Kenya is undergoing a crucial moment with sweeping political realignments. The Building Bridges Initiative team has completed its work, a purge in Jubilee Party is almost complete and the nation is staring at tough times due to the coronavirus. But amid all these developments, a few home truth will have to be digested.
When the 2010 Constitutions came to life, Kenyans were anxious and upbeat that change was in sight. Unfortunately, we all have been a cannon fodder in a system that inspires little hope. Summed up, impunity, corruption and negative ethnicity have persisted, defying any dosage of answers. We have refused to be a just society even with our progressive laws.
Admittedly, the saying that the fish starts to rot form the head aptly speaks to our situation. Our leaders operate with a sense of entitlement that defies understanding. Elected and nominated leaders and seasoned politicians break the law with abandon. What matters to them is power and self-aggrandisement that come with serious contempt for the common man who pays the taxes from which they draw their hefty perks.
This week alone, news surfaced that two legislators had defied Covid-19 rules. Theirs may have been isolated cases, but truth is, Kenyan legislators have a strange friendship with controversy that often results in selective application of the law.
It should worry us that application of Chapter Six of the Constitution on leadership and integrity of public officers was long thrown with the birth waters. The chapter decrees that those whose conduct does not bring honour, public confidence and integrity have no place in the management of public affairs. Leadership is the ability to influence others to act towards a desired goal. It has to be founded on values like ethical behavior that in tandem with public interest with three principle tenets — moral conduct, duty and judgment.
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Regrettably, these attributes don’t feature in many a Kenyans' minds on voting day. In Kenya, integrity of a candidate in a non-issue. All that matters is tribe and political affiliation. Unbeknownst to voters is that they will always be ultimate sufferers. This shortsighted view needs to stop. Public officers should be people who are beyond reproach. I dare say that the day we will make Chapter Six of the Constitution our guiding principle each election year, we will have solved nearly 90 per cent of our problems as a nascent democracy. What would it benefit a voter if he elects his tribesmen but loses the soul of his country to economic crimes, outright theft, nepotism, land grabbing and being treated as second-class citizen in his own country?
Leaders have to be credible to represent the aspiration of a people. Their calling should be to serve and not to eat. Author Rasheed Ogunlaru captures it with his famous quote: “In leadership, life and all things, it’s far wiser to judge people by their deeds than speech - their track record rather than talk”.
Granted, we’ve faced many setbacks as a nation. While we won some battles, attempted others and failed in some instances, Kenyans' faith in leaders clearly waned. Real push for change should begin with an acknowledgement of failures by some of the country’s political leaders and critical stakeholders, and begin to look at each other in the eye then have a candid conservation. Either we uphold high integrity standards of leaders or we give up the dream of ever rising to the level of Singapore, Malaysia and other Asian tigers that were at par with us in the 1960s.
We should also call out critical entities that have failed this country. The opposition has become a cheerleader and religious leaders have appallingly failed to speak up against ills facing the common man.
–The writer is an information technology expert. Email: [email protected]