‘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

The Star (Kenya) - - Front Page - OKETCH KENDO

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.


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