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Angry? Stop whining and help to bring the change you desire

By Andrew Kipkemboi | Jun 7th 2021 | 3 min read
President Uhuru Kenyatta and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta at the Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium in Mamboleo, Kisumu during Madaraka Day Celebrations..[PSCU, Standard]

So, after my proposal last week on the type of leader Kenya needs, the conundrum is of course how to get that good leader from amongst the many undesirables roaming around.

I will revisit Dwight Eisenhower’s thoughts to Americans. Eisenhower (the 34th president of the US) implored them against belief in quick fixes…that Americans “should never believe that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties”.

The problems we face as a country are complex and will require complex solutions. I take comfort in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 

But something needs to be done to pull us out of the rut. Urgently.

First, good, progressive leadership is grounded in clear thinking about what the issues are and what needs to be done to fix them. Differentiate that with populism. A glance at the leadership landscape confirms my thesis that most of our political class’ diagnosis of what ails Kenya is bad and the prescription for how to fix it are equally catastrophic.

In truth, many of them haven’t done much to fix the really, really pressing everyday problems of unemployment, good, cheap and efficient healthcare and education system under a clean, unpolluted environment.

It is not that these problems are insurmountable; not at all. It is just that the efforts to address them have been fickle, half-hearted, and never enough to address the issues.

I wrote before that our democracy’s Achilles’ heel is that our politics is manifestly the power of the politicians over the people. This balance of power needs to shift if we are to experience the profound change that we yearn for. It starts with citizens taking back the initiative from the politicians.

Free media

Admittedly, elections though regular, have not been sufficient enough to “constrain the greed and ambition” of the political class… nor to “protect the rights of citizens” as Edward Lucas, an editor at The Economist observes. He argues in The World in 2050 that “put together with electoral contestability, the rule of law, free media and public-spiritedness make up the political system that has made the countries of the so-called West (including Australia and Japan) the best places in the world to live in.”

That the political class still imagines that only they could ensure peace, prosperity and stability is a clear warning that something needs to be done. Expecting the politicians to clean up the mess they created in the first place is to stretch our hope. Client-patronage networks run through the public sector and severely undermine our democracy and thereby the expected desirable results.

How then to rouse the rightful owners of Kenya — the silent majority, the youth — to take the initiative and act in the interest of our present and future? Throughout history, it has fallen on the youth to stir up things; to topple regimes and liberate societies.

The 2010 Arab Spring, though abortive, was primarily a youth-driven agitation that ground out — even if momentarily — the forces of status quo. Fidel Castro was 32 when he romped into Havana crushing the military junta led by Fulgencio Batista. In Tunisia and Iran, the youth used the power of social media in crowd mobilisation and venting pent up anger to voice their concerns, which is that they wanted real change.

We should not go that route. But we can change our country for the better — through the ballot. Those smartphone-wielding youth must have come to the realisation that by refusing to act, they had burrowed themselves in a miasma of hopelessness, mediocrity and under-achievement — a frightful race to the bottom. They should acquire identity cards and be ready vote for change during the 2022 elections. So don’t just sit there, do something.

Mr Kipkemboi is Partnerships and Special Projects Editor, Standard Group


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