When Margaret Thatcher,
the former British Prime Minister, strongly opposed the introduction of a common European currency, her former Secretary of State for Defense, Michael Heseltine, told her that sovereignty is like virginity, you lose it only once! And, to be sure, Britain never really had sovereignty over Europe - even though the British Pound has almost always held sway over other currencies in the region.
Sovereignty refers to supreme or final authority to rule. In the case of a State, sovereignty would mean its final authority to rule others or itself. In the case if Britain, there was a time when that comparably small isle commanded many colonies in the world. At that time, Britain, then known as "Great Britain" - had supreme authority over those colonies. But, after those colonies got their self-government, Britain lost the sovereignty it hitherto had over them. At the loss happened once and for all. And that's the point.
The Kenya Presidential Debates Team has recently come face to face with the question of sovereignty. We have been informed that having the first round of the debates in the USA would be an erosion of Kenya's sovereignty. And we are left with several questions.
For starters, last year we had a Diaspora Conference in Washington DC and at least 700 Kenyans attended and had rigorous sessions debating Vision 2030
- which is Kenya's blueprint for political, economic, social and developmental change for the next 20 years. As long as it was a debate done by Kenyans about Kenyan issues - it did not matter where the venue was. Or why did no-one raise any question about sovereignty? Or does anyone believe that the Wardman Park Hilton Hotel in Washington DC is on Kenyan soil?
Why did the Kenyan government send delegates - including Cabinet Ministers - to participate in such a debate on foreign soil? Why did so many Kenyans attend - including luminaries, academics, business heavy-weights and others and contribute so attentively? Why did Kenyans in the Diaspora volunteer their time to attend several meetings, share ideas and push an agenda so intricate and demanding? And here's the simplest answer: because they are Kenyans and those issues were about Kenya.
And this is the point: The Kenya Presidential Debates Team intends to drive pettiness out of Kenya's politics and inject issue-driven debates to change the age-old mentality that has kept our politics hinged on individuals thereby reducing leadership to short-sighted diatribes about tribes and abuse of power and nepotism and cronyism.
When a team of Kenyans came together to take the mantle of spearheading these debates, there was no self-deception that the task would be easy. We knew it would be difficult, demanding and at times demeaning because we would surely come face to face with our regular politicians with their larger-than-Kilimanjaro sort of ego.
~ Francis Wang'endo
Publicity Manager, KPD ~