In under a week, the annus horribilis of 2020 will be gone, and Kenyans will be hoping that in 2021, they will sleep hungry fewer times. Actually, they are hoping few of them will die due to poor or lack of healthcare services; that their children will be in public schools that are not a health hazard and mainly that the thieves they elected will stop stealing their taxes or giving them to their cronies and relatives through skewed tendering.
As usual, Kenyans live on hope, and keep hoping, all the time against hope, because they keep shooting themselves in the foot, then forget that they were holding the weapon themselves.
In Kenya, things are never good, since the country is in a constant state of natural disaster where every problem is an emergency never handled well because authorities take time to put their ducks in a row — and they never get it right when they eventually do.
And so, as we approach 2021, many Kenyans are hoping that life will be a little bit easier and they can make ends meet with little difficulty even though there is little chance of things getting better. For Kenyans, 2020 has been like many other years but they could not previously tell because they were listening to so many nonsensical political noises, and immediately the noises died down — when political activity was curtailed for a short while to curb the spread of coronavirus — they realised that they have been in a hole and they are sinking deeper.
It all started as a joke, a flu to be precise, and as other countries were taking drastic measures like curtailing international flights, Kenyans, and the parental authority that is the government, were wondering why other nations were overreacting. Life was normal, and that means we were still making merry as if our livers were in a competition to see who gets cirrhosis faster, and our politicians shouting their lungs out all over the place but saying nothing new.
But when the first case was reported, the government went into panic mode, and proved that it did not have a playbook for handling a pandemic, an epidemic or any other disease outbreak.
For years, Kenyans have been cheering on the leaders as they hurl epithets — and continue to prove that they have foot and mouth disease since they can’t stay at one place and can’t keep quiet — and spend monies they have stolen from public coffers while talking about ending corruption.
The war on graft is the golden thread in all their speeches, yet daily, a new scandal, a new scam, a new case of financial embezzlement, is unearthed. Then the finger-pointing and blame game started, amid name-calling and half-hearted investigations whose outcomes are disputed as a witch-hunt.
Yes, they admit money was stolen, but deny getting involved yet they can never reveal who the thief is, or the source of the monies they throw at the people they have made poorer. They call themselves philanthropists, saviours, and Kenyans swallow that, and vote for them again.
And so, this year too, scams and cases of financial misappropriation were unearthed and the pandemic offered another avenue for stealing public funds when day-old companies and others which were set up to supply cereals were awarded multi-billion shilling tenders to supply medical equipment.
The hole of poverty that Kenyans have been thrown in to by the people they excitedly chose not because they were good leaders, but because they made the loudest noises, just got deeper and there are no signs that Kenyans will crawl out of it soon.
The pandemic, Kenyans have been told is responsible for the current economic mess, the high cost of living and low standards of life, as if things were rosy in this bandit economy before the first coronavirus case was detected in March.
The weak and weakening healthcare system is being blamed on the pandemic yet health workers have been complaining about poor working conditions and lack of protective and other equipment for ages. Even the poor state of public schools and the confusion in the education system has a new buyer, the pandemic.
Coronavirus has become the perfect lame excuse even for the loss-making semi-State agencies and infrastructure projects yet experts and scholars pointed out that these mega projects will only drain the leaking economy and poor Kenyans will dig deeper in to their pockets for generations to pay for them.
The flipside to 2020 being annus horribilis is that Kenyans saw the true colours of people they elected. They are a callous bunch of shameless blabbering robbers who care little about Kenyans. But please do not forget Kenyans gave them the opportunity, and if Kenyans do not reflect on their mistakes in the New Year and know how to vote in the next general election or upcoming by-elections, the situation will only get worse.
As you think about your choices, have a Happy New Year — in this bandit economy.
-The writer is an editor at The Standard. @mhqlay