Moses Kuria’s action reflects the habits of the political class

The latest outbursts from Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria have, deservedly, raised a lot of hue and cry. Kenyans of all stripes called out Mr Kuria for his extremist views and clear incitement of the public to violence.

This was commendable. But it was also misinformed. You see, the clamour against Kuria’s utterances gave the impression that he is a lone bad apple in a group of otherwise civil politicians. This is not true. The truth of the matter is that Kuria is a mainstream politician. He was elected unopposed. He represents the home constituency of the President. He is as mainstream as it goes. Kuria is just the ugly reminder of the kind of people we love to choose to be our leaders.

The use or threat to use a private militia is not restricted to Kuria. Politicians all over the country have their own private armies that they routinely use to fix opponents. Unfortunately for us, the state continues to look the other way as this cancer metastasizes out of the control. In the meantime a culture of violence and wanton murder is getting entrenched in our society. Just look at the eagerness with which our youths readily get out to destroy private property on the orders of politicians.

The state has allowed these insecure little men and women to operate outside the law and because of that many of them feel they can do whatever they want, however they want. Kuria’s outbursts and the fiasco surrounding the president’s directive on illicit brews are just the latest manifestations of this ugly reality: the law does not apply to waheshimiwa.

But why would a politician like Kuria incite the youth in his constituency to violence? Well, two reasons quickly come to mind. First, Kuria knows that in Kenyan politics intimidation wins. So by displaying his gang of panga-wielding supporters in broad daylight, he is showing any potential challengers in 2017 what awaits them if they dare try to take his seat.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, Kuria is creating a circus to distract his hungry constituents from his failures. One of the more astonishing things about this country is how we continue to remain blind to the ineptitude of our leaders and massive and unjust inequalities it generates. If our narrative about ethnicity and ethnic politics is correct, Gatundu South should be a paragon of economic development. So should Baringo. And Bondo. And Mwingi. And Eldoret North. And Othaya. Yet these specific locales are not any richer than the rest of the country. The peasants in Gatundu suffer the same fate as their more neglected counterparts in Kerugoya Kutus. The ethnic favoritism that we cry and fight and die about begins and ends at the elite level.

The likes of Kuria know this fact very well. And so every now and then they never miss the opportunity to provide pangas (not tractors, not jobs) and then remind “their people” of the nemesis that is the “jamaa wa vitendawili.” Forget the fact that Kuria has no idea of how to transform the livelihoods of his constituents, or the whole country for that matter. What he stands for is the sharing of looted state property among elites. And whenever they are caught, as is currently happening at NYS, they quickly resort to the canon fodder. They give them little distractions and then remind them of the enemy. This keeps a lid on the embarrassing fact of the singular failure of Kuria and his ilk.

This brings me to the question of alcohol abuse in central Kenya. The phenomenon is certainly not restricted to central Kenya. It is a countrywide epidemic probably brought about the by the lack of gainful employment for millions of young men; and social issues related to the changing structure of the Kenyan family and way of life (the sociologists should know better). It is also important to note the scourge is not limited to rural areas. Nor is it a poor man’s problem. Alcoholics are alcoholics, whether they drink busaa in a shack in Kiandutu or expensive liquor in the plush lounge of a city hotel. It is therefore curious that the solution the government has adopted is to cut the supply of cheap alcohol and hope the problem goes away. It will not.

If I may hazard a guess, I think the reason why so many of our young men are turning to the bottle is because of disillusionment with the system. The level of inequality in our society continues to soar. Yet all we ever do is give our young men shovels and pangas. This strategy will soon come back to bite us.