Date: 18 January 2017 13:31
As the clock ticks towards August 8, the choices facing Kenyans at the ballot are slowly taking shape.
In the last few days, we have seen a lot of excitement on the political scene with the ruling Jubilee coalition coalescing into a single political party.
The opposition Cord has also displayed new-found keenness to welcome other parties into its ranks as it seeks to wrest power from Jubilee and will most likely morph into the proposed National Super Alliance (Nasa).
Smaller political parties are also planning to have their candidates on the ballot as Kenyans go to the polls later this year to elect a new slate of leaders: MCAs, MPs, senators, governors and the President.
But any interaction with most of our existing parties and political formations reveals a glaring deficiency, which continues to be the bane of our polity: the poverty of any defining ideologies.
Today, besides vague blubber about inclusion, one would be hard pressed to put a finger on what the Jubilee Party stands for. The Opposition Cord/Nasa is turning out to be an amalgam of many ideologies.
We would have to go as far back as the days of Kanu/Kadu and Kanu/KPU and later, SDP, to discern any coherent ideological anchorage for a political party in Kenya.
Some pundits have argued that perhaps the only ideology that defines our parties is the blind quest for power; a perpetual struggle for the centre.
There is often little to choose, ideologically speaking, among political parties. Choice, if it exists at all, is in the leading individuals in each camp. And even here, choice is constricted as most of these new-found enemies once shared a political platform. Perhaps this explains why our politics is a veritable merry-go-round, motored by personality and tribe.
Most defections are not guided by principle or ideology. To most Kenyan politicians, a political party is a vehicle to power and not an instrument for pursuing certain ideals and principles of governance for the betterment of the country and society. The political party has been deliberately “instrumentalised” as a means to an end; and not an end in itself.
This is why the formation of the Green Congress of Kenya (GCK) is a breath of fresh air. Founded as an initiative to better humanity and to promote “green principles” in policy-making and real, ground level action, the GCK is a fully registered political party.
But our founding ethos go beyond pursuing “greenness.” We are also governed by a set of founding principles, which include ecological wisdom, social justice, non-violence, sustainability, respect for diversity and participatory democracy.
We subscribe to the Global Greens Charter and are guided by the conviction that some of the intractable governance and policy challenges that continue to plague our country are as a result of the short thrift we have handed environmental issues in our national discourse and policies.
By way of illustration, for instance, the current grim statistics of drought-induced hunger are a result of years of environmental abuse and dereliction. Systematic de-forestation and criminal exploitation of our water towers, like the Mau ecosystem have resulted in diminished and unpredictable rain, whose results are there for all to see.
Yet every drought cycle, the government spends millions treating the symptom rather than the root cause of the malady.
Kenya loses more than 50,000 hectares of forest every year, costing the economy some Sh1.9 billion. The country’s total forest cover is at a meagre seven per cent, against a constitutional target of 10 per cent, according to the 2015 National Forest Policy.
You would expect concerted re-forestation efforts, anchored on sound, bankable policy at both the national and county (Forestry is a devolved function) levels, but little is happening.
Our urban spaces like Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu have not been left out of the general environmental rot either. Many are drowning in garbage. Our rivers, which should be the lungs of our beautiful land, are chocking with plastic and other pollutants.
We are obsessed with the pursuit of so-called development, without weighing the consequences on the sustainability of our environment and livelihoods. The environment is the last consideration on the table, even on our big infrastructure projects such as the much-touted standard gauge railway.
The GCK intends to execute a number of programmes with international affiliates to ensure that these issues are given the weight they deserve in our governance. Most importantly, we will be presenting candidates, “greens”, who subscribe to these principles, at the next elections at various levels of leadership, except the presidency.
Mr Ogindo is the founding party leader, GCK, and former MP, Rangwe Constituency. E-mail: [email protected]