Friday, May 17, 2013

Gone are the days of 'kuchaguliwa bila kupingwa'

Dear readers, allow me to regale you with a political tale from yore. At the height of the infamous Nyayo era, a new phrase, ‘kuchaguliwa bila kupingwa’ entered the Kenyan lexicon.
This was in the wake of the massively rigged 1988 general election that were held under a new queuing system, at the time simply known as ‘mlolongo’ in Kenyan lingo.
The whole exercise was very simple. The various candidates would stand at the head of queues carrying placards bearing their images.
Voters were required to line up behind the candidate of their choice upon which a head count would be conducted by dubious electoral board officials and the results announced pronto.
But Kanu, the ruling party of the day, nay, the only party (baba na mama) at the time had no place for dissidents.
The polls were marred with numerous cases of the notorious Kanu Youth Wingers whipping up voters into line from queues of candidates perceived as being in the bad books of the powers that be to join the queues of the party’s candidates of choice.
To cut a long story short, the whole exercise was a sham.

The tragedy is that rather than resulting in free, fair and transparent polls, the secrecy of ballot boxes having been dispensed with, the 1988 polls ended up being the most flawed elections in the history of independent Kenya.
What am I ranting and raving about? Tuesday’s Athletics Kenya (AK) election brought back the old memories of those days of ‘kuchaguliwa bila kupingwa’ with some members of the athletics body’s top brass assuming office ‘unopposed’.
I don’t know exactly what informed AK’s decision to abolish the chairmanship in favour of a Presidency with four Vice Presidents in it’s new constitution.
But it all reminded me of the stormy Kanu National Delegates Conference of March 18, 2002 in Kasarani where President Daniel Arap Moi, the self-proclaimed ‘professor of politics’ pulled a fast on his overly ambitious Vice President, the late Professor George Saitoti (may his soul rest in peace), by endorsing the creation of four ambiguous posts of party Vice Presidents.
The move ultimately locked out Saitoti from the grand scheme of the Moi succession politics.
It is on this particular occasion that Saitoti made his most famous quote, “There come a time” (sic) that became popular when he passed on in a tragic plane crash on June 10, 2012.

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