There are many reasons for the current political chasms in Kenya. Count vitriolic posturing as one and the rising influence of money as the other. No politician is spared. And months after the General Elections, the race has started again in earnest. And it looks like it might not stop; not any time soon. It’s a ping-pong game revolving around the Big Four, succession politics and the handshake.
In all this, we have the change-the-Constitution speed car, protect-the-handshake gunmen, and Deputy President William Ruto’s caravan.
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The writing is on the wall. Unfortunately, Kenya’s politics is dominated by personal attacks, propaganda, and hate speech, and this does not augur well for our future. Taking entrenched positions to suit political persuasions seems to be the new game in town.
Amid all this political confusion, aren’t we challenged to revisit our self-serving interests and put country and posterity first? Yet Kenya is blessed with dynamic, intelligent and progressive leaders.
Ironically, these leaders spend most of their energy negatively. What happened to tolerance, understanding, positive criticism and mutual respect?
If you ask yourself why it’s a matter of life and death for most politicians, you’ll find the answer. Most of them use power to make money.
Then they use money to grab power. And as is usual anywhere in the world and Africa in particular, if you attain financial power you begin to develop a strange love for politics.
Yet, this is what President Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda by is all about. Why, for example, would politicians be competing so viciously for votes just to end up buying coffins for their dead voters instead of helping them live? Why would they pay gangs to fight for their cause and leave the same youths unemployed?
Agricultural productivity has stagnated in recent years despite a growing population. Only about 20 per cent of Kenyan land is suitable for farming and maximum yields have not been achieved. What do we do as a country?
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Our politicians need to deal with Kenya’s youth unemployment crisis. Young people are agents of their own lives — they know what they want to achieve and will take the initiative to get there. The country needs to fix this sector through technical and vocational training to ensure that young people get appropriate skills training to provide labour in the manufacturing sector and participate fully in farming activities to feed the country. This way, the country can help tame youth militancy that has risen in recent years.
That is why politicians need to settle down, stop politicking and pursue development politics. This is because Kenya is an important regional and global player. Our place as an economic hub, our diplomatic leverage and geo-strategic status in the Horn of Africa and beyond are important. It’s critical that we renew our faith in the agencies and institutions that will help Kenya stand tall again. Elections cannot be the reason not to work for Kenya.
Like most of Africa, Kenya entered the 21st century with large gaps in infrastructure, human capital and institutions compared with other parts of the developing world. If Kenya is to industrialize, we must get these basics right.
Whether Kenya can compete in manufacturing hinges on whether its firms can compete in capabilities including new policies and institutions to address the drivers of industrial location and effective implementation.
The Government’s pledge to deliver half-a-million decent and affordable houses to working Kenyans through subsidy programmes that include credit facilities and adoption of cutting-edge innovative technologies and materials is welcome.
These cost-effective measures are expected to foster growth, increase in raw material output and decrease in manufacturing costs related to the real estate sector.
Additionally, the construction of houses will provide employment for skilled and semi-skilled workers.
Kenya Vision 2030 has affordable and quality healthcare. Health insurance cover means a lot to families and the economy. The fact that pupils will be insured means they will be healthy and will attend school regularly.
The current political rumblings could be a threat to the economy. The Big Four set the agenda of developing Kenya. We all need to set our agenda around these issues.
Leaders must ask themselves whether we are in the political orbit that will take us to the path of growth and change, justice, equity and cohesion. We must put national values and communal life above individual political ambition. After all, we are Kenyans and Kenya should come first.
Prof Mogambi, a development communication and social change expert, teaches at the University of Nairobi: [email protected]