No Joshua, no Jesus, no joke

What a grand production these corruption scandals are turning out to be! I can’t remember a period in my lifetime when information flowed so freely from the vaults of Government. Because there is no doubt in my mind that the leakers have the full backing of some people at the highest levels of Government. There’s no way in hell we would have found out about it otherwise.
These are some psychological warfare tactics being deployed against millions of otherwise reasonable Kenyans. As soon as ‘NYS II: The Next Corruption Frontier’ was released, attention shifted from everything else that is wrong in this country. Our gaze is now trained on Uhuru Kenyatta, and we have hope in our eyes. The people are falling at the feet of the prince, beseeching him to ‘deal decisively’ with the bandits.
However, with the power at the President’s disposal, I find it hard to believe that Uhuru is completely clueless when he directs that investigations must take place so we can all know the truth. In fact, with his intelligence machinery running in full gear, he very likely has the whole picture, and so does ‘kijana wa kutangatanga’. Raila Odinga too, with his ‘networks’, likely has a pretty good idea that money is continuously being siphoned out of the Treasury. I’m willing to wager that the billions we’ve been hearing about lately are small change in the grand theft scheme of things.
Meanwhile, the band of brothers seem more concerned with handshakes and hugs. At the rate things are going, it won’t be long before we graduate to kisses and cuddles. But hey, we’re in the season of adding insult to injury. With one side of their mouths, they sanction the release of information that is intended to enrage an entire population, and with the other they say ‘let’s pray’. So you slap us in the face with one hand, and then rub our cheeks with the other.
But that’s not all. They then go ahead to hug it out, purporting to forgive each other, talking about ‘my brother this, and my brother that’, as if their brotherhood will bind the wounds they inflicted through a vicious campaign that left dozens dead and maimed in their names. These staged apologies and public shows of reconciliation are exactly what they look like: Fake. But perhaps we needed to witness the national prayer day and various other fences that were mended in its aftermath. Reason being that it is now clear for all to see that we are in a de facto single-party State.
All this talk about changing the 2010 Constitution could potentially lead to the re-introduction of Section 2A, the contentious one-party State provision in Kenya’s previous constitution that galvanised the struggle for Kenya’s second liberation.
So yes, as we are lulled into a state of mindless political entertainment, the powers bestowed upon us by Article One are steadily being usurped, and the crazy thing about all of it is that the plays are being made as we watch.  If you haven’t already, it’s time you snapped out of it and realised that you are now living in a country without an active opposition. Ekuru Aukot might be running his mouth making claims about being the leader of the ‘official Opposition’ but as things stand, his is still a voice calling out in the wilderness. No one knows from whence the Messiah will come.
In the absence of a Joshua, and with no signs of Jesus, Kenyans need to find a way to free themselves from slavery. Because what else can you call it when you break your back for a day’s wage, only to be taxed to your eyeballs, and then robbed of what remains?

How will this freedom come? I honestly couldn’t tell you. What I can say is that freedom only becomes a possibility once you realise that you have been enslaved, even by the people you trusted to shine a light in the darkness. One thing is now abundantly clear: Our needs, wants and desires are secondary to our leaders’ own interests. They are little more than a power-hungry, cash-grabbing lot. We would be wise to keep that in mind as we figure out how to dislodge the bulbous thumb of the State – and its freshly co-opted opposition – which will drive us into the ground if we offer no resistance.

ILLUSTRATION | www.laoblogger.com

Pride, prejudice and privilege

When you’ve gotten used to things being a certain way it’s not easy to accept change. This is especially so when you move through life with a certain amount of privilege. While you may not be wealthy or powerful, you stand taller than the rest of your countrymen because your tribesmen are in office.

It’s as if the universe gives you a nod every morning assuring you that your status as a privileged citizen is still in force; that you may go about your business with the knowledge that your ‘supernational’ status is intact.

You hold your head slightly higher than the average civilian. Why? Because there is a certain pride that comes with being a member of the two communities that have produced Kenya’s four presidents. A certain sense that the gods have smiled upon you. That you were born to be blessed and highly favoured, not by your own might or your own power, but purely by virtue of ethnicity. Much like the God of Abraham chose the Jews, you are also a chosen people, set aside and preserved for leadership.

This is why you can make statements like, ‘Raila will never rule Kenya’ without a hint of irony. And I mean irony with respect to the word ‘rule’. It boggles the mind that urban citizens in this modern age can be so backwards-thinking as to refer to any elected leader as a ‘ruler’.  A ruler is otherwise defined as a sovereign, king, emperor or prince and last I checked Kenya was not a monarchy.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, we must still insist that ours is a functioning democracy, where every man respects the rule of law and the will of those who enforce it.  So, no. Raila will never ‘rule’ Kenya, that particular station is reserved for those who imagine that they were born to reign and those who allow themselves to be ruled.

The idea that the presidential seat is permanently for a few is exemplified in the words of Moi-loyalist Joseph Kamotho when he said without fear of peradventure that KANU would rule for one hundred years. His boss then went ahead and tried to force the KANU succession by foisting a reluctant Uhuru Kenyatta onto an unsuspecting electorate. It seemed like a most outlandish exercise in futility but with the benefit of hindsight, Mr Moi had probably seen 100 years into the future.

And so it was that the heir apparent ascended to the throne and the order of privilege prevailed. Those who have rallied around him and his predecessors have become accustomed to the association; to the deference – whether real or imagined – that is accorded to those with ties to a ruling lineage.

“Privilege exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything they’ve done or failed to do. Access to privilege doesn’t determine one’s outcomes, but it is definitely an asset …” ~Peggy McIntosh

Here’s the thing though: when you become so comfortable in your entitlement, so invested in the idea that you must rule while others bow down, even the mere thought that the status quo could be upended is unbearable. As we have all witnessed, the reactions from certain quarters to a possible change of regime have been visceral.

On the other hand, for those who feel that they would have been privileged had fate not denied them the chance, the urgency for change is equally overwhelming. The mountain top is within reach and it is as if God himself preserved them for such a time as this.

But the underlying feeling in both camps is fear; in the first instance, it is the fear of becoming invisible and in the second, the fear of never being seen. And so you have two groups going through similar emotions but refusing to empathise with one another.  The irony is that their ‘rulers’ will probably end up breaking bread at the same table without a second thought for a population that is now walking wounded.

Suffice it to say, there’s enough hurt in this country to last a couple of lifetimes. Precedent demands that we accept and move on. But if ever there was a time for Kenyans to lay claim to a future of their own making, that time is now. Before this country moves on, it must deconstruct the framework that has upheld the privilege of a ruling minority at the expense of the voting majority.

 

 

 

 

 

Leadership must flow from the top to the bottom

President Uhuru Kenyatta wants you to be your brother’s keeper. This is consistent with his leadership ideology, one that demands that citizens do half of the leading for themselves. He’s a ‘small government’ man in the sense that he believes in giving power back to the people – as well as all the responsibility when things go wrong. From the presidential point of view, the people must always be kept accountable, but the State? Not so much.

Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States of America and one of the authors of America’s Declaration of Independence put it thus: “That government is best which governs least, because its people discipline themselves.” The key principle here is to get government out of the way as a means to give citizens full agency to make their own decisions. The idea is to expand individual freedoms so that the people do not feel stifled by the State. In the US, small government is a Republican school of thought.

Democrats tend to err on the side of big government; a leadership style wherein government tries to be everything for every man. Critics dismiss big government as intrusive, inefficient and even corrupt. Corrupt because of the high levels of public spending and the opportunity for that cash to be misused. Here at home we’re being governed under a leadership hybrid, or perhaps more accurately, a mutant. We are required to take much of the responsibility for the failings of Government, but none of the power.

The Government of Kenya reserves the right to govern as it sees fit with the assurance that when things begin to crumble, the blame will rest comfortably on the backs of the people. After all, we are our brother’s keeper. The irony is that within this warped version of the ‘small government’ ideology, corruption is rife. Politicians hawk their candidature by promising citizens the world.

Manifestos promise to spend more money on services and less on paying off debt; Increase Government workers’ pay and improve conditions of service; Create one million jobs; Generate more business opportunities for the youth; Introduce affordable State loans to subsidise fertiliser and farm equipment; Give women entrepreneurs priority when bidding for Government tenders; Provide loans and grants to small businesses. Roll-out free Wi-Fi in all major towns; Build a standard gauge railway; Provide quality and affordable education and healthcare; Tackle corruption through IFMIS; Et cetera.

Most of these things require big spending in a ‘big government’ kind of way; they require that Government intrudes significantly into the lives of citizens as a means to raise their standard of living. But because the hand of the State is everywhere, it becomes quite a big chore to enforce a system of checks and balances, even when that system is digitised and integrated. Even with our state-of-the-art financial management system, when a Government has all this money to spend – ostensibly on big projects that will benefit the population – the temptation to misappropriate funds is perhaps too high for the average human being.

You need look no further than the shenanigans at the National Youth Service to realise that IFMIS might be top-of-the-range when it comes to managing monies but it is no match for the people who manipulate it. As we head into the 2017 General Election, this is a good time to come to terms with the truth of the matter. As a people, and as a democracy, we have not matured to the point where we can self-govern. That is the plain and simple truth. What we need is a Government that can discipline itself.

Kenya is a country that demands strong leadership, the kind that can make tough decisions and take responsibility when things don’t go as planned. The kind that is willing to be accountable to the people. At this point in our history, just 53 years after independence, we are in a political space where true leadership cannot start with the governed, it must with the Government.

To be clear, this is not a ‘naomba serikali itusaidie’ appeal. This is in no way to suggest that as a people we should blindly follow the leaders we elected hoping against hope that they will take us to the Promised Land. This is a call to action for our leaders to use our taxes and our goodwill for the purpose that we intended. Enough with wanton theft of public resources; with the provision of mediocre services, pursuit of selfish interests, nepotism and cronyism. Enough is enough.

When President Kenyatta begins to talk about foreign forces trying to control Kenyan voters through civic education, and Opposition chief Raila Odinga reverts to the ‘tyranny of numbers’ rhetoric, we know that an election is round the corner. As Kenyan voters, let’s not waste yet another opportunity for meaningful change. In his Jamhuri Day speech, our President was forceful in his claim that Kenyans should not be influenced by outsiders because we know how to vote. Fellow Kenyans, whichever way you chose to cast your ballot, you must follow that decision up with an unequivocal demand that your leaders leave your county a better place than they found it.

 

ILLUSTRATION | JOE CUMMINGS