‘Tumbocracy’ in governance
There are those who know the situation is so bad, it cannot get worse. But they are compromised. While the rich are happy, their victims do not think of better possibilities
Many Kenyans are angry but they cannot turn this volatile emotion into a weapon for social redress. About 1.3 million Kenyans are hungry but they are divided and spread across 23 counties. It would take a long time to turn this want into a vehicle for change that addresses social inequalities. There is a baffling reluctance to turn lessons into opportunities for change. Children are not doing better than their grandparents. The national economy is reportedly improving, but the desperation among communities is increasing. The reported official health of the whole does not reflect the improved lot of the parts.
Unresolved historical injustices and rash reactions to circumstances make Kenyan lives routine and responses predictable. We suffer a vicious cycle of confusion: Droughts kill just as the floods do. There is surplus grain in the North Rift but dire need in the Northern frontier. A minority devours meat, but the masses don’t even salivate.
No predestination here; it’s a failure to learn from experience. Failed rains are an excuse for perverse priorities. Consider what the Sh1.8 billion National Youth Service heist cash could do for starving Tana River county. Then we have laptops for malnourished children in a devastated community where schools have closed down. It does not add up. Perhaps it is the climatic contrasts; perhaps it’s the distance between the desperate in the Tana River and Homa Bay counties. Perhaps it’s the failure to understand that peasants in Nyamira suffer just like those in Maragwa. There are no special supermarkets for Luhyas who support Cord, or Kalenjins affiliated to Jubilee. When the rubber hits the road, poverty is tribeless; pain is colour blind.
Perhaps it is the destructive ethnic ideology that makes people believe they are safe only when their own is in State House. Perhaps it is clan bigotry that makes people feel secure only when a governor, MP, or Senator is a relative.
Perhaps it’s religious or class differences that make it hard to turn widespread hunger and anger into ammunition for redressing social inequalities and leadership inequities.
People value leadership more than its gains. But leadership loses lather if the returns do not show in improved living conditions of the many. It should not matter whether a chicken is black or white so long as the soup is right.
Karachuonyo constituency in Homa Bay is a good example of the folly of the failure of the deceptive link between leadership and development. One region has had its sons in Parliament for 43 of the 53 years since Independence. The sons of one another location have held the trophy for the last 20 years. But there is nothing to show.
There are those who know the situation is so bad it cannot get worse. But this lot is compromised. They value base urges above conscience. While those who have are happy with their status, their victims do not think of better possibilities. This lot feeds on handouts while the other gets away with a fortune. Life is not fair, but the the exploiters and their victims are not interested in social redress.
Even before the latest images of drought, desperation, anger and hunger from the North, Coast, and Eastern regions hit the national conscience, things weren’t right. We were headed the wrong direction — a continuation of the missteps of the post-Independence era.
The promises of fresh starts before elections have always been false dawns. Forget about official statistics, improved national revenue collection, and mega-infrastructure projects around Nairobi, Central, and the standard gauge railway. These don’t address the human condition. How well the people are doing is always the basic question — the most reliable measure of human development.
Forget devolution and the commercialisation of higher education. There is something wrong with the results. You turn out millions of adults from the school system into a world that gives them no hope of a better life. Crime is rising; impunity is soaring. Kenya is doing badly because of bad governance, which is sustained largely by low civic consciousness and compromises among leaders.
THERE ARE NO SPECIAL SUPERMARKETS FOR LUHYAS WHO SUPPORT CORD, OR KALENJINS AFFILIATED TO JUBILEE. POVERTY IS TRIBELESS