Public memory is short, and its expectations unrealistic. Yet, the State cannot wish this away.
Fact, Kenya is in a difficult economic place. Fact, the public expects the government to fix the economy without heavy taxation, or borrowing. Fact, this is not realistic. Fact, the messy challenge began way before the present government came to power.
While memory is short and expectations unrealistic, there is only one government. Fact, the government must fix this mess, regardless of who brought it about. If it doesn’t, the public will be unforgiving. It is expedient that one person should pay the price for the sins of the rest. That is the truth every government must know.
The government needs to know the public truth, both from the opposition and from those within government itself. I consider myself close to the William Ruto government, even when I have reservations about some of the things said and done.
It is the only government I have successfully voted for. I have even given them some level of advice. I certainly wish this government well. Its democratic test, however, is in whether it can withstand loyal censure.
For, wishing a government well is different from telling sweet lies to those in power. It is particularly a double tragedy, if the lies are told in public space, such as that I occupy.
That has been the misfortune with successive African governments. It is a part of our story in Kenya. When the opposition speaks, it is understood to be bitter – a bunch of sour losers. And when those who empathise but criticise from close range speak, they are unreliable, perhaps even traitors.
The unchanging alphabet of life has taught us that he is wise, he who has received wisdom. The path to wisdom is not coated in honey. Wisdom is often a factor of bitter truth.
In Christendom, Jesus Christ, being God, still wanted to know what the people were saying. “What are the people saying? Whom do they say I am,” he asked his disciples, in the three Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
It is doubtful that Christ intended to be tantalised with sweet sound bites. Fancy, therefore, God seeking to know what the people are saying! The search for the truth is a conversation with the soul.
That’s why the iconoclastic Albert Camus has God holding a conversation with his soul. The soul is the unspoilt element of the self. If you are damaged through-and-through, it is correct to say you are soulless. You care least about alternative thoughts, which often reflect the truth. And the truth is Kenyans are unhappy about their condition. They are also unrealistically heaping all the blame on the current government. And this government could pay the price.
If anyone tells President Ruto anything different, they are liars. The ground is bad, Mr President, really bad. This thing called the cost of living is messy. It doesn’t matter who committed the original sin. What counts is that there is government in place. The people are asking what it is doing about their plight.
Change tack, Mr President. Remember what they say about singing sweet birds. The serpent hisses where the sweet birds sing. He is hissing, ahead of 2027. To save itself from the electoral serpent, the government must stop taxing poverty. It must make life affordable and liveable.
To tax poverty is to fuel public unhappiness. Mr President, you must renegotiate, restructure, and reschedule Kenya’s debt repayments. You must subsidise both production and consumption.
You must facilitate productive employment, lower tax and widen the tax base. Short of that, you have an unpleasant appointment with an unrealistic, hungry and angry public with a short memory, in 2027.
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-Dr Muluka is a strategic communications advisor.