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Kenya at a crossroads and the path we refused to take

By Henry Munene | October 31st 2015

NAIROBI: It is hard to look at Kenya today and not recall Robert Frost’s classic poem, The Road not Taken. The persona in the poem tells of two roads that “diverged in a yellow wood”. In other words, the persona has come to a crossroads and has to make a choice between two roads. One road seems well trodden, and like the biblical road to ruin, is wide enough for the traveller’s comfort. The other was less travelled, judging by the fact that it was narrow, grassy and not fun at all to stroll along. Luckily for the persona, he took the narrow path and later says:
“I shall be telling this with a sigh. Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less travelled by. And that has made all the difference.”

One can draw a parallel between Kenya, especially after promulgation of the 2010 Constitution, with the journey of the persona in Frost’s poem. Only that unlike the persona, we seem to have taken the wide, well-beaten path. So today, even after we insisted on integrity in governance, we are bombarded daily with claims of top State officials creaming off the fat of the land as the poor sink deeper in the mire of destitution.

Those who work hard and even take loans to give their loved ones a decent and honest life are not spared the consequences of wrong choices. They are now receiving bad news that they have to pay more for a living and repay the loan they took for school fees or to put up a house. All this because the State needed to borrow too much and the tax collector might not have been quite honest with us. Even teachers who didn’t get their September pay must pay more to service their loans. And all this despite an order from the courts saying they be paid.

All this while, the political class is travelling the world, chomping away at the GDP through per diem creativity. I feel for the surgeon who has been diligently saving lives for over two decades and now watches in horror as MCAs, many of who have never done a single thing before coming to office, getting big cars, salaries and swimming in money. It makes an honest, patriotic Kenyan wonder whether being honest and hard-working is worth it; a most dangerous question, if you ask me!

In 2013, we expected the government to demonstrate inclusion in appointments. That would have erased the notion that you need a relative in top office to get a decent living. Now, we need to have our own up there. To get good jobs. And tenders. The Opposition, on its part, could have taken the narrow path of demonstrating that it has better ideas and values. Instead, it defends those who spew hate and venom at funerals and rallies. To end the cash crunch, it gives us fake money-transfer till numbers at rallies. It all reminds you of the words of the late Imbuga: “We have killed our past and we are busy killing our future.”

It is scary to imagine the next step for a society that employs a political class that romps to power to perpetuate pilferage. Now when even Opposition members are named in scandals they are supposed to be condemning, the question then becomes: Who do Kenyans turn to if they cannot be saved from their challenges by the elected government or the Opposition?

What next for a country where the Executive does not obey court orders and the Opposition only walks out of Parliament to score political points but stays put and votes with the ‘tyranny of numbers’ when their salaries are being increased? Why the selective application of probity? And the scariest question? What does the future hold for a country where morality and rule of law are to be applied selectively? Luckily we have no more space, because we can’t even start answering that.

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