Don’t doubt it, Kenya is a truly failing state

Money, power and privilege are one thing, but what about peace of mind? What about a good night’s sleep? What about general well-being? Why is it so easy for the characters who use and abuse our billions to show themselves in public and spew lies without even a hint of remorse?

It makes you wonder about the true nature of evil and the face that the forces of darkness present to the world. Because hey, they’re not coming at us with horns and tails; they are driving around in tinted SUVs, talking about ‘no Kenyan will die of hunger’, as they pick pieces of meat out of their teeth.

It’s hard to imagine that a group of people can cause so much suffering without even a secondary thought for the people who bear it. I mean, I just can’t come to terms with a leadership that is milking the country’s coffers dry while babies are gasping for breath at their mothers’ breasts.

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Voters are dying from hunger in a country where governors show up for devolution conferences in convoys, complete with expensive chase cars, and ostentatious entourages.

Together with their local governments, they have spent a jaw-dropping one trillion shillings since 2013. But for so many parts of the country, there’s nothing to show for it. Nothing apart from the indisputable evidence of wanton misappropriation of funds, and a wilful and unmitigated gorging on public resources.

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Kenya is failing as a State, I dare say. Ideologically, states exist for the betterment of their citizens, and the instruments of State are designed to create and hold space for the citizenry to thrive. This would stand out as the noblest of ambitions were it not for the fact that those instruments are controlled by governments, and governments are populated by men and women.

Mere mortals who are as corruptible as the next guy. It is a sad truth that the men and women of every government since independence have been hopelessly corrupted by the ease with which money, power, and privilege can be extracted from a disenfranchised populace. 

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However, it is with this government that we have seen the real face of our extractive State. It has never been clearer that the Kenyan State exists to serve itself and those who have their fingers on its purse strings.

When the most important agenda on the political diary is a power-sharing agreement, thinly disguised as a public-interest referendum, there is no doubt that voters are just clogs in the corporatist State machinery. When services like universal healthcare and free education, which are designed to cushion the ordinary man, are monetised to his detriment, the writing is on the wall. We are living in a big-man-eat-small-man society.

Education system

Not a day passes by without proof of that fact. One day it’s a father smuggling his new-born out of a hospital because he cannot pay the bill, the next it’s a jobless, homeless woman giving birth in a park. If it’s not an education system that’s not fit for purpose, it’s an economy that’s designed to enslave employees, rather than empower innovators.  

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The tragedy in all of this is that the players in this game of thrones cannot see beyond the prize. Money. Power. Privilege. There are few things more seductive than the trifecta of cash, property, and status, and rulers around the world have long been pulled into its web.

The brazen play for eternal leadership is not new, it is simply more visible. Right now it’s a shock to the system, but it won’t be long before the theft of billions and prolonged absence of basic services will seem normal. The longer we sit back and accept the chaos that passes itself off as leadership, the closer we get to a space where we are too desensitized to expect more from our leaders.

See, it used to be that politicians screwed the people with some level of finesse. There was a way that the system would steal from you while still allowing you your dignity. There was a time when the national budget was a thing of honour even among thieves.

That was then. What we’re living in today is a time of revelation. If you did not know that your government exists to serve its own interests, and the interests of those who pull the purse strings, now you know. And so it’s up to you. Are you going to eat the crumbs that your elected representatives are serving you, or are you going to vomit on their feet? The choice is yours.

Ms Masiga is Peace and Security Editor, The Conversation Africa

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