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Kenyans were keen on US polls, but what lessons did we learn to help our rotten systems at home?

By Clay Muganda | November 8th 2020

Election campaigns. This is one thing that Kenyans love much more than disobeying rules and laws because it entails not observing or plainly breaking any laid down procedures or statues.

One of the things that makes them all excited about election campaigns is the political noise which they echo everywhere: in mass transport, in family get-togethers, on online platforms and in pubs as they drown their sorrows.

For a better part of the week, the rising coronavirus infections and deaths were seemingly not on top of Kenyans’ minds. They were busy following the US elections so keenly one would have thought half the country fielded candidates there.

Nothing wrong with that, after all, when the US sneezes, the world catches a cold. If anything, when yours is a country where donor aid meant for critical sectors like healthcare, or specifically fighting a pandemic such as Covid-19 gets misappropriated, you would be keen to know if the person who wins will be good for your country’s ever thriving corruption industry or if they will cut aid leading to a shortage of vital medication.

Some people rubbished the idea of following the US elections without thinking that Kenyans were happy that when it comes to post-election catfights, they are not alone. They were getting a kick out of it because it was shaping out like theirs: chaotic, only that in Kenya’s case, an incumbent unleashes State power on sections of voters who take to the streets not necessarily because they understand the issues at hand but because they have been told demonstrate.

Oh, Kenyans were happy because there was a hint of political rhetoric which they love and which only brings sufferance, and leads to deaths directly and indirectly as both taxes and donor aid are embezzled by individuals who enjoy political patronage.

While they were busy comparing their situation with that of the US, the Ministry of Health kept issuing coronavirus statistics and both cases and deaths were on the rise, meaning that the measures that were put in place to mitigate its spread, were not working.

One of the reasons why this was happening, it was suggested by the few who took their eyes off the US elections, was because politicians had been holding rallies and other events where social distancing and basic safety measures were not observed, since, well, Kenyans have a constitutional duty to treat laws and rules as proposals which they are not under any obligation to adhere to.

It is not a lie that politicians have been the super spreaders of the virus. Spreading things that are harmful to Kenyans is their job description. They spread lies, poverty, hatred, tribalism, nepotism and anything that hinders growth. Sadly, Kenyans have enabled them and swallow all that without asking any questions, and it seems that will not change.

But blaming politicians alone for the spread of coronavirus is dishonest because Kenyans too dropped the ball as they believed that the pandemic had been vanquished. Also, these politicians do not address themselves at the rallies or empowerment events that they hold to spread messages that will eventually cause strife and despondency.

They address Kenyans who either willingly, or after being induced with promises of a better life, throng there to listen to divisive political noises that never alleviate their suffering.

So, if the politicians are super spreaders, Kenyan voters must also take responsibility even as the government must be held accountable for the cases in schools yet it said that safety measures were in place to curb the spread of the virus in learning institutions.

That said, Kenyans are not good at holding politicians or government representatives accountable for their actions. Unlike in other places, and especially the US whose elections they have been following keenly, Kenyans have been numbed in to believing that corrupt politicians will save them even as it becomes clear every day that the country’s problems are due to poor choices they make at the ballot.

These mistakes translate in to a compromised civil service that answers not to the people but to the appointing authority; a Fourth Branch that does not work to improve the lives of Kenyans but does the bidding of the people who appointed them regardless of their qualification.

And as Kenyans have seen in the last few days even as they love the political noises coming from the US electoral process, election officials and generally civil servants work for the people and care little about the feelings of the country’s leadership even when they are of the same political affiliation.

Saying that Kenyans should make better choices at the ballot, which in turn can lead to a civil service that works for them, is just adding word count but not making any sense to them.

They love corrupt politicians and needless political fights and politicians are rated highly when they appoint their cronies or people from their communities to government positions.

Politicians make noises and Kenyans follow suit and turn the whole country in to a big echo chamber without a civil service that works for the people and where people forget that they are the ones who can curb the spread of coronavirus, only that together with their political gods, they are not interested. ?

-The writer is an editor at The Standard. @mqhlay

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