Friday, May 29, 2009

That monster, single-cause ethnic explanation, who doth eat all sense

Muite and Kiai look only at the benefits that could reasonably have been expected of a Kibaki administration, find that none were realised and move smoothly to the conclusion that Gikuyu voters' support for Kibaki can be explained only by their ethnic identification. They look only at the positive reasons for voting Kibaki, conclude that there were none, and so attribute irrationality to his supporters, on the ground that those voters have fallen foul of the requirement of rational political behavior mentioned in the previous paragraph. Concede, for argument's sake, that the Kibaki administration hasn't realised any of the promised benefits. The point, so banal I hesitate to make it, is that that argument leaves the negative reasons unaccounted for. Even if one assumes that the first Kibaki administration didn't produce sufficient benefits to drive a non-ethnically-motivated vote, Muite and Kiai's argument that Gikuyu supporters of Kibaki are irrational ethnocentrists fails, because Muite and Kiai consider only positive reasons to vote for the Kibaki regime. ODM's 41-against-1 pre-election campaign, and its post-election conduct, give sufficient negative reason: the average Gikuyu voter's expected loss from an ODM victory is sufficient to motivate a vote for Kibaki, given that a Kibaki vote was the only plausible way to prevent an ODM victory.

Nicholas Biwott. Joseph Kamotho. The Nation op-ed pages will give it up for anyone these days. Maina Kiai and Paul Muite's recent piece wasn't quite that bad, but it was bad enough; I have a (long!) go at saying why.