criminals vying in 2022, and they shall be elected."
Using the Bible's Judas Iscariot as a metaphor, Mwangi added that voters in Kenya are unlikely to vote out of personal conviction.
"Kenyans will sell their votes and their children’s future for 30 pieces of silver. We elect rapists, robbers and murderers to lead us
"I speak as someone who campaigned and engaged voters, most of them don’t care about ideology but handouts and alignment with their preferred tribal kingpins," he stated.
Mwangi's sentiments sparked a discussion, with cartoonist and columnist Patrick Gathara stepping in to defend voters.
Arguing that voters are victims of bad leaders, Gathara noted that Mwangi's assertion was equal to 'victim-shaming'.
"Kenyan voters are trapped in a political system that is not of their making, that was created specifically to dispossess them and restrict their participation and options, and then the politicians blame them for it," the cartoonist stated.
Emphasising that the Kenyan people should not be blamed for bad leaders and corruption, Gathara added: "The political choices people make are neither irrational nor stupid. That should be the starting point. They are to large extent dictated by the system they find themselves in."
Chief Justice Emeritus Dr Willy Mutunga, agreed with Gathara, stating: "I agree. We cannot hate the people we wish to change."
Dr Mutunga went on to explain that priority, in his perspective, ought to be placed in educating voters on the error in their choices and empowering Kenyans to make the right choices, "That’s is what contestation of political power is about," he added.
The former CJ, who is also Mwangi's personal mentor, asked Mwangi: "You campaigned on politics of issues. Your loss was also victory. Do you include those who voted for you in your “Kenyans” you are vilifying?"
Seemingly impressed by Mwangi's assessment, Nyeri Senator aspirant Kabando Wa Kabando suggested that the activist's 2017 run at the election in Starehe would have launched the activist's political career.
"16,000 votes 2017 on the first attempt in a constituency he's not actually 'resident" and Sh14M campaign donations is a big victory of sorts. Don't know any candidate who did such. 16k votes against ODM/JP Nairobi juggernauts is an exemplary WIN. He'd have remained on the ground," Kabando remarked.
Criticizing Mwangi's position, a West African policy expert identified as Chris Ogunmodede reasoned: "This kind of political analysis is so prevalent across the continent among middle-class commentators - particularly the 'civil society' crowd - and is so taken for granted that no one ever stops to ask the hard questions about why vote-buying exists in the first place."
The discussion has continued to spark mixed reactions with a majority of other commentators split into the two positions.
The Star subeditor Eliud Kibii stated: "Why do you keep excusing voters' decisions? Granted they are victims of that political set up, don't they have an opportunity to change it? And yes, some constituencies have elected better leaders ( within this very system) who have changed this. The people have a responsibility."
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