Conveying Democracy in Kenya: An Attempt to Discourse Analysis by Michelle Sto. Tomas @ University of the Philippines, Diliman
Kenya has been under authoritarianism for quite some years now and still prevalent under the presidency of Uhuru Kenyatta. Authoritarianism, in Kenya’s case, seems to have resulted into a domino effect. Because of authoritarianism, there came a one-party state, alleged election fraud, worse ethnic polarization, and restrictions on the press/media. The Conversation said that “the first and most obvious lesson from the 2017 election campaign is that dynastic politics is alive and well in Kenya” (https://theconversation.com/kenyatta-or-odinga-why-dynastic-politics-is-alive-and-well-in-kenya-80732). If ethnic polarization and favouritism is the root of democratic erosion in Kenya, is it possible to find democracy and fit it in a needle hole?
Postmodernism allows us to see Kenyatta’s leadership as a text. While the other aspects of Kenya may be eroding, democracy must be both effective and accountable. Seeing Kenyatta’s leadership, we try to create a liberative discourse on Kenyatta’s effective and accountable leadership as seen in the following imaging of the text:
- There is election (and Kenyatta went to the re-election in August)
Przeworksi et al. said that a country is a democracy when chief executive is elected. Kenyatta, no doubt won through elections. He was declared president in August 2017, but was thrown out of office after alleged irregularities and illegalities (https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/11/kenya-election-kenyatta-odinga-violence/545747/). Despite the Supreme Court’s decision for a re-election, Kenyatta accepted and respected the decision of the judiciary. Even though Odinga’s supporters boycotted the election and called it an unfair election process, it did not change Kenyatta’s intention to undergo another election, which declared him a winner with over 98 percent of vote.
- The “Digital President”
Though critics say that Kenyatta’s move towards technological advancement as a form of transparency is for show, being dubbed as the digital president allowed President Kenyatta to communicate his youthful and political strategy and “embrace the country’s ambition to become the centre of digital innovation on the continent” (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-21544245). The youngest president of Kenya uses technology to deliver programs to Kenyans’ benefit. He was also active in Twitter. Upon writing this blog, he just posted a tweet four hours ago stating his positive outlook on Kenya’s progress specifically in the #Big4ActionPlan, a hashtag often seen in most of his tweets. Kenyatta’s big four agenda includes Universal Healthcare, Manufacturing, Affordable Housing and Food Security. Kenyatta’s twitter account has 3.17M followers to date, that allows him to be transparent and report current events in his presidency and otherwise allows his followers to monitor him of being an effective president.
- Flagship Programs
To weigh the effectiveness and accountability of Kenyatta’s leadership, one should also look into the priority programs the current administration provides to Kenyans. We name three areas: E-Citizen, Land, and Infrastructure. E-citizen is an online portal that serves Kenyans to transact with the government through the use of advanced technology. Land is an important part of Kenyans. Kenyatta’s leadership pushes to increase the issuance and distribution of land deeds to Kenyans especially those affected by land buying firms (https://www.delivery.go.ke/flagship/landdisputes). Infrastructure is also one of the flagship programs of the government, the focuses on roads, railway and ports which help Vision 2030 come tangible. The priority programs of the government are leaned towards the industrialization and modernization of Kenya, which, according to Lipset, have the “political correlate of democracy”. The government has sought in intensifying the country’s agriculture through industrialization. The theory of democratization in the modernization perspective says as countries modernize in wealth, industrialization, urbanization and education, they are more likely to maintain conditions conducive to democracy. Moreover, Focus Economics reports that the unity deal between Kenyatta and Odinga in February helps the revival of Kenya’s economy (https://www.focus-economics.com/countries/kenya).
This article attempted to magnify in the discursive arena Kenya as towards democracy, specifically in holding an effective and accountable government. It was a challenge to create a discourse however for some obvious reasons: crackdown of the civil society, police killings, attacks on the press, and crackdown of the opposition. After the attempt to create a discourse, we arrive to some critical questions such as: How can we measure the rise or enlargement of the middle class as a result of industrialization in Kenya? Is Kenya’s industrialization enough to push for democracy? How can we further discuss modernization as a theory towards Kenya’s democracy? Can industrialization reduce ethnic favouritism that is rampant in Kenya? Meanwhile, Kenyatta has yet to prove his regime as towards democracy and not the erosion of it. His new term is yet an acceptance to the challenge of uniting a divided Kenya. If Kenya’s industrialization is towards the #Big4ActionPlan, then it also should aim to diminish the ethnic favouritism in Kenya, too and later move Kenya to a more democratic country.
Photo: Inauguration of Chinese-built Mombasa-Nairobi Railway retrieved from https://news.cgtn.com/news/3d49544f3541444e/share_p.html