Inequalities between the rich and the poor Kenyans a recipe for insecurity

By Amukowa Anangwe

In moderated capitalist systems, there is an effective injection of a heavy dose of socialist-like policies

A recent BBC news item on why violent crime is rare in Iceland is food for thought for Kenyans. Unlike Kenya, Iceland is awash with guns in private hands, yet the law forbids the police to be armed. The only officers permitted to carry firearms in Iceland are a special force called the Viking Squad that is hardly called upon into action against criminals.

Thus, there is something the Icelanders have gotten right on sustainable security that Kenyans need to know if measures to enhance security have to bear fruit. According to the study by an American scholar, Andrew Clark, on which the BBC story was based, the major reason for Iceland’s lack of crime was the egalitarian culture and the absence of antagonistic class differences among the rich, middle class and lower classes.

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Through the social welfare and education systems, the country has managed to reduce tensions amongst economic groups.

Thus, a great lesson from the Icelanders for Kenyans is that security agencies alone will not guarantee lasting security unless such efforts are accompanied by measures to create an egalitarian society. Indeed, Kenya’s deteriorating security situation is an indictment of its crude and primitive form of the capitalist system, and the lack of foresight by the political leadership on how to anticipate societal problems long before they become a crisis, as insecurity has become today.

Insecurity in Kenya is a complex problem that requires a multidisciplinary approach to understand the phenomenon. I dare argue that, unless the Kenyan economic system is moderated by drawing lessons from what the Western capitalist systems particularly as practised in the Scandinavian countries, the system may ultimately implode with current insecurity being the early-warning signs.

In moderated capitalist systems, there is effective injection of a heavy dose of socialist-like policies in order to create a safety net for the majority who tend to be marginalized whenever the capitalist system fails to satisfy wants, requiring that the state should intervene invariably through redistributive policies.

Contrary to the practice in the West, the Kenyan capitalist system is fundamentally wrong and it is bound to create problems for all, both poor and rich. Firstly, Kenya’s high income inequalities between the rich and the poor are a recipe for insecurity. It is a known fact that the so-called economic growth and development in Kenya benefits largely a minority population. The rest of the population has been marginalized because the anticipated trickle-down effect from economic growth has failed to ensure equitable redistribution of the national wealth. A situation of this nature exposes the political system to great strain and generates serious social and economic vulnerability for many, and for which the solution lies in ensuring that redistribution of wealth accompanies economic growth as an economic imperative. Through such an approach, the state may ameliorate the plight of the poor and enhance equity. Unless this is done, the unfair distribution of wealth precludes the participation of many in development efforts and undermines poverty reduction strategies. Therefore, aggressive policy measures to redistribute wealth should not be seen negatively as diversion of public resources away from the productive sectors. After all, people are the most important actors in the development process and for whom national development should be undertaken. In Kenya, the economic system has tended to strengthen the hold of a privileged minority that continues to grow richer as the poor get poorer, obliging the latter to resort to forceful reallocation of wealth or violent crimes.

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The second weakness of the Kenyan capitalist system is that it lacks social and institutional mechanisms to ensure equitable national development.  Instead, it strengthens non-egalitarian tendencies that create conditions in which poverty continues to afflict many despite a growing national economic output. Furthermore, wrong value systems and attitudes have been inculcated to rationalize such tendencies in which acquiring wealth by cutting corners is viewed ambivalently by the masses. In a typical capitalist system in the West, there are strict rules to ensure that wealth is earned genuinely through sheer hard work. Therefore, there is need for some sort of a cultural revolution in Kenya to inculcate the right mindset towards acquisition of wealth, and to disabuse the popular belief that it is all right to acquire wealth by any means.

Inequality Rich and Poor in Kenya