By Sospeter Otieno
If you really want to reform or democratize a party, then you better start your own and lets see where democracy will take your party. Parties all over the world tend to be undemocratic. Ruto dumped ODM to start his own “democratic” Kalenjin party URP.
But we all know, that he is yet to even hold elections 2 yrs since he bought it. The man who ran from ODM for what he called lack of democracy is now a self appointed, self anointed Supreme Leader of his own party, at least the Chinese Communist party is a collegiate entity replete with a politburo where decisions are not a one man show . And I don’t blame him. The only way to successfully shepherd a party is to Lord it over.
KANU was Moi item, and even though Moi relinquished it to Uhuru, the latter was still unsettled and was worried about Moi’s shadow in retirement. To succeed, he founded his own “reformed” party, TNA which he runs like a personal or family trust with handpicked and salaried(not elected) officials like Johnson Sakaja and Onyango Oloo.
And Uhuru had trouble taking KANU to where he wanted even after getting the certificate because of this animal called delegates. Assuming I gave you ODM today to make it your party, it would probably take you decades to make it your own political party.
Here’s why. To make any far-reaching decisions you need a delegates conference or a National Governing Council meeting. These people can be manipulated by your predecessor. To call an election you need them, to change the name of the party like ODM to cleanse it of Odinga demons if any, you would need “his existing delegates” to meet and ratify. You would have to call an election, run by a team picked by the delegates. That explains why Uhuru had to be honest and give back the Jogoo party KANU certificate to the Moi family, its owners. The graph to get rid of say older delegates of a like ODM if I took it over today would take the shape of half life graph, for those of you who have done Nuclear Physics or Chemistry, a line that will never touch zero, for an infinite number of years, when you too would be dead. That is why these dynasties with grips on parties in Kenya will cannot even be overthrown.
Raila attempted to overthrow Wamalwa from Ford-K but he couldn’t, imagine Raila being unable to overthrow Wamalwa? Even if it were Martha Karua of Narc Kenya, its just a tall order if you were to follow the due process. Coz Narc K delegates, if any are her delegates. And to get rid of her, you need them and so on and so forth.
Even the US Democratic Party, or the Republican parties aren’t democratic. Its not democratic because if you don’t vote with the party on important issues you are kicked out. What people should look for are not whether a party is democratic, but to what degree a party tolerates dissent. Actually the more democratic a party is, the more doom it faces.
Parties if democratic in the manner you understand democracy by universal suffrage; they cannot survive. Not in this world. You wonna know why?
Like free masonry, or mainstream churches, parties are a larger form of sorority organizations. You gotta believe in it. Its about belief in the parties’ ideals. So the more of the ideals of that party you espouse, the more “shares” and entitlement you have to the party. The higher in the party hierarchy or oligarchy if you like you get entitled to rise. Thats why it doesn’t matter how good you are, if your loyalty is questioned, you cant win in a party election.
The majority shareholder is the ideological leader of that party. Which means to become the ideological leader of a party, a.k.a The Party Leader, you gotta stand for something around which others will coalesce.
Delegates tend or should be the super-loyal members of the party and who will, even out of sight, not betray the ideals of the party. They wont badmouth the party and its leader under any circumstances including in the secrecy of their bedrooms.
Delegates are like those who you call wazee wa kanisa who never betray the man of God but reserve the power to kick him out if they feel he has betrayed the ideals of the Church. Like the Embu pastor who was caught misusing tithe in Karatina. Ask Thambo Mbeki, he was kicked out through very undemocratic means.
Joe Lieberman after endorsing John McCain was sidelined by his party and was eventually kicked out in the subsequent election in a Democratic Party stronghold of Connecticut.
Delegates are the custodians of party ideals. The loyalty of the delegates should not be to the leader of the party but to the ideals of the party..but given that the holder of that Party Leader office espouses a gold standard of those ideals, people tend to; like they do with Dr . Owuor, get close to worshiping that party leader.
So you see parties are closer to churches more than any other institution. They are vehicles through which political belief systems are executed and channeled.
It is therefore fool-hardly for anyone to demand democracy in a party. Tell me where there’s a democratic church. Not a single one. Churches are actually dictatorships, but because the members are united by a religious bond, they are blinded by faith from seeing those dictatorial tendencies.
We all know from Catholic history, that when the Pope speaks ex-cathedra or issues encyclicals they are actually called infallible truths. The Humana vitae decreed by Pope Paul VI (but authored secretly by sycophant Carol Wojtyla- later Pope John Paul II) banned contraceptives, was one such dictatorial proclamation by a church…
The Humana vitae has remained unquestioned by the church and has remained a matter of intense debate for close to 5 decades. And the Catholic Church thrives due to a leadership that is “ruthless in how it disciplines dissenting bishops and high-ranking faithful.” That’s why its the model of how a political party ought to be run. Anyone intent on starting and running a successful and vibrant party should read the Papal history.
It is that history that parties learn to expel members who don’t toe the line. Because like churches ex-communicate to maintain the integrity of the House of God, so will parties expel to safeguard the ideal of the party. And just like churches excommunicate, parties are also very right when they expel rebels who oppose the party position.
And so in conclusion, for ODM to get its groove back, it doesn’t need to be democratic, you cannot hold fair and democratic elections and survive. What if delegates were to elect all Luo officials? Or all officials from Coast? You know what I mean. There would be a mass exodus from the party. Also how do you ensure gender equality, and regional balance through a fair process? Or what if delegates decide to vote in an entire disloyal line-up? Ladies and gentlemen, there’s not a fair way to do that. Only an unfair process of giving delegates a party list.
TNA is the most undemocratic-ally managed party in Kenya, and it has some semblance of peace. And lets call a spade a spade, ODM the most democratic party in Kenya today, tends to have chaos, whenever there’s a national process going on for the party. That is why the party hierarchy needs to re-calibrate itself, and the standard is the Vatican model of a human-faced “intolerance to dissent”.