The Kenya Forum will not be endorsing a candidate for the next election, nor can we predict with any certainty who will become our next president, not in 2012 let alone the election due in 2017 but like others the Forum believes we may be seeing glimpses of Kenya’s political future. The future might not be orange, it might not be blue, nor is it black or white: it might however, in some way, have something to do with Mr Peter Kenneth.
ODINGA AND KENYATTA: SAME OLD, SAME OLD?
Day in, day out we read in our newspapers that Uhuru Kenyatta has declared that he will win but people are trying to stop him and on another page Raila Odinga declaring that he will win even though there are people are trying to stop him, and both call on others to join them. Both leading candidates too, as do others, call on voters to “shun tribalism” and then appeal to their tribal base for support.
That’s the bones of the campaign but where’s the meat?
THE UP-AND-COMING PETER KENNETH?
Planning Assistant Minister and MP for Gatanga, Peter Kenneth, has been talked about as the up-and-coming young politician for several years. His supporters argue that he has done a good job as an MP, a junior minister and further back, as chairman of the Kenya Football Federation.
For many people, Peter Kenneth is a fresh new development in Kenyan politics, perhaps matched only by Martha Karua, as someone who is trying to break the political mould. Certainly his campaign style differs somewhat from the current leading presidential contenders.
Speaking in Dallas, Texas, in August 2011, Kenneth said he would be different to the other candidates. Well they all say that, don’t they, but Peter Kenneth might be living up to his word.
His campaign launch at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre KICC) in Nairobi on November 4 was markedly different to the equivalent events for the other candidates and their parties.
THE OBAMA PARALLEL
Kenneth’s wife and family joined him on stage, his son 21 year-old son Andrew addressed the audience, and all looked young and vibrant. The presentation was slick.In presentation style Peter Kenneth’s campaign launch as presidential candidate for the Kenya National Congress (KNC) was more Obama-US than Kenyatta/Odinga-Kenya. His campaign slogan ‘Tunawesmake’ (‘We can make it’) echoed Obama’s ‘Yes we can’ slogan. And like Obama, Kenneth is of mixed race, his mother black and father white.
POLICIES IN A KENYAN ELECTION!
The content at of Kenneth’s address at the KICC was also refreshing, whether one agreed with his views or not. He spoke of food policy, unemployment, attracting investment, infrastructure development, and the expansion of healthcare and education in Kenya.
He even stated his intention to 47 referral hospitals and 47 polytechnics for students who do not go on to university. This was a politician talking about policy in an election campaign!
KENYA’S YOUNG ELECTORATE
Kenneth has made a point of directing his campaign towards the youth of Kenya (as admittedly are other candidates) who appear to be responding to him and it is particularly younger voters who express the frustration that politicians only ever repeat the same old messages in the same old way.
Words are cheap and anyway Peter Kenneth is only running at about three per cent of popular support in the recent opinion polls, so he won’t be held to account for what he says now. He’s not going to win this time around and he knows it but his eyes are set on becoming president in 2017.
A POINTER TO THE FUTURE?
The Kenya Forum’s point is not that Peter Kenneth will become president, not that he should become president, but that other aspiring political leaders in Kenya should look at his campaign and learn.
The young voters of Kenya will respond to fresh new ideas and images and they want potential leaders to put some meat on the bone of their campaign messages and tell the voters what they plan to do to make life better in Kenya.