By Charles Okech,
In the 15th century BC, at the core of Athens, the Greek capital, emerged the profound notions of “demos” and “Kratos,” symbolizing the power of the common people which has become the foundation of democracy. The nature of the Greek democracy, unlike many present democracies, participation was the rule rather than the choice. Every Greek adult was subject to participate in the affairs of the government, for those who failed they did bear the brunt through fines.
Many debates and conversations have suggested that democracy is the finest model of governance for civilizations. Nonetheless, this proposition has faced opposition, with some arguing that a “one-size-fits-all” approach is an elusive pursuit. Such is the case in China, Russia, and other autocratic nation-states.
Unfortunately, the introduction of democracy into state institutions has taken a disturbing turn. This unsettling trend is exemplified by the recent surge in coup d’états in the Sahel region and, on a broader scale, across the African continent. A notable instance occurred in Gabon on August 30th, immediately following President Ali Bongo’s election victory, securing him a third term in office. Shockingly, a coup attempt unfolded shortly after the announcement of his re-election. Such a trajectory is a waning effort to build a democratic state.
In the Republic of Kenya, democracy was greatly under suppression pre-1991. This period began in 1982 with the ban on multiparty politics in the country. The effect was that the country fell into the trenches concerning human rights as the dictatorship took over. Any form of dissent to the head of state and government attracted torture, and so is the history of the dark Nyayo Chambers that became the pavilion of the arbitrary acts. For those who were able to escape the fury of President Moi’s mace, they did find refuge in exile.
However, with the growing cause for a democratic Kenya from within and outside, the repealing of section 2A that outlawed multipartyism was in the offing. This became a reality in 1991 with the return of the multiparty political system. Currently, the country stands at over 30 years of democratization. In those 30 years, there have been moments of great fulfillment and moments of sadness.
The years of great fulfillment can be said to have begun in 2002 when President Moi was ousted by the electorate in what has been described to be the fairest election ever held in Kenya. Moreover, the country got into a period of great economic development. Most experts at the time described Kenya’s economy to be one of the most promising economies.
Equally, it is worth noting the role of democracy in the birth of the Katiba 2010. From its initiation with public invocation and committee members touring the country to gather perspectives, to the referendum and eventual promulgation, pure democracy was exemplified. There are benefits of this katiba that we have all reaped especially through chapter 4 which gave life to human rights in the country and equally so the rise of devolution.
As for the moment of sadness within the over 30 years of a democratic Kenya, the post-election violence in 2007 happens to be the saddest. Kenyans took to the streets, killing each other over a disputed democratic process. At the time, many from the runners-up side, ODM, questioned the integrity of the process. While on the winning side vehemently opposed the proposition taken by runners up. A hellish tussle it was!
Moreover, worse times have come to exist when public participation does not matter. Demonstrated recently in the finance bill of 2023 where the promoters of the bill did invite opposing views to the bill but barely considered the views.
This article might not fully possess the might to bring the panoramic view of democracy, however, there is one thing that speaks to all: democracy is a precious gem let us protect it!