There must be few countries in the world that celebrate a New Year with such joy, delight, exuberance and high energy as Kenya does. Celebrations go on long after the midnight hour and most revelers struggle home as dawn breaks on another year. The gift of a new year is something everyone can celebrate regardless of religious allegiance as humanity moves together with shared hopes and dreams.
However, it would appear that the nation’s celebration is often linked to waving good riddance to a year of disappointment, unpleasantness, and hardship as much as looking forward with hope that the New Year will give some respite in the constant struggle to survive in a harsh environment where citizens matter little except when their votes and taxes are required.
A New Year may present a new opportunity but it does not represent a new beginning. As everyone will soon discover, problems of 2019 will find a new home in 2020 as a new calendar is not a magic wand to the challenges Kenya faces. The same old, tired faces who dominated public life may attempt to rebrand and regroup into new ethnic oligarchies but they will not bring you to Canaan or any other promised land. You will hear endless talk about BBI but that too is a very hard sell. Any nation-building exercise that was exclusive and divisive from the outset is fast going nowhere. There may be major efforts to force a referendum that Kenyans have not requested but that risks rejection at the ballot.
Meanwhile, as the Chinese come to collect rent that figure of 57% of GDP required to service loans will most likely increase. There will be less money available for development activities and the real risk is that devolution might be the first casualty due to delayed or reduced remittances to the counties.
This may be a very bleak and depressing picture of the nation’s prospects in the coming year. However, it is better to face reality than pretend that there are easy answers to the challenges ahead or that a saviour is about to drop from the heavens. As the same Chinese say a crisis is an opportunity but the crisis must be acknowledged and the opportunity to be grasped if this is not to go down as another year of failure and under achievement.
The first point is the admission that the state has been captured. Those who control political power also control the economy at every conceivable level. They just don’t own the banks and industries, they also control Parliament. The only institution that has withstood the executive onslaught on its authority is the judiciary. Practically all the constitutional commissions that should be enhancing democracy and the rule of law are in tatters with poor personnel, little funding and no independence.
Secondly, the DPP and EACC are blowing hot and cold in the so called war on corruption; more smokescreens than smoking guns as we still wait for any significant successful prosecutions. But here is the crux of the matter, the public must no longer wait and watch as the DPP and EACC stutter and fall. Pressure must come from all ends to change the culture of looting.
The Catholic Church campaign to ‘break the chains of corruption’ is a noble start. The prayer recited at every service not only invokes the Lord but it analyses and diagnoses the rot of corruption in our society. When church goers recite this on a daily basis over a period of time, they can no longer stand idly by when corrupt practices happen at the workplace or in their community. A prayer like this may not change God but it can change us and that is its intention. If the same prayer were used in every mosque and church, think of the impact that would have. Prayer then is not an escape but a call to action and to expose and shame the looter. Prayer should empower the public to reflect on what is happening and to take collective redress action. This inevitably will mean confronting those who have taken the nation captive and demand they give Kenyans back their country.
Put another way, the only resolution you should make this year should be to be patriotic, to pray and act to break the chains of corruption. Forget those promises to lose weight and exercise more. Exercise your right to demand change and rid yourself of your captors.