Young, dotcom voters responsible for many ‘Livondos’ in 11th Parliament

Campaign helicopters in Eldoret on February 9, 2013. FILE PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA

Campaign helicopters in Eldoret on February 9, 2013. FILE PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By MURITHI MUTIGA

One MP accused of brutally raping a married woman. Another caught harassing his aide through a stream of unsolicited texts. Yet another tries to attack his colleague on a foreign trip. Not to mention corruption which is now a way of life in the corridors of Parliament.

These scandals have triggered the widespread analysis that the public should stop moaning about the quality of representation they have in Parliament because they elected the lot in the first place.

But look more closely and you will draw an additional conclusion. This crop of MPs, possibly the most rotten since independence, is the fault of young, dotcom voters.

Kenya has a staggeringly young population. The UN defines a youth as anyone between the ages of 18 and 34.

A third of Kenyans fall in this bracket. In total, 80 per cent of Kenyans are below 35.

In effect, and not just in Kenya but in Uganda, Tanzania and further afield in sub-Saharan Africa, these young people are the ones that determine who enters Parliament and they also have a decisive role in national elections.

So what does it say about the values of the youth that, almost without exception these days, it is cash and glamour not ideas and ideology that carry the day?

PUNISH WEALTHY CANDIDATE

In the-not-too-distant past, at least up to most of the 1990s, the budget one had for an election, especially in a Parliamentary contest, was not a decisive factor.

In fact, sometimes the electorate would deliberately punish the wealthy candidate and vote for the one who made a better connection with wananchi.

Figures such as Martin Shikuku, who would never give handouts but was unbeatable as an orator and anti-establishment crusader, won their contests comfortably. Bifwoli Wakoli comes to mind, too.

In several famous elections in Imenti South, Kiraitu Murungi came up against Eliphaz Riungu of Kanu, notorious for his role in the Goldenberg scam which nearly bankrupted the country.

Constituents would be covered in a blanket of cash but consistently voted for Kiraitu, the opposition candidate.

There were numerous other examples. Anania Mwaboza at the Coast walloped Ali Hassan Joho in a closely watched by-election marked by huge campaign spending on Joho’s side.

The first paragraph of the report on the poll in The Standard summed up the story.

“A star-studded cast of political giants in his campaign, a safe governing coalition ticket and a staggering Sh34 million war chest — and still he lost,” it declared, of Joho’s campaign.

In Central province, in 1997, little-known Moses Muihia sensationally defeated Uhuru Kenyatta after the younger Kenyatta opted to contest in Gatundu South on a Kanu ticket, a party which was overwhelmingly unpopular in the region.

Things have completely changed in recent years. It would seem that today’s electorate prefers the candidate who will come to the ground in the flashiest stream of helicopters and who will dish out the greatest amount of money possible.

There are no Young Turk types any more. The Parliament which took office in 1992 was full of progressives elected on the basis of their long years of sacrifice in the struggle for change and their idealism, whatever one might think of their record when they eventually came to power.

These days, it is only the size of the pocket that matters. I had to Google again to see why on earth someone would run on a ticket with the nickname ‘Livondo’ and still win. As far as I could tell, the only accomplishment of the real Livondo was throwing wads of cash at party-goers one Mulembe night.

It is true you cannot elect a ‘Livondo’ and get a people’s servant in the mould of Shikuku. The electorate is to blame, yes. But look again at the statistics and you will realise the electorate has changed significantly.

It is now overwhelmingly young and the evidence on the surface suggests this portion of the electorate seems to occupy a post-ideological universe.

Addressing why this is and exploring whether some social engineering can be done at the school stage to teach values outside the importance of money might help to rid the public space of the looters, Livondos, rapists and pyramid scheme operators that now dominate Parliament.

mutiganews@gmail.com

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