In Summary
  • Political cholera transforms democratic elections into a rowdy, violent contest
  • By applying game theory principles, Wanjiku could help Kenya avoid the now very possible second run vote in the presidential elections
  • Wanjiku could forego her short-term benefits in 2017 in preference for her long-term benefits in 2022

Vibrio cholerae, the bacterium causing mayhem in the infected intestines of rich and poor Nairobians, famous and infamous, important and less important alike, came into action at the most inopportune moment for incumbents and as a gift from heaven for any opposition candidate.

The cholera outbreak in Nairobi should not be a shock to anyone. It is just the expected result of the politics of cholera.

For too long many have stolen from public coffers with impunity. We have ransacked medical supplies, hospitals and our water infrastructure.

Cholera is also a social symptom, the tip of the iceberg that shows the ugly face of corruption in sanitation and health infrastructure, and of injustices in our labour practices.

Our cholera shows itself in many ways. The most prominent form in today’s pre-election Kenya is political cholera. This cholera drains the brain of ideas and the person goes into a survival mode to help the race survive. This cholera pegs voting to ethnicity.

Political cholera transforms democratic elections into a rowdy, violent contest, where ideas, character and honesty matter no more. All that matters is to get "my candidate" through, so that "my race" may survive, and it will only survive if my candidate wins.

We are so narrow-minded that we do not look at the real possibilities. We are not thinking long-term.

This mental and political diarrhoea is so severe that we cannot think of tomorrow but want results here and now; my candidate must win. That attitude creates tension that easily degenerates in violence.

When I was trying to understand the different possible scenarios, the convenience of voting for this or that candidate, Dr Edward Mungai came to my rescue and put in clear terms what he considered would be a long-term solution for the country, using game theory.

Think, for example, of Wanjiku, an ordinary Kenyan woman struggling to survive, a typical ordinary village woman.

Surely, Wanjiku is a member of a women’s group, usually called a Chama and faithfully pays her contributions and loans. Globally, the rate of loan repayment is higher among women's group members than individual loans in traditional banks.

The high loan repayment rate has been attributed to the fear of consequences that a woman defaulter would face from her fellow Chama members.

One possible consequence is that Wanjiku would become the talk of the village for a long time if she failed to pay her loan on time. The fear of such long-term punishment therefore makes Wanjiku forgo the short-term benefits of not paying the loan and using the money for other things.

SHORT-TERM VERSUS LONG-TERM

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