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ELECTION 2022

With all these, Kenya requires little to push it over the cliff

BARRACK MULUKA
By Barrack Muluka | Apr 15th 2022 | 3 min read

When the falcon does not hear the falconer, anarchy is an assured consequence. William Butler Yeats did his homework thoroughly ahead of his ageless poem of 1919, “The Second Coming. “The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; The centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

Kenya is perched here in the 21st Century, even as President Uhuru Kenyatta plays the succession fiddle. The country staggers from state fragility towards state failure. Make no mistake, the fuel crises across the country are only one of the indicators. State fragility obtains where institutions begin becoming dysfunctional. And when this is lost altogether, the place sinks into unmitigated failure.

Kenya displays worrying signs of state fragility. Parts of Baringo, Turkana, Isiolo, Narok and Lamu are regularly raided and even controlled by non-state actors. Extra-judicial killings are accepted as normal across the country. In social science, weak law enforcement is a sure sign of state fragility. The failure of enforcement is either a factor of inherent inability, or impunity at the top, or both. 

Put together with state incapacity to provide basic goods and services to citizens, a country is on the road to state collapse. Soon enough, sovereign authority is challenged. The state cannot exercise legitimate sovereign power. Those mandated to exercise power are hostage to alternative extra-constitutional centres of power. Hence, instead of the government running after rascals, the Head of State may gasp, “What would have happened to this country, had a stone hit that elder? The country would have been on fire!”

He speaks to his own helplessness, and to the hopelessness of law enforcement instruments, before rascals and interlopers. Hence, we become a failing nation, a limping people that slouch towards Jerusalem (in the WB Yeats poem) to be born again, as a failed state. Put together with the now crippling cost of living, shortages of essentials and long queues in search of basics, a country is in a bad place. It requires very little to shove it over the cliff. But where does the falcon and its master come in?  The falconer is the law. We, the citizens, are the falcons. The moment a critical mass decides that the law does not matter, the centre will not hold. The nation falls apart. Might makes right. The law does not matter anymore.

It began, of course, with the Executive holding the law in contempt. The president governs without the Cabinet. We cannot remember when the Cabinet last met. This should worry us. How is the country managed? Are even the national budget proposals tabled before the Cabinet? Have the fuel crises been discussed in Cabinet? What is the position of the Cabinet on the cost of living in the country? The law says that the business of the government shall be carried out through the Cabinet. Kenya’s Cabinet has not met, for over two years now. Only in failed states do presidents work without formal Cabinet meetings. The rule of law does not seem to matter to such governments. When the ODM leader, Raila Odinga, promises to continue in the same direction as President Kenyatta, it is not clear that he really means it that way. 

Remember the Miguna Miguna saga. Despite several court orders, President Kenyatta and his men will not allow Miguna to enter the country. The law does not matter. Then there is the issue of judges the president has refused to appoint. Once again the law does not matter. And senior state officers have defied more court orders than this column cares to remember. This does not look like the direction any country wants to continue in. 

Yet others have picked up the cue. School heads charge whatever fees they wish, despite official directions from Jogoo House. Petrol stations decide their own prices, regardless of what the authorities direct. Boda boda operators break all the traffic rules, before the very eyes of traffic police officers. Police officers take bribes in bright daylight. Ace politicians talk openly about how they intend to steal the next general election. And Parliament is the headquarters of chaos. That is how nations sink.  

Dr Muluka is a strategic communications advisor.  

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