The general elections are supposed to be held sometime next year, and as a result, the field of presidential candidate is growing by the week. The constitution of Kenya article 137 has the qualifications that one must fulfill so as to allow them to get nomination, and because clause 1) (c) allows the nomination of independent candidates, and nomination of two thousand voters, virtually any Kenyan can declare interest.
Kenyan citizens have greeted some of the candidates with ridicule and brushed them away without scrutinizing them, and their policies. This is a negative attitude that promotes propaganda, weakening of the debates between candidates, tribalist chiefs being approved by Kenyans almost unquestioningly, and an unhealthy dependence on opinion polls to tell us who the best candidates are.
I think we should carefully scrutinize the presidential candidates before writing off or rubber stamping anyone as the winner, and some of the things we should look at are as follows:
1. Principles and beliefs
Every person has their own principles that they fight for in their lives, whether it is fighting for gender equality, rights of the disabled, marginalized communities or even acquiring as much wealth s possible. Thus, every candidate will base their candidature on a certain agenda based on their beliefs, whether it is kufuata nyayo, economic development or equality.
It is important that we scrutinize each candidate’s principles and beliefs, so that we can see how these are in line with the national values, interests and vision 2030.
2. Professional and economic background
This is important so as to give us inkling on what special interests, if any, the candidate would represent once in government, and what special abilities the candidate will bring to the office. A farmer by profession would be expected to bring that expertise to the job, while at the same time focusing more on the agriculture sector.
3. Ideological leanings
Ideology is becoming an increasingly important part of Kenyan politics. Whether this is ultimately a positive or negative development is a topic for another day, but each candidate must tell Kenyans where he stands in terms of role of the government in promoting development, the role of faith in the state and drafting of laws and policies, their policies towards the LGBIT group, and what they think the role of Kenya should be in the international relations,
4. Track record
The track record of the candidate in terms of what they have done in their previous capacities to promote democracy, human rights, peace and unity among all Kenyans, and respect for the rule of law, has to be investigated. Those who were silent during the fight for democracy, and against the dictatorship of Kenyans first 2 presidents, and to some extent even the second, cannot be trusted as courageous, principled and democratic candidates.
5. Organization of the campaign
The way the presidential candidate organizes his campaign tell a lot on how they would run their administration. How the candidate uses social media such as facebook or twitter, handling of propaganda and attacks from other candidates, and coherence and realism of the campaign promises, as well as the efficiency of their campaign can tell us how the candidate would handle opposition, use new technology in governance of the country, and run the cabinet.
6. Brushes with the law, if any
Many Kenyan politicians have spent their time in court, either for corruption charges, allegations of crimes against humanity, fighting for democracy and freedom, or organizing protests against dictatorial regimes etc. we should look at these brushes with the law so as to gain insight to the personal characters of the candidates, and their track record in fighting for the democracy (or against it) that we take for granted.
7. Transparency about campaign funding
The campaign websites of every candidate should tell us how they have acquired their funds. This is important because it will show us which candidates promote transparency. It will also educate us on any special interests either inside or outside Kenya, including the business class, religious groups, trade and labour groups.
It is my view that should we scrutinize each candidate this way, we will make much more informed choices on our government, as well as reduce tribalism and ethnic chauvinism. It will also remove the joy riders who may seek to use the pluralism and relative ease in which someone may vie for the most powerful political office in the land.
We as Kenyans must remember is that the constitution stipulates, in article 38 (3), (c) That every adult citizen has the right without unreasonable restrictions to be a candidate for public office, or office within a political party of which the citizen is a member and, if elected, to hold office. We should not discriminate against any candidate who has declared interest for the seat on any ground including race, sex, ethnicity or religion, as long as the said candidate fulfilled all the requirements of the constitution, and is a responsible leader.