Lessons Kenyans can Learn from the 2016 US Elections

With the results of the recently concluded US elections, it’s pretty clear that a majority of the world was shocked by the results. The unexpected happened, a reality TV star took position as the leader of the free world. Was I surprised? No. Was I disappointed? Extremely. I had been saying it all year long that he was going to win but I desperately wanted to be wrong this time round. There was no way the conservatives would let a second democratic leader breaking history come into power. The first black president followed by the first female president? That’s too much for them.

With the Kenyan General Elections slowly approaching, I wondered is there anything we could learn from them.

The divide in America was clearly shown between the liberals and conservatives. It has been there, it will always be there. The impact was clear when it came to the results. As much as the rest of the world, mostly the developing countries, seem to think that the Americans are the most liberal people on earth the results showed something else entirely. With social media, we became spectators to just how divided the country is about certain things. We got to see how women are viewed, religion and race in the eyes of conservatives, scary times my friends.

The divide in Kenya is different. It’s not about liberals and conservatives, it’s all about tribal power. Almost everyone I have tried to talk to about this matter, their response has been very tribal. The scrutiny has not been on a particular individual but more on the individual’s tribe and how poisonous they are. I thought this was a thing of the past, something that would die with our parents but it was very clear that even following generations were infected with the bug. To all the questions I asked, the response was almost always the same and in line with tribalism.

We have often been given guidelines by the American government during our elections in the past. They have sent in their observers to ensure that the elections are fair and ‘uncompromised’. Now I wonder, what ground do they stand on? When the speculations are high that their elections were interfered with? When the people are on the streets protesting against a man who has a long list of wrongdoings to his name? How are we as a nation expected to look up to them and the democracy they claim to be the answer to our issues?

What are we to learn from them then? I wish we didn’t have to be so dependent on some other system in order to help our own. Same with how our constitution came in place, desperately trying to copy (literally) what the West were excelling at so that it could make improve our system. It came around to bite us in the ass. Our economy cannot support the new constitution, we cannot thrive with it in place. It’s just not possible if the necessary changes are not made.

So instead of focusing on how you don’t want to be ruled by one particular tribe, dig deeper people. Find solutions to the problems at hand rather than focusing on the surface problems.  I don’t want to see a campaign focused on vilifying their opponent, I want facts. Making the your opponent seem like the devil is relying heavily on fear as was seen with Trump’s campaign team and its clear Jubilee has decided to run with just that this time round. I don’t want a campaign telling me about the wealth of the other person and how his tribe has been thriving while other Kenyans have not. Can we be over that? How come that was not the story when Moi rule for more than two decades?

What we can take from that election is that Democracy is dead. It’s a game of numbers where the layers have to know what to target to acquire the required population to back them. Trump played the fear tactic which has worked in the past for Republican candidates. That’s a game Kenyan politicians have used in the past and are still using. Democracy is something that we have been made to believe works best for every nation ad in theory it might make sense. But giving power to people who do not bother to find out the truth behind what they are being fed by their candidates does not really scream democracy. Well, it does but in the wrong sense.

I wish I could get something substantial from people about the upcoming elections but the noise has been fairly the same. The hate is still there based on tribal lines. I have to admit though that there are people who have surprised me with how deep and factual their arguments have been. I wish there were more people like that in our country or running to lead it.

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