A couple of months ago, Chief Justice Willy Mutunga sensationally claimed that Kenya has become a bandit economy.
The CJ acknowledged the overwhelming influence of cartels and warned that unless they are fought, Kenyans would become their slaves.
Dr Mutunga’s claims came against the backdrop of soaring economic crimes and decreasing social cohesion.
A person from a third world country on a maiden visit to Kenya would be forgiven for thinking that, collectively, we are on top of the class in Africa. He would love to take a trip along Thika Superhighway to witness the magical snow of Mt Kenya, behold the beautiful fauna at the Mara, and marvel at our coastal sceneries while appreciating our rich cultural diversity.
We have made some strides to get our skyscrapers competing for the African airspace alongside giants like South Africa and Ethiopia. But behind this glittering façade, ordinary Kenyans have sad tales. Most of them live in deplorable conditions, devoid of water, sanitation and other social amenities; courtesy of a cartel kingdom that is running the country dry before indifferent national and county governments.
Recently, KTN released a documentary that exposed the rot in Nairobi City County. The documentary highlighted how city county officials extort bribes from poor traders in the various city markets. This brutal cartel comprises individuals who have been given the mandate to serve the people.
The aftermath of the exposé saw Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero suspend some officers over their alleged involvement in the extortion saga. Although the dust has since settled, the national government is yet to break its silence over the matter for which it has unquestionable oversight jurisdiction. The criminal justice system apparently turned its back on this expose since none of the people mentioned has hitherto been brought to book.
A serious national government keen on driving cartels out this country would, in collaboration with the country government, open fresh investigations into the matter and allow the law to freely get hold of these individuals.
In 2013, President Uhuru Kenyatta surprised the nation when he admitted that corruption is rife in the Office of the President. Many Kenyans, like me, heaved a sigh of relief and eagerly waited for the day heads would roll. What later emerged was an evolving cycle of corruption that saw some cabinet secretaries sent home on over corruption allegations. This, however, failed to rid the country of economic crimes.
As Mutunga observed, corruption stretches from the very bottom to the very top. The government’s lacklustre record in the anti-corruption campaign only buttresses the existence of unseen but powerful parallel governments in the form of cartels.
The visitor described above would complete his journey along Thika Superhighway, oblivious of the design failure that has turned the magnificent road into an occasional sea when heavy rains pound the city.
Let’s admit it, Kenya has become a bandit economy. Justice Mutunga’s words couldn’t have come at a better time.
Going forward, Kenya’s prosperity does not lie in the billions of shillings we borrow and dedicate to various development projects. It lies in the ability of her people to recognise and appreciate the centrality of sustainable development.