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Kenya’s curse: Politics that generates more heat than light

By Andrew Kipkemboi | Mar 28th 2022 | 4 min read

President Jomo Kenyatta chairs the Cabinet at his Gatundu home following the murder of Tom Mboya, July 1969. [File, Standard]

Who killed Tom Mboya and why? What about JM Kariuki? Who killed Robert Ouko? Were these State-sponsored murders or not? Was there closure? Will we have closure? The truth is these deaths became inflexion points in our history.

Was land for resettling Mau Mau taken, by who? What about the Goldenberg scandal and the 1988 All Africa Games scandal? Did we have complete closure? The Rainbow campaign of 2002 was premised on slaying the dragon of corruption. Was the Kanu regime the most corrupt and most murderous of governments as it was made to look? Were the culprits nailed? Did President Mwai Kibaki perform exceedingly well or is it because the administrations before him and the one after has performed woefully?

Will we ever exorcise the ghosts of Anglo Leasing? What about the Artur brothers and the raid on the Standard Group in 2006? So many years later, has anyone carried the cross? The Ndungú Land Report is lying somewhere, its damning contents kept away from the public.

The post-election violence of 2007 marked the lowest moment in the country. Despite the trials at the ICC, many still feel we just “accepted and moved on”. The differences remain and the bitterness simmer beneath the surface. Jubilee ran its 2013 campaign on the “kusema na kutenda” and a digital first mantra. They also said they “were for” uniting the country. Are we more united now? President Uhuru Kenyatta promised to release to the public the SGR contract. He has four months in office, will he keep his word? What if he doesn’t?

Why did the primary school laptop project or the Galana Kulalu Irrigation Scheme fail? Who are the culprits in the Ministry of Health (including Kemsa) scams? Will we get to the bottom of the Kimwarer Dam scandal? There was a huge setback in the Kenya Power case after the DPP withdrew a case against the supplier of the faulty transformers. What next?

In 2017, the Supreme Court found the IEBC at fault and nullified the presidential election. An order to open the servers for scrutiny was swept under the carpet. What would happen were there to be issues in the coming August elections?

So many particulars/so many questions as German poet Bertolt Brecht wrote in his famous poem, Questions from a worker who works. Each electoral cycle, candidates jostle to offer answers to these vexations. So far, nothing but more promises. The greyness (from lack of closure) in these matters embolden and make it easy for others to commit similar or worse things in future. This cycle breeds impunity. And impunity, disregard for law and order at the top tend to corrupt the whole fabric of society.

Imagine if the Americans did not deal with the race question that birthed the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s; imagine if the Germans did not deal with the Holocaust; imagine if South Africans did not have the Desmond Tutu-led Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Committee to exorcise the ghosts from the barbaric Apartheid regime; imagine if the world lacked the guts to end the Korean War; imagine if the West did not deal decisively with the atrocities in the Balkans in the 1990s and hold the culprits, including Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevich and Ratko Mladich, to account? The world would be worse off. Decisive action always triumphs. The price of inaction is too high.

In Kenya, the original sin happened in 1963. It happened again in 2003. Like it happened in 1963, the elite has been emboldened to capture the State, dominate business, control the courts, bully and in worst cases, buy off the media. But the worst part is that the people seem powerless. The state of uniform, unquestioning thinking only reinforces the elites’ brazenness of knowing that no one dares question things.

As Narc took over in 2003, the people had been made to believe (wrongly) that Kanu represented the worst in everything. Hopes rose and sunk as the Second Liberation descended into a free-for-all scrum for the leftovers from the so-called Kanu feast. If Kanu smelt that bad in 2002, why did the new kids on the block embrace it three years later?

Don’t be fooled, the stalemate that holds (in the name of coalitions) is temporary and shifts with the ebb and flow of the political currents. The truth is we have been subjected to endless revisionism. The question is why won’t the people see or hear any evil? Or question politics that generates too much heat and no light?

Surely, we need a path to closure.

Mr Kipkemboi is Partnerships and Special Projects Editor, Standard Group. 

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