The decision by the Garre Council of Elders do bar all current elected leaders from running in the 2017 General Elections has surprised many. Never in our history has a non-political entity made such a bold step which hit national news. But it is a positive meant that will guarantee a bright future for the county.
Already some elected leaders including Senator Billow Kerrow and Women Representative Fathia Mahbub have accepted the verdict. Senator Kerrow added that this decision was arrived at in 2012. The leaders received the blessings of the largest council in the County prior to being elected but there was a rider to it. Other affected leaders are five MPs and 18 Members of the County Assembly to ensure that the 20 Garre community sub-clans have a chance at leading.
What the Council has done is to allow for healthy relationships among the various sub-clans of the county. Mandera County has not known peace for a long time. Early this month, The Electoral Risk Mapping, a map of conflicts hotspots by IEBC listed 17 counties, including Mandera as counties with high number of conflicts. The conflicts include cattle rustling, terror attacks, protests and riots, ethnic clashes, robberies and agro-pastoralist.
Devolution has birthed millionaires at the county. Earlier, only MPs would be seen with guzzling vehicles and big houses but these are now easily being noticed in local leaders at the counties like MCAs, County Executive Officers and Governors.
This creates a scenario where people feel that the only thing these leaders do is embezzle tax payers’ money. There could be hard working elected officials who honestly earn their keep, but certainly there is a slight change in their lifestyles ever since being elected.
When these positions are made possible to others through negotiated democracies, or elsewhere called rotational democracy, the people thrive. Voters will see themselves liberated because they will know that they will get fresh leaders to serve them. Communities within the society will feel part of the whole because domination by bigger ethnicities or clans will reduce.
Our electoral system is such that it is fueled by money. The IEBC has just set campaign financing limits for various candidates also depending on areas of the country. But two things still stand out. One the monies are exorbitant for anyone to make it, you have to be well oiled. Secondly, elections operate under a cash system making it difficult to monitor and report malpractices.
This scenario gifts clans and communities with large representation within their areas of jurisdiction and the wealthy. Women for instance are the most disadvantaged because too few are economically empowered. But what a rotational system allows them is to nurture their leadership ambitions because some day, their wishes will be fulfilled because the communities they live in are alive to the need for them to peacefully and progressively co-exist.
A negotiated democracy is not agreeable to all. The rich who have stolen their way to wealth will want to protect this illegally acquired gain. They would even want to bribe such institutions as council of elders to retain power. But it also fails to faithfully allow voters to elect anyone who they want. For instance, an elected leader who has diligently served the people should be rewarded by being re-elected.
What a negotiated settlement does is overlook these issues and settle on the bigger picture. It provides for a framework to ensure equal playing field, especially to those who do not have incumbency or may not be monied or from large ethnicities to guarantee them votes. But it also distances itself from tyranny of numbers which often blights servant leaders from ascending to the throne.
Switzerland has had a rotational presidency for many years and this is one of the ways it has lived peacefully and thrived. It is not a system that can work everywhere because of diverse issues that societies face. In an African setting where leaders do not like to relinquish power even when their terms have expired, rotational leadership is herculean.
It is possible that the next few years will see tremendous growth in Mandera County. Other communities or Counties may not have such powerful and instrumental institutions like Mandera but that does not mean they cannot agree on how they should be led. As an example, Mandera County is offering hope for a better, promising country.
Shitemi Khamadi is a practicing journalist