[ideas] Is there a way we can use our skills/talents to try and help turn our local politics into something more healthy and inclusive?

Dear listers,

Is there a way we can use our skills/talents to try and help turn our local politics into something more healthy and inclusive?
Somalia\’s 20+ years of lawlessness is a grim reminder that toxic politics can backfire massively in an unpredictable and uncontrollable way that does not yield any winners over very long periods of time.

There is no human society that is immune to the dangers of toxic politics, therefore it is important for stakeholders (be they professionals, business people, politicians and/or intellectuals) to voice their good-faith concerns against toxic politics, ideally in good time – when there is still a good chance for the country/leaders to change course, because ultimately we all get to bear the heavy socioeconomic costs associated with political uncertainty and volatility.

To quote UNDP (see link #1): \”Societies whose political institutions are more inclusive and participatory tend to be more peaceful and resilient, just as societies practicing exclusion tend to be more vulnerable to fragility and conflict.\”
As long as leadership and/or resource/opportunity allocation is associated with ethnic identity, and/or an exclusive mindset, there will always be discontent among the have-nots, which leads to aggressive political competition as different ethnic communities clamor for their \”turn to eat\”. It is therefore in our best interest, as a country that desires stability and prosperity, to push towards inclusive and participatory frameworks of governance (see link #2).

Let me open the floor with some ideas / suggestions based on the above-mentioned themes. Hoping we can have a non-partisan idea-focused discussion in the spirit of searching for creative solutions to a shared problem.

1. Our country needs moments of guaranteed pause in our politics where everyone (including media) gets to take a break from elective politics and focus on development: doing things that create opportunities and prosperity for all. What if election laws were amended to make campaigning illegal unless it occurs within 18 months prior to an election?

2. What if promises for maendeleo (development) were limited to election time only – and required in writing (lodged at the registrar), with measurable pledges and indicators (e.g. x number of jobs annually) such that the promises form a performance contract between the (winning) politician and voters across the whole country?

3. What if politicians agreed that failure to achieve x% of the committed pledges/targets, without credible extenuating circumstances, would be deemed a fair and reasonable ground for impeachment/recall. This would help minimizefalse/unrealistic promises and help reshape the perceptions of leadership from the more toxic \”opportunity to rule\”, into the healthier opportunity to serve the country.

4. What if politician salaries were pegged to the median salary in the country – and any extra perks (e.g. performance bonus) to be linked, via a tiered system, to the delivery of agreed socio-economic performance targets and paid lumpsum at the end of the political term? This would incentivize a growth mindset and also minimize the perception that politics is a shortcut to easy wealth (meaning politics would attract people who truly want to make a difference; stakes would be lower during elections and we would have more of in-touch leadership styles).

5. What if political leaders and senior administrators were offered actual housing (instead of a monetary allowance) in median level neighborhoods (e.g. Eastlands) – to avoid their developing the out-of-touch elitism that seems to comes with moving to places like Karen or Muthaiga? What if government only offered them cover limited to public health services (I\’ve seen this being discussed in the news)? Perhaps our country will be transformed much faster if our leaders lived among the median demographics and had a personal stake in improving the median standards of living?

6. What if political campaigns were about winning support for a written socio-political strategy and plan; i.e. a competition of ideas – instead of personalities? What if elections were about perceived merits of ideas, implementation strategies or preferred economic direction that the country should take – instead of identities and/or unrealistic promises?

7. All Kenyans have common problems that they would like to hear politicians talking about all the time such as JOBS CREATION and ABUNDANT OPPORTUNITIES for ENTREPRENEURSHIP. I think ICT, manufacturing and agriculture are high-potential drivers where quick results can be attained. How can we encourage politicians to focus on these issues within a nationally inclusive framework?

8. Can/should advertisers influence the News Media to stop fanning divisive narratives, mediocrity, ethnic chauvenism, identity politics and other banal inanities – and focus instead on responsibly shaping the national agenda towards issues that bring growth and prosperity?

Can media self-regulate and refocus the Kenyan masses towards sustainable agendas (like entrepreneurship and excellence)? If our media moguls are in doubt about the business case of responsible journalism, I would urge them to study how Somalia\’s media industry has been performing over the last ~28 years. I think if the clock was pulled back, Somalia\’s media would think very carefully about the narratives that they want to shape their national discourse. Short term profits can come with a heavy long-term cost. Please consider this.

9. Serializing national goals to maximize focus, prioritize and leverage the domino effect of cumulative wins: Do we really have the capacity to make massively bold and audacious goals that are to be implemented concurrently or are we setting ourselves – and our leaders – up for failure by overreaching far beyond our realistic capabilities and stretching ourselves way too thin?
Our economic/policy advisors need to accept the reality – that we are a poor, debt ridden country with crippling levels of corruption, institutionalized mediocrity, short sighted orientation and greater levels of incompetence than competence; a country that seems to be always tittering on the edge of a precipitous political/economic cliff – thus urgently in need of credible stabilizing plans and strategies. 

I would like to propose the idea of a serial, bite-sized approach to strategic national initiatives, where the main goals (which can still be big and audacious) are smartly serialized for domino effect and pursued, with laser focus, one at a time.

For example we can have the entire nation\’s development agenda focus on creating jobs and opportunities – and nothing else – for the first 5 years, then in the subsequent 5 years the focus can change to boosting growth and efficiency, say via infrastructure upgrades/enhancements. This makes it easy for political manifestos to be guided by realistic 20-30 year economic master-plans (that already have national concensus), rather than arbitrary perceptions about what is popular at election time. It can also help decouple the economy from political transition cycles which would attract high quality FDI.

Attempting very wide scope goals in parallel significantly increases costs – without giving the economy time to catch up and create domino effects; it compounds complexity – yet we have limited capacity to manage significant complexity; it increases the likelihood of mega corruption due to greater ambiguity + an overstretched Monitoring and Evaluation framework; it consumes a counterproductive amount of leadership bandwidth –  such that unexpected events become more of a challenge than would otherwise be; and it magnifies risk of failing to attain ALL the audacious goals to near certainty levels.
If we serialize our national goals, we will avoid biting more than we can chew and stretching our resources (or bandwidth) too thin. Being focused will minimize the risk of goal-capture by corruption cartels. By prioritizing wealth creation initiatives, we will give our economy a chance to develop domino effects – building a viable case for increasing capacity via infrastructure enhancements. A period of guaranteed pause in politics will allow the country to focus on development. Elections should be about issues – rather than identity. Performance-linked manifestos will encourage politicians to make realistic promises that they intend (and are able) to keep and be held accountable for their attainment. Media is key to ending negative/exclusive ethnicity as it can shape the national discourse towards less toxic narratives. Research suggests that inclusive, participatory governance models are superior to exclusive ones. Inclusivity creates the right socio-political conditions for sustainable stability and prosperity. 

Welcoming your thoughts / more ideas on the same. My only request, please, is that we try to have a non-partisan, intellectually honest exchange of creative ideas.

Good evening.

Patrick A. M. Maina[Cross-domain Innovator | Independent Public Policy Analyst – Indigenous Innovations]
Links / References:

1. Inclusive political processes
2. Sustainability and Public Participation: Toward an Inclusive Model of Democracy on JSTOR

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