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We have a leadership that thrives on outright impunity

By Maina Kiai | Published Mon, June 11th 2018 at 00:00, Updated June 10th 2018 at 23:24 GMT +3

Given all the ongoing shenanigans, we should be the angriest people on earth. It is unbelievable — and traumatising — how our leaders treat us, and what they think of us. Kenya has been on the verge of real take off — socially, economically, and democratically — since 2003, and again after 2010, but we are now closer to the precipice due to poor leadership.

Our problem is simple: We have a leadership that believes in impunity, that rapes us and our grandchildren (by encumbering them with debts up to their ears) and which wants to keep us poor, weak and divided.

We have not really recovered from the 2008 violence, nor have we dealt with its impact. The Constitution was borne from that violence, but it has not helped in reckoning or accountability, primarily because those responsible for implementation do not like it. So they have subverted it, appointed weak cronies to positions to facilitate continued theft and for protection, in a business-as-usual approach. 

Practically, all the institutions crafted by the Constitution have been subjected to State capture, either through patronage or intimidation. This regime has no shame in appointing old tired men into positions of responsibility in parastatals, after decades of “public” service basically serving the powerful not the majority. In a country where more than two-thirds of the population is under 35, why recycle old civil servants unless it is to continue plunder and State capture?

Few institutions are more vital to our survival than the IEBC which is the main conduit for our hopes for peaceful change. If change is not possible via elections, then it will happen through other means, foul or fair. Some may think this is just sour grapes, but consider this: If an institution is plagued with problems and theft around procurement, what stops it from plundering our votes for a specific result? Once insiders, with the support of political kingpins, are captured by their greed, they become willing tools for those in power. 

This alone should make us so angry that we should be clamouring for real change if we are ever to have transparent and credible elections that determine the leaders we deserve. Those focused on 2022 without plans for changing the IEBC and the electoral systems are incredible! Without serious changes, we know exactly who will be declared winner in 2022, even if that means breaking up or bankrupting Kenya.

And we should be pissed off about the plunder and stealing from NYS2, Kenya Power, National Cereals Board, Kenya Pipeline and all. The NYS thefts coupled with the appointments of retired civil servants prove yet again just how little this regime cares for the youth.

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All these scandals are coming after Eurobond theft, NYS1, Mafya House, SGR scams! Few would have thought that the years of plunder under previous administrations would ever be surpassed, but this regime has outdone Kanu’s by a long stretch! This will be its legacy, and I hope they live long to see their damage! The people at the Coast should be especially livid with the Lamu coal project that is unnecessary but will destroy Lamu’s heritage, and the illegal directive that all goods received at the Port of Mombasa be transported on the SGR. This outrageous directive, meant to cover some of the unnecessary costs of building the SGR is similar to ordering all Kenyans to ride on NYS buses, or fly only on Kenya Airways, or bank with KCB!

The worst part of it is that it hurts the Coast terribly in terms of jobs and livelihoods, diverting them to Nairobi and later Naivasha. It is also an unbridled attack on devolution to hollow it out and weaken it. We should not be surprised if we start hearing the “Pwani si Kenya” slogans in the next few months!

The “small” things should also make us angry. Our roads have been rendered useless since the rains, and you would think Kenya is the only country where it rains! It is not the rains causing damage, and creating huge potholes that are swallowing cars! It is poor workmanship and engineering. It is not rocket science to build infrastructure that can survive, but our greed dictates that we construct poor roads that need regular maintenance, thus keeping the money taps flowing! And we ordinary Kenyans bear the brunt as we take our cars for repairs every week. The Engineers Board of Kenya or the Association of Consulting Engineers of Kenya should expel all the road engineers responsible for these pathetic roads. They make a mockery of the profession and lower trust in all engineers overall. That should be their contribution to fighting corruption rather than whining.

The “hand-cheque” was meant to lower tensions. But do not be fooled that this cooling off is sustainable. The anger is percolating and festering. And combined with the unheeded trauma of police killings, brutality, exclusion and plunder, it could all so easily explode given an appropriate trigger. We do not know what that trigger is, but unless this anger is channeled in organised ways, all bets are off.

- The writer is former KNCHR chair. [email protected]


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