Last weekend I was a guest at the Mkenya Solidarity Movement rally in Kangema where I got to meet the party’s senior officials; Chairman Mr Watson Simiyu, Vice Chairman Mr Suleiman Mraja, Secretary General Mrs Joyce Mwabingu, Organizing Secretary Peter Njoroge and National Youth leader John Abok.
The first order of business was the introduction of Mr John Gathogo, their candidate for the Kangema by-election due next month. My first observation was that this candidate is different from all the other candidates running for this seat on other parties. He is young (early 30s) and clearly has no resources of his own for this election, so he will depend entirely on the party for support and resources to run his campaign. However he has some amazing ideas of what he can do for Kangema were he the next MP.
As I sat there I marvelled at the power of Kenya’s new constitution.
Here is a young man with no material means, being sponsored by a political party that has openly associated with former members of a proscribed group, to run for a seat formerly held by a man who had used extreme prejudice to eradicate members of said proscribed group. I am sure I was not the only one seeing this irony as clearly, the meeting was happening under the watchful eyes of security agents who had probably worked with the departed minister to ‘hunt’ these boys. The late minister must have been tossing and turning in his grave!
The next observation was when the national party leadership lined up on the dias and strongly denounced their party leader Mr GG Kariuki. It seems that earlier in the day as the party officials were busy opening party offices in Kangema & Kiriani towns, Mr Kariuki, who was not present, had allegedly told the press that Mkenya Solidarity Party was part of Uhuru Kenyatta’s TNA party! The entire party leadership that was present in Muranga decided to use the rally to clarify that the party leader had no capacity to make such comments and categorically stated that Mkenya Solidarity Movement is an independent party that intends to participate in every election henceforth, at all levels.
Again I could not help but notice the irony, as well as appreciate the power of our new constitution. Here were these leaders, with very little national profile, standing up in front of a crowd of over 8,000 people to tell off a nationally recognized former minister for daring to ‘think for them’. The only reason they were able to do this was because they are recognized as leaders of a legally registered political party by our laws.
So not only does the new constituency allow parties like Mkenya to field a candidate in a former powerful Internal Minister’s constituency, they can even use such platforms to tell off another former powerful Internal Security Minister for trying to interfere with a party he leads! Clearly the new constitution has changed Kenya, & Mkenya is certainly benefitting from this change.
However a few words of advice for the Mkenya's officials.
Mkenya in my opinion represents hope for a specific group of Kenyans especially from Rift Valley, Central and Coast provinces, who have deliberately been isolated from mainstream national development, that they can now organize politically and bring their issues to the national arena. It gives young men and women like Gathogo a platform to ‘dare’ against the ‘owners of regions’, and challenge positions held by such owners when they feel they are not well represented.
Mkenya must keep this in focus in whatever political engagements they enter with other political players. They must be careful not to sell-out their party for short-term gain, because a whole section of Kenya’s population is looking at them for direction and must therefore negotiate only with those who will consider the party as an independent political establishment with the right to field candidates wherever they want in Kenya, in all elections.
As for those who accuse them of working with former suspected criminals; Mkenya must insist that the justice card applies across the board for all Kenyans. If individuals confirmed to have cases for crimes against humanity by an international court can hold national positions and run for the highest office in the land using the argument that they are innocent until they exhaust all avenues for defence, then so are their members. Mkenya could even go a step further on this argument & use its new-found political platform to pursue justice for victims of extra-judicial killings over the years. They can demand that any police officer who has been involved in extra-judicial killing should be charged with murder for killing Kenyans without allowing them the right to exhaust the entire appeal process available to more powerful and richer Kenyans, for worse crimes.
As for how the Kangema by-election; in my opinion Mkenya should make the by-election a referendum between two groups of Kangema voters; those who supported Michuki’s shoot-to-kill actions against his own people in his constituency, and those who lost sons, brothers, husbands, fathers and friends to ‘coffins being buried every week’, never to see them prosecuted in a court of law and thus getting closure on whether such loss was justified.
Mkenya must make the Kangema election a competition between those who respect the rule of law, and those who misuse the law.
The writer is a commentator on Kenyan social and political affairs