Nairobi Star Newspaper Pheroze Nowrojee: Let us Seize this Reforms Chance

There are some serious choices before us about what the country will become in the immediate future.

They are: Exclusionary government by a small ethnic clique out for political and economic domination; violent infiltration from outside resulting in dissolution; reform by Kenyans; or continuing management by the "international community".

Obviously, the choice that would best serve the largest number of Kenyans is reform by ourselves.

The prospects for reform are rich despite the difficulties and obdurate opposition to it. There is a window. There is more support for substantive change than ever before, and more support for reform in the country than is resistance to it.

This is the time to tip over into real change. It needs hardworking reformists in government. We have always had only a very few of those. They are still only a few but now those few are more than we have ever had before.

They need increased active support from us. Change does not come by itself. It is fuelled by a continuing demand for decisions that bring about transformation. It needs new thoughts about new systems, and new thoughts about the working of old institutions. It is how Nelson Mandela approached the task of government in South Africa after apartheid. Then he and the ANC became the managers of that change. They had massive and visible support and this is what we too must provide to those who can bring about the transformation of Kenya. Without such visible and constant support we may waste this opportunity.

The realisation of the promise of change cannot be in the hands of those who have been opposing it. We cannot support them. Support must be for those who are qualified by the long years of the struggle to know how to hold the compass, to be the compass.

Reform needs a coordinated and systematic programme of moving. We therefore have a choice. To support the politics of programme . Or support its opposite — the politics of only personal advancement. This is an important choice. Because this choice by each of us decides whether change will come. Our choice makes the opportunity.

Obsessing with the media about the rivalries of individuals is not a political choice. It is a diversion. It prevents change. The headlines in the papers these days are not news. They are SMSs from their proprietors.

Therefore we are in need of a visible rejection of what does not bring about change. And active support for what does. We move then from preference to choice, and manifest that choice by more visible backing for what is bringing about change.

Most of our 'politicians' are used to easy politics — distribution of money in elections, buying fellow Parliamentarians, funding oneself through government contracts, talk national walk ethnic, comfortable meetings in five-star hotels, saying whatever comes to mind in rallies, not preparing what to say in Parliament, looking for easy alliances that will be jilted when the opposite side comes with a better one.

Not only is all this easy politics, it is not politics at all. Politics is about the polity, all of us. Most of our holdover politicians are not about us, but about themselves. Real politics is harder.

Politics is hard work. It is not about buying followers, it is about persuading followers. That is always difficult work. The sycophants of the past never persuaded. They were used for, and became fond of, 'warning' opponents and all other Kenyans.

Those days have gone. To make sure that they do not return, we have to support those leaders in politics who seek to persuade not purchase; most of all, those who persuade by example. That is proof of their application in the job of leadership.

The example of those who seek to buy or inherit office only confirms that their principal purpose is themselves and their families, and that to them we, the public, are an incidental nuisance to be used when necessary. We have seen that the first task of those who inherit power is always to ensure that they remain extraordinarily wealthy.

Their second task is to keep other Kenyans continually poor, so that people remain dependent on them and the relationship of ruler and ruled remains.

We will become in five years what we choose now to support. Or fall prey to the other alternatives. We have to choose our politics. Or others will choose them for us.

Pheroze Nowrojee is a lawyer based in Nairobi.

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