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Contempt that the leadership has for the people is disturbing

COMMENTARY
By Maina Kiai | December 29th 2019

If you are like me, part of the minority no longer counted as “youth,” you will be thinking that “sheesh, this year has zoomed on fast!” Yes, it does seem that as we get older, time seems to fly, and an hour is really a very short time when you take a walk, or sit and read a book, or watch an interesting movie!

For those in the majority youthful range of between 18 and 35, enjoy these times when time seems to wait for you, when you can’t wait to wake up ready for the next day, because once you get past that age, sleep is a luxury you savour, and time seems to be always running.

At any rate, looking back at Kenya in 2019 evokes various emotions, thoughts and feelings. Some of these would be funny were they not so tragic.

Perhaps most painful is the fact that since September--after we paid China one of the first installments for the expensive SGR loan--the overarching sense is how broke Kenya became. It has been heartbreaking fielding calls, emails and texts from friends, relatives, colleagues and acquaintances asking for help towards paying school fees, rent and even ensuring at least one meal every day.

And this brokenness has affected even the middle class; one friend who runs a successful business told me that for the first time in years, he was watching the payroll closely each month to make sure everyone would get paid. Previously there was always at least nine months reserve for payroll.

Amid all this, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta asks why Kenyans are broke! Yaani, is he not the one who went and got us an expensive and ill-advised loan for the SGR when he could have just rehabilitated the old railway line at less than a third of the cost of the SGR that went half the distance? You really got to wonder if the air at State House is different or if he is smoking something that makes him out of touch.

Fooling the flock

Then there is this other mjamaa, who loudly proclaims that he is a born-again Christian, but refuses to account for the unbelievable wealth he has accumulated in just a few years that previously enabled him to publicly and proudly contribute Sh10 to 20 million each week at church fundraisers. This is the most obvious antithesis of Jesus Christ that exists, and yet he was welcomed by the Christian leadership with open arms! You know they know that they are fooling the flock, like the Pharisees of old, and they must fear the second coming like the proverbial conman who would sell his mother for a coin!

It may be coincidental, but the Sh10 to 20 million donations seem to have dried up with the arrest and arraignment of the management of NHIF, Kenya Power, and Kenya Pipeline—to mention a few—as well as since the introduction of new currency.

Some of the events this year are unbelievable. I do not know of any country where the leaders deliberately impoverish a region to benefit other regions. I can understand marginalisation and neglect, but actively impoverishing Mombasa by forcing all cargo on the ill-advised SGR to support Nairobi and Naivasha is close to subversion.

And yet despite all this, the SGR remains unprofitable and incapable of paying for itself! Sheesh, at this rate, I will not be surprised if a new project—like the Kimwarer and Arror dams’ mirage--is conjured up to move the sea from Mombasa to Ruiru or Naivasha!

Only in Kenya would we be lectured about the conflict of interest of legislators who also practise law, while those in power do business with the state every day. We know who provides significant insurance, milk, banking and hospitality services to state agencies, but somehow this was not seen as worthy of public mention.

Even better would have been an announcement that forthwith state agencies are prohibited from conducting any business with organisations linked to top officials, but I guess that is asking too much of leaders who treat the country like a private ATM.

And only in Kenya, in a country where the majority is under 35, would jobs be preserved to retired public servants and politicians who are well past their sell-by date. It is almost comical when positions of authority and responsibility over sports, jobs and taxes are given to people who really do not have much to offer except perhaps loyalty to power. And I always wonder why these tired and retired people feel suitable for the jobs when their “software” is long obsolete and upgrades available.

The symbolism of always going back to retired or failed politicians or civil servants must not be underrated, especially in a country where the substantial majority is youthful. It is a message of “uta do” that shows the contempt that these leaders have for us all as a people.

Hope 2020 will be bring hope and success!

- The writer is former KNCHR chair. [email protected]

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