Opinion: Azimio Full of Theorists, Demos won’t Help Much

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As demonstrations go on, Azimio risks losing out if the leadership does not quickly find a way of engaging the government on the way forward. The Finance Bill’s fate is in court. No amount of agitation can lead to it being repealed outside that arena. Here is why:

Politically, if President Ruto repeals the law chiefly because of Azimio demands, he will lose the trust of his parliamentary majority which passed the bill. Many of those MPs passed the bill having gauged the mood of their constituents, majority who silently supported it.

Azimio strenously opposed the bill in parliament, but at the end of the day, when a vote was called, the government majority won. Azimio should have ended it there, with a warning to Kenyans to vote wisely next time. But Azimio is full of theorists.

Our democracy is premised on the majority having their WAY and the minority having their SAY. Kenya Kwanza is the majority. Azimio is the minority. Azimio had their say, KK/govt had their way. That is how our democracy works. Debate. Vote. Win. Lose. REPEAT.

If the bill has clauses that foul the constitution, the arbiter is the judiciary, and they are well seized of the matter. Maandamano may sway the judiciary to listen to public opinion, or it may not. The fate of the Finance Bill now rests squarely with the courts.

The question many will ask, when the injuries and death toll roll is called; is whether the demos were worth it, especially, without any tangible concession by the government. Azimio seems to stake a win-lose outcome…where Azimio wins, and KK govt loses. This may not happen.

Those who designed these demos must remember the demos were not and can never be an end in themselves. And they cannot go on eternally. The demos should lead to a realistic political outcome. An outcome that both sides can sit well with, but especially, the government side.

President Ruto is ruling an African country. This fact should never be lost in those high-sounding constitutional theories we keep citing. When the chips are down, Kenya is a primitive African society with deep ethnic loyalties. We keep missing this point.

Something else. With the demos no more, the darkest phase of the struggle starts. This phase is the battle to ensure those arrested never go to jail. This phase will need utmost diligence. In our struggles, there’s always this propensity to abandon the footsoldiers.

There are hundreds of Azimio supporters arrested across the country. The govt will not release them without Azimio fighting for their release. If Azimio abandons them, they’ll be jailed. And many will serve very lengthy sentences, on crimes unrelated to the demos.

A struggle is lost when the footsoldiers pay the heaviest price, and the higher-ups move on as if nothing happened. Many people in Azimio must learn the meaning of solidarity. 10 months from now the cases will still be going on in courts, will they still stand with you?

Solidarity, when the TV cameras are on, is not solidarity. That’s showbiz. Solidarity starts when there are no more TV cameras. When no one tweets on the matter anymore. When it is just you, seated on the cold bench of the magistrate’s court, fighting for YOUR freedom.

Solidarity is four years from now, when you’ve gone through tens of court mentions and adjournments and new dates and even further mentions and adjournments. If your pro-bono party lawyer will still show up in court for you, then that’s solidarity.

I wish all the Azimio arrested luck. Actually, the best of luck. The darkest phase is about to begin. The political class will not be loud on this phase. Yet this phase will not simply go away.

Dikembe Disembe is a Political Researcher and Writer

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