Why the so-called “Deep State” in Kenya is a fallacy

The idiom comes from modern Turkey. [Courtesy]

Kenya‘s professional civil service and uniformed police (and military) are formidable obstacles to mass clientelism. The “unelected bureaucrats” ensure that the elected leadership carries out the will of the people democratically and according to rules.

And to make sure they don’t take power themselves, our system allows any new president to appoint political officers across the executive to push his or her political agenda through.

But we all know that while these appointments are designed to carry out their agenda through existing law and in the public interest, it may not be possible if the country’s CEO uses government tools to reward friends and punish enemies. But does the “deep state” really exist?

The term itself is controversial. It supposedly refers to a covert network supposedly embedded in the government, bureaucracy, intelligence agencies and other institutions that supposedly control state politics behind the scenes. The democratically elected president and other elected officials are merely figureheads.

The idiom comes from modern Turkey, where it refers to a secret military junta founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923 to carry out clandestine actions and maintain the structure of the government.

Since then, politicians have used it as a convenient target for their anger to help them nurture the clientele they believe will bring them to power.

But the real resonance of the “Deep State” conspiracy, in my opinion, lies much deeper in the public psyche. When a politician claims that the “people and their God” who defeat the “deep state” will somehow improve the lives of the fishing people, he frames himself in a certain tropic. As the attack on institutionalized staff and government processes paves the way for mass clientelism, the “deep state” becomes a “useful enemy”.

But the Deep State conspiracy also benefits such a politician by triggering the cowboy hero images of our collective culture, gathering his supporters behind them and portraying attacks on him as insidious.

It is fed by obvious flaws in our democratic structure, such as the dwindling public trust in government institutions and the division between political parties. The “deep state” conspiracy theory poses the government as spoils of war to fight for and then enjoy.

-The author is a Global Fellow at the Moving Worlds Institute. [email protected]


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