Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and National Super Alliance (Nasa) leader Raila Odinga last week struck a deal to ‘cease fire’ against each other.
Whereas what they did was laudable, we ought to question why it had to first take the lives of Kenyans and almost shatter the economy before these two ever-feuding gentlemen could come to the discussion table.
Odinga had vowed to make governance of Kenya very difficult for Kenyatta. He refused to recognize Kenyatta as president and declared himself the ‘people’s president’. He even took an illegal presidential oath.
The symbolism of Odinga taking oath at Uhuru (independence) Park in sheer protest of a government headed by one Uhuru was incredible.
The other three co-principals with whom they formed Nasa – Moses Wetangula, Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi – skipped Odinga’s swearing-in function. This was the first sign that the centre at Nasa could no longer hold.
There were signs that the ruling party, Jubilee, had infiltrated Nasa. By taking an illegal oath, Odinga breached the constitution that he was ever claiming to protect; and that act alone was treasonable. However, he was never arrested!
Instead, the advocate, T. J Kajwanga, who administered the oath was arrested and questioned by the police. Another of Odinga’s officials, Miguna Miguna, was not only arrested but also deported to Canada.
As ridiculous as it sounded, the authorities claimed that Miguna did not use proper procedures to acquire his Kenyan passport. He has dual citizenship of Kenya (his country of birth) and Canada.
Miguna is one of the acerbic critics of Kenyatta’s government and describes the incumbent as a despot. Never mind that in 2012, Miguna published a book Peeling Back the Mask, in which he attacked Odinga’s leadership skills and his democratic credentials.
When Kenya’s Supreme court nullified the August 8, 2017 presidential election, Odinga set certain conditions for the electoral body before he could participate in fresh elections.
Eventually, he refused to participate and also urged his supporters to boycott the October 25, election. In some parts of Kenya, especially those affiliated to Odinga and mainly dominated by the Luo communities, voting was frustrated.
Odinga urged Kenyans to throng the streets and protest against what he called electoral injustice. Naturally, the street protests exposed the participants to police brutality. Some people were killed and others maimed, all in the name of defending Baba Odinga’s right to become president.
None of the big shots in Nasa were ever killed. Why does it take so long for ordinary citizens to read through the selfish interests of politicians? After all those lives are lost, Odinga has realized that he might never become Kenyan president.
So, he has decided to cut a deal for himself with Kenyatta and leave a legacy as a politician who is not interested in the presidential seat but in the higher cause of peace and justice!
I could not get the answer why people decide to throw stones on behalf of politicians. In his book The Tipping Point, Malcom Gladwell makes reference to what sociologist Mark Granovetter called “threshold model of collective behaviour.” Granovetter tries to distinguish between belief and threshold.
Granovetter says that a belief is an internal thing. It’s a position we have taken in our heads or in our hearts. He adds: “But unlike beliefs, thresh- olds are external. They are about peer pressure. Your threshold is the number of people who have to do something before you join in.”
Granovetter further makes two crucial arguments. The first is that thresholds and beliefs sometimes overlap. But a lot of the time, they don’t. He illustrates this with a teenager who decides to drive at 100 miles an hour at midnight with three of his friends [cheering him on].
It is not because he believes that driving 100 miles per hour is a good idea. In that moment, his beliefs are irrelevant.
His behaviour is guided by his threshold. The connection here is that ultimately, someone with a “low threshold” is more open to going with the group, whereas someone with a “high threshold” is more likely to do it their own way.
The argument then is that someone who is more open to being extremely forward-thinking in a setting that is steeped in traditional ways of thinking might also have a high threshold.
What is important is to recognize the culture of the group as well as the individuals. And politicians world over have exploited this interplay of threshold and belief to manipulate support and keep themselves safe in political positions.
So, now you know why Ugandan politicians have exploited boda boda riders. It is their low threshold that leads them to being used and crushed.
The author is the business development director at The Observer Media Limited.