Why our politics is going to destroy a nation we all need

One of my favourite stories, and which tells us a lot about society and how an unhealthy institution can kill the whole, is that of the Aztecs, the ancient civilisation that ruled Mexico and parts of South America until the 16th century.

I am no great Mesoamerican scholar, bless my heart, and my knowledge is confined to a dumb Mel Gibson, which I read in TheGuardian, was about a different people in a different century, and sporadic readings on the Internet.

But the Aztecs were an amazing race. They had their own written language, their own arts and a class and political system that was quite advanced.

They had an elaborate priesthood, doctors, and engineers and lived in city states.

Internally, education was universal and compulsory, so they had a general population that was educated.

I have never heard of any other medieval society with that kind of arrangement, but like I said there is a lot I don’t know.


At the core of the empire was an alliance of three city states – Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopin. Tenochtitlan was the seat of power and sat where Mexico city is today.

Working together and in the course of almost a century between 1428 and 1519, the Aztecs had brought to heel huge parts of South America and imposed an indirect rule, which allowed its imperial classes to get rich and exercise power while at the same time allowing locals to self-govern.

Society was stratified, there were noblemen and commoners. The noblemen mainly occupied professions such as medicine, engineering and the priesthood while the commoners were very good farmers, merchants, among others.

This was wealthy, efficient society, firmly ruled and well-educated, which was at the same time advanced in science and the arts.

But this was not a happy land: The biggest problem with these folks was their brutal religion.

The Aztecs believed that they had an obligation to give their gods blood. They, in the words of someone I read on the Internet, considered man as “god food”.

They sacrificed animals as well and bled themselves for the gods.


Folks were taken up their imposing temples, they were tied down in some ritual platform, a priest, with precision born of rigorous training and long practice, opened up their chest and tore out their beating hearts, which were presented to the sun.

Their barely dead bodies were thrown down the steps of the temple and disposed of either by being fed to animals in the zoo or their bones were used to create art.

So, on March 4, 1519, when Hernan Cortez landed with guns and syphilis, he found a society that depleted itself by killing its members and traumatised citizens and foreigners alike with the brutality of its religion.

Now, maybe our religions are benign but our politics is increasingly becoming a contradiction in our society and however creative, enterprising and clever we are as a country, our politics is going to destroy us.

Just like the Aztec religion undermined the support of the people for their empire, our elections are undermining the patriotism and unity of Kenyans.


Kenya is a very angry, very unhappy place. Many of our people believe that they have not only been cheated in elections, but that they are now facing a future of exclusion and marginalisation.

They believe that the die is loaded and however readily they participate in the life of their country, including elections, their wishes, views and needs, do not matter. This is a terrible thing.

In the US presidential election last year, Hillary Clinton was defeated at the electoral college by Donald Trump, with 304 votes to her 227.

Even though she won the popular vote with over three million – she polled 65.9 million votes to his 62.9 million – the game was all over for her and her army of hangers-on who were eyeing jobs, tenders and living off the fat of the land.

Sadly, Kenya is not America. Kenyans have given politics big centrality in their lives and it matters – even though it really shouldn’t – who is in power.


The message of this election is that getting votes is all very well, those considered to have lost also want to be included, to feel part and parcel of the leadership. And it goes beyond being given the goodies of development, they want their leaders to matter.

The application of democracy in its Western form will not work in Kenya. Accommodation, magnanimity, grace and inclusion have, surely, to replace the winner-take-all formula. Since we vote along tribal lines, what happens to the ethnic minorities? When will they taste power? Does it mean that the big tribes will rule us in perpetuity? I think this is a season for sober heads.

Whoever forms the next government must treat the loser with honour and magnanimity, which leaves his followers feeling that they have been included and respected.

Also, we need to revisit the Constitution to entrench the pillars of electoral justice, make it easier for elections to result in more inclusive governments and to take care of the advancement of minorities in politics.

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Kenya is a very angry, very unhappy place.

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