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Let’s one and all sing an ode to recycled populism

By -JENNY LUESBY | April 23rd 2013

By  Jenny Luesby

Populism is an ugly thing, filled with disappointments. It can render leaders into little more than stage-show magicians presenting crowds with new and beautiful rabbits apparently from nowhere, where, in reality, the rabbits were already there or never existed at all.

The tricks are just tricks. Nothing really changes.

As it is, we so need more than gimmicks and empty promises from our new cadre of political leaders, if we are to stop our slide into joblessness and get set for a vision we still cite, up against all the odds.

It was a point brought home to me, sharply, ten days ago, by a letter sent in by a reader from Tharaka Nithi County, who had written a poem to his MP.

Endless scrum

‘Honourable Member of Parliament,’ he began, ‘Orchestrate your team for development, Now that we voted you in.’

Weeks later, as we continue to live through the seemingly endless scrum for position and money by our newly elected politicians — across counties, parties, houses and government — it can seem as if the urgency of our development issues are pretty much nowhere in many politicians’ thinking.

But some have begun. Indeed, four announcements in recent days have brought reactions from many — as we all search for hope and belief that the game can change and we can have leaders on ‘our side’ in stopping Kenyans from dying, suffering and losing out, forever pointlessly.

The first change across the radar was the announcement from the new Governor of Nairobi that he had interdicted City Council staff for corruption. The announcement that he turned away bribes, that he was taking on the City barons, raised eyebrows across the metropolis. Could it be true? Will he really do it?

And so our search began, for clues as to whether this was gimmick or reality. Who are these people who are being charged?

Are they really the former lords of our City, responsible for stealing hundreds of millions — millions that could have saved so many lives in so many ways if it hadn’t instead been funding Nyama Choma?

In short, is this a rabbit being pulled out of a hat, or will it be the beginning of a new and better future? How we hope, in April 2013, that this one new rabbit is truly a newborn.

Indeed, to Dr Kidero, too, goes the second award for hope, if it is true he is set to finally address our city’s forever gridlocked waste management mess — with new trucks, and even bins for sorting our rubbish for recycling?

There are so many of us living in Nairobi today who will spend our last days dying from cancer, following from our years of breathing the pure toxins of open-burned plastics. This waste management disaster is killing us all, rich to poor, from State House to Kibera, and, for why? Because tendering is rotten? Because money leaks?

So that’s my decade of life taken, and yours too.

Don’t get distracted

At which point my own poem: Kidero, don’t disappoint us on this. Please, don’t tell us it’s going to be cleaned up and then don’t clean it. Please, don’t give up half way.

Please, don’t get distracted. Give us our clean air back. Give us a city with disease slashed because our masses stop living in rotting waste.

But my own poem doesn’t go to Kidero alone. For there were real points of hope brought to us by our new President in recent days.

This weekend, we were told police officers had been interdicted for collusion in the killings in Garissa, and then that security chiefs were heading there to end this town’s horror, on the President’s instructions.

Please let it be true that in Kenya, from here, collusion in killings will lead to indictments.

Our new President, too, put rockets under the forever-not-progressing police reform — demanding a roadmap, demanding results, demanding reform.

Please let it be true that we could get the police force we deserve and could have clear rules, clear service, police we can trust who are there for us, genuine security forces — and that we have a brand new President who will get that for us.

Cynical as every Kenyan now is about what they can hope for from our leaders, and from our future, it takes only actions to change everything.

Any politician can arrive for photo shoots, anyone can say we will have computers, or an end to corruption.

Clean the air

But a clean city is proof. A clean police force is proof.

And in results, lies the death of populism, and a future for Kenya that we all deserve — and that we can thank the leaders for: leaders who had the focus, the determination, and even the courage, to make it happen.

Dear leaders all, please give us what you promised, because you remember that it’s why you got the job, and you put your legacy above and beyond your concerns with immediate rewards. Please get on now with cleaning the air for all of us. 

The writer is Group Content and Training Editor at The Standard Group.

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