President and Prime Minister should lead reforms from the front

By Judy Munyinyi

I support Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta’s move to reduce the number of fuel guzzlers owned by the Government. This will also reduce the burden on taxpayers.

I, however, do not agree the President, Vice-President and Prime Minister should be exempted from this requirement. Leaders lead from the front. We do not need to spare the dignity of the holders of these offices as Uhuru suggested.

It is illogical to suggest our leaders need to have their dignity protected when poor Kenyans are dying in indignity every day. In the last few months, we have seen Kenyans lose lives and property in ignominious circumstances as our leaders continue to draw fat salaries and drive posh vehicles. They then appeal for "aid".

I recall an experience a businessman had while on a business trip to Botswana. Waiting in a queue at a ‘robot’ – traffic lights – he saw the president of Botswana travelling in a two-car convoy, and stop for the robot. There was no hullabaloo and special treatment like we see in the rest of Africa. No cars being blocked off in a 30-Km radius of the Big Man, causing interminable traffic jams and delays that waste billions in fuel, man hours, missed business opportunities and the importation of drugs to alleviate hypertension. On enquiring why this peculiar situation existed in Botswana, the taxi driver responded with a profound comment – who wants to harm the guy anyway? We have better things to do. It is a testimony to good leadership. When leadership is for the benefit of the people, the leaders go about their business freely without having to worry about being harmed. What went wrong with our country?

Our ‘leaders’ aspire to great positions to milk the populace and make hay for themselves instead of improving lives for the poor and downtrodden. We have seen this time and again. We are jaded beyond belief when we hear promises of ‘reform’.

Beyond salvage

The whole system is rotten to the core and beyond salvage. Coming to office with high ideals, they inevitably revert to type within a few weeks in the corridors of power. With leaders like these, who needs to be scared of the devil? We are already in hell.

Our infrastructure is groaning under the weight of uncontrolled development and people are dying of treatable diseases in the slums. No clinics, water, sanitation, or electric systems for them because they are only useful as a source of cheap labour and votes in an election year. They are desperately crying out for help. Who will come to their aid? We all quote the famous saying about Kenya having 10 millionaires and 10 million peasants. Things are worse today. We have 30 billionaires that you will never read about in Forbes, a few more millionaires and 30 million desperate peasants. That is part of the reason why we have five million Mungiki if Mr Maina Njenga is to be believed. We are literally sitting on a powder keg and the fuse is lit.

We have a good opportunity to change things for the better with the new constitution. Salaries of MPs should be constitutionally limited to a specified ratio of the Government minimum wage. There should be no special class of people. All ‘special’ people (including judges, MPs ministers, Prime Minister, Vice-President and President) should pay a progressive tax on income. Put that in the new constitution and see how fast the document will pass the proposed referendum. No more freebies for well paid bureaucrats. Why give a highly paid minister or permanent secretary free cars? Provide a basic car of 1500cc and let them buy their own fuel guzzlers. We can use the money saved to build hospitals, roads, recruit at least 100,000 new policemen and support them with better pay, patrol cars, guns and a communication system that works because we need better security.