The Gadaa System is an exemplary indigenous egalitarian democracy, recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” in 2016. Kenya is a constitutional democracy and the constitution of Kenya at Article one gives its citizens the power to elect their leaders directly at ballots. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. The sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya, and it is only excised in accordance with the Constitution.
The Borana Gada council of Ethiopia has been involved in Kenyan democratic elections for a long time to achieve the desired political goals. Occasionally, the Gadaa leaders come from the Ethiopian side and crossover to the Kenyan side to endorse political leaders running for various offices. Sometimes the Borana political leaders visit the Gadaa council in Ethiopia to seek their blessing. The funny side of all is that these Gadaa council members are not registered voters in Kenya nor Kenyan citizens. All this is done in the name of traditional politics or negotiated democracy. Traditionally the Borana King based in Ethiopia is considered as the traditional leader over the Borana population living in Kenya hence the laws and decisions made in Ethiopia by the Gadaa council headed by “Aba Gadaa” or King is applicable to Kenya Boranas. Borana Gadaa leaders embroiled in Kenya’s dirty politics
Political debacle elicited by recent Gadaa endorsement in Marsabit
Kenya is currently experiencing political turbulence and storms as the country moves towards the 9 August polls. Kenya politics is ethnic-based and during the general elections’ leaders run to their backyard as they mobilize their tribesmen. This process involves a series of meetings with village elders, youths, women groups while bribing them with petty sums of money, false election promises. The one who provides the highest bribe to the community brokers and wheeler-dealers carries the day (endorsed to run for the desired political office). Marsabit is not the exception, as those vying for various political positions in the coming August election camps in the villages seeking tribesmen endorsements.
In the case of the Borana community, in recent months Sololo and Moyale towns have hosted a series of elders’ meetings to select suitable candidates and endorse them. These political meetings have not been smooth as they should be compared to the previous period of 2017. The major reasons being the disagreement within the Gada council.
This disagreement has come to the public light recently when some members of the Gada council led by King Kura Jarso endorsed Prof. Guyo Waqo and Prof. Wario Guyo for positions of incoming member of parliament Moyale and incoming governor of Marsabit county respectively.
The current political dilemma was brought in on 12 February 2022 by other members of the council when it visited Moyale for another meeting called in by the current Marsabit Governor Honorable Mohamud Ali.
The meeting was attended by representatives of the 71st Gadaa assembly led by Adii Jaldeesa, Guyo Gobba, Roba Jarso, Liban Jaldessa, and other Gadaa elders. The representatives of the council revoked the early endorsement of Prof. Guyo and Prof Wario terming it as null and void.
What the Gada council involvement in Kenyan politics entails?
The involvement of the council in Kenya Borana politics has both pros and cons. On the advantage side, the political candidates endorsed by the council have a higher chance of winning the desired political seat due to greater community acceptance. A precedent was set during the 2017 general election where all those endorsed and blessed by the Gadaa council won the desired political seats. The involvement of the Gadaa council tends to create the unity of purpose for the community towards desired political trajectory.
On the disadvantage side, the Gadaa council is mired in fraud and goes for the highest bidder, thus not selecting the qualified candidates for the community as far as politics is concerned. The Kenya Borana politicians are known for taking bribes to the Gadaa council for favours. These bribes range from cars, large amounts of money, ghost employments, bursaries and high-quality clothes.
Politics is the game of interests, where individuals vote in their favorite candidates among many mostly due to personal interests and their track records. In democratic countries like Kenya, those above 18 years are allowed to elect their leaders based on universal suffrage. The involvement of the Gada council in Borana politics of Kenya is killing the constitutional desired political gains and it should be discouraged highly for the greater good of the community and Marsabit at large.
Editor’s note: This article was published on the Whispers from the North, an online magazine based in Northern Kenya. You can read the original article here.