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  • on 16.01.2013
  • at 05:00 PM
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Can Kenya Learn from Park Geun-hye Presidency? 0

South Korea’s elected her first woman president, Park Geun-hye on December 19th 2012. Ms Park is the daughter of former military strongman Park Chung-hee who ruled South Korea with an iron fist for 18 years.

Her campaign was both bolstered and dogged by the legacy of her father, who built South Korea’s economy while crushing dissent. She defeated the Democratic United Party (DUP) candidate, Moon Jae-in. There are a lot of lessons to learn from her presidency, particularly Kenya at a time that The Economist reported thatKenya is amongst the worst countries to be born in, in 2013. Well, this is not something I smile about, more so as a young Kenyan woman. However, there may be some truths to it. Now I know I am playing the devil advocate but there are some things that indeed makeKenya a not so ‘cool’ place to be. Right from politics, security as well as available opportunities that young people can tap into.

I will therefore consider the president-electParkGeun-hye as a case study on what I as a young Kenyan woman leader can learn; more so from her race for presidency.  Park, who said she had never married or had children has devoted her life to public service, will inherit a formidable array of economic problems such as youth unemployment, inequality and the challenge from a hostile North Korea when she takes office. This I consider vital particularly as Kenyais bracing for its next general election elections in March 4th 2013. Hopefully, leaders fromKenya andAfrica can draw lessons from Parks stratagem. I acknowledge that it is not prudent to “copy-paste” her formula therefore, I will modify and even try to make better few of her ideas to be in tandem with my Kenyan context. Furthermore, I know that some would sneer at my thought of getting lessons from a “dictator’s daughter” but I know for a fact anyone can learn from everyone, what you decide to use is upon you.

The first strategy Park is using is to have a working group/team also her transition team.President-electPark Geun-hye has a team that was and is charged with hammering out key policies on her behalf and ensuring that her ascent to the top office runs smoothly. Her appointments show her to be a traditionalist who relies on trusted aides and familiar faces. On this note,Kenya needs to clearly distinguish this from the hurriedly made political marriages a.k.a coalitions. These ‘marriages’ are merely vehicles that will drive most leaders into positions of power and once there file a divorce thus render these unions obsolete.

Having a team instead of being part of a ‘forced’ conglomerate is probably the manoeuvre Martha Karua is using; in that instead of getting into a coalition with another leader, she like Park has surrounded herself with a team of volunteers who believe in her aspirations and objectives and they selflessly work toward achieving them. This however is not to say that all coalitions are useless, emphasis should be on which coalitions are issue based and not working on personal attacks of the other camp. At this point sadly, most of the coalitions are ridden with internal disgruntles, uncertain strategies and one gets the feeling that some are in this election race merely to loose and be remember in history as having run for political office.

Second strategy, closely linked to the first is trust. This strategy I believe is the corner stone to any endeavour one undertakes. In fact Park Geun-hye is famous for the style in which she will run her government. It is dubbed ‘trustpolitik’. This came at a time that Koreans consider themselves “shrimps among whales” in relation to China, Japan and Russia. However, Park who others call ‘ice-queen’ taking the ‘trustpolitik’ path despite the “shrimp tag” seeks to improve bilateral relations and to persuade N.Korea to curtail its nuclear program and reunification in the end. Ms Park has based her approach on reciprocity where she says she will start with small economic projects and humanitarian aid, and engage further if the North’s leader, Kim Jong Un. This contrasts with the leadership style of her predecessor, Lee Myung-back whose policies severed any links with N.Korea.

This method reminds me of the current call for succession by the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) in Mombasa who want to annex Mombasa (Kenya’s port city) due to concerns of marginalization and unfair development. I think whoever will become the 4th president ofKenya can use this idea. In that it provides room for dialogue and trust in addressing the pertinent issues underneath the call for secession. Issues raised by MRC are indeed valid and have not been addressed fully but merely wished away by use of force to nip them from growing. In this case, MRC like a season river may not be seen flowing on the surface but it is certainly underneath and if not checked will rise and burst its banks over time. With this strategy, Ms Park seeks to bridge the political divide among the South Koreans and hopefully unite the twoKoreas. Concerns of MRC need to be looked at objectively and where possible address them conclusively.Some may term this as idealist thinking but realists emphasize that the end justifies the means therefore; I think it is worth trying withKenya.

A third strategy would be regional inclusion in all policy formulation and implementation. Ms Park has for instance taken care to give prominent roles to natives of Jeolla province, such as Han Kwang-ok, head of the subcommittee on national unity. Jeolla suffered under successive military regimes in the past, and always votes for the DUP rather than Ms Park’s Saenuri Party.Kenya on the other hand has a major issue regional cronyism manifested as tribalism and unequal development. This is now worsened by the fact that particular regions represent particular tribes and their development or lack of it, hints on the previous leadership at the national and local level. With the political coalitions whose common thread is the mantra of “uniting all Kenyans in one” is merely a façade and not issue based manifestos. Park has been careful to avoid showing regional cronyism that tripped her predecessor President Lee Myung-bak. Regional cronyisms energize and sustain ineffective leaders who have the support from their regional base. Therefore, as dynamic as it is a leader would time after time redefine their regional identities to align with perceived personal or group imperatives at the expense of the larger community.

Kenyais 50 in 2013, and these three strategies out of the many that Ms Park employs would be instrumental in addressing our persistent and emerging problems of development and security. It will be remembered that Koreathen a poor state from Asia approached Kenyafor its Development Blue-print. This blue-print was the Kenya Sessional Paper No. 10 of 1965 drafted by Tom Mboya and Mwai Kibaki that would ensure rapid economic development and social progress for its citizens. Robert Greene’s First Law in his book 48 Laws of Power says: Never outshine the master. Well,Korea has proven that indeed this law can be broken because at 2012Korea has outshinedKenya in all aspects.Korea is the eleventh biggest economy, sixth biggest exporter and hopefully soon become the eighth biggest trading nation whileKenya is still a developing state. Maybe it is about time forKenya to learn from Park Geun-hye. Change is good, right?

By Eunice KilonzoNews from Africa

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