State abdicating its role to govern and entrusting violent groups to take over

Day after day we read of tragic events in our nation—killings by the Al-Shabaab in the northern parts of our country; disappearances of directors of a land buying company in Murang’a; panga-wielding youths urged by an MP to get ready to cut political opponents to pieces rather than waste their time cutting grass; youths in a school knifing each other to death over some love affairs gone sour.

Then, to add insult to injury, the President himself lets loose marauding parliamentarians to take law into their own hands, destroying business enterprises suspected to be selling illicit brews. Don’t we have a Ministry of Internal Security? Don’t we have county governments in charge of giving liquor licences? Don’t we have a police force to keep law and order?

Some wise man of yesteryear once said that who the gods would destroy they first make mad! It seems as if our nation has entered a moment of madness in our history. Things are not just adding up.

It is as if the government has abdicated its role of governing to MPs; MPs in turn have abdicated their role as law makers to panga-wielding youths ready to ignore law making altogether and punish by death the sinning political opponents; and up in the north, while they claim they are busy fighting Al-Shabaab, the security forces see little need to protect the ordinary wananchi, and hence any organised group of bandits—Al Shabaab or not—can get away with murder.

Yet the war we are so ready to fight, and an army for it exists at the beckoning of the President, is that one against so-called illicit brews. But the “vuta pumsi” group do not need a brewery, a distillery or a shop to access their dangerous drugs.

The “chang’aa dens” are unlikely to be accessed by MPs since, as their name suggests, they are dens. So what are we talking about? I bet you there were as many youths drunk or on drugs in central Kenya this morning as they were when Waititu and his ilk unleashed their wrath on so-called illicit brews a week ago.

Let us fight a more realistic war; let us begin with the pace setters, so-called “role models”; these are members of the middle class who drink themselves silly in bars and shout on top of their voices at street lights.

This lot are the real authors of drunkenness; they set the examples that youths emulate. The unemployed youths wish they could live like the Rambos. The chokora boys listen to them and see them.

Driving in their sleek cars and shouting like Rambos, the middle class represent the ultimate in social power as far as the chokoras are concerned. If the chokoras cannot drive the cars they can at least access the substances for getting high — be they cheap drinks, rubbers or “kill me quicks” — so that they can at least make believe that they too have arrived.

Capitalism, unfortunately, must grow by creating and seeking markets. Since the army of the unemployed grows in leaps and bounds by the day, capitalism will seek this army as a market for its illicit brews, drugs and other cheap intoxicating substances.

It does not matter how many times the Waititus, in a populist fashion, go around smashing walls and pouring brews onto the red soil of central Kenya. The army of the unemployed will keep growing so will their demand for what they need to be “as happy as the Rambos.”

Like a leadership bereft of social imagination, we have created a war we cannot win on a frontier we are somehow unable to scale. The drunken youths are not the problem, nor is the market that has responded to their aspirations to be tipsy just as we ourselves are — but only in a manner more acceptable to our “civilised selves.”

Look at the top echelons of our political leadership for quite some time now; who can claim to be sober? How many of us “drink socially”: ie only take one or two drinks when it is socially necessary? By socially necessary I mean at cocktails, or while having a meal or entertaining a visitor who is passing by on her way to Djibouti? Or just to discuss one or two points in a bar once in a while?

No, too many of us just drink as if both Kenya Breweries and Keroche are bound to close before the sun sets the next day! So why are you only targeting the poor unemployed youths in central Kenya? Give them some work and some income and they will definitely be socially born again drinking wise.

This world is very interesting. I have read biographies of many great men and women who, in their youth, behaved no differently from the rather irresponsible youths people like Waititu are targeting. But somehow as they grew up they discovered certain avenues in life that led them to some better opportunities.

If one were to pick up idle youths in urban and rural Kenya and take them to “work camps” where they are given training to work with their hands and earn some living, I am sure we would soon see some changes in their lives.

I would think this is why the NYS was founded; to provide youths with skills to use in productive activities to earn a living. The recent diversion that now seeks to create a militia out of the NYS must be resisted at all costs. It is unnecessarily capital intensive, too militarised and runs the risk of being abused by authoritarian tendencies among the political elite.

Let us go back to the original concept when patriots like JM Kariuki really knew what the wretched of the Earth needed to positively transform their lives. The ruling class of today are first and foremost “ashamed” of the “vuta pumsi” crowd; if this elite had its way it could easily erase the crowd from the face of the Earth. That is the fascist approach to a social problem. I would rather we provide the crowd with a place to feel at home rather than deprive them of the only home they know without giving them a real alternative.

But then, as I said earlier, we have entered a moment of madness in our history. Few things make sense; of comfort no man speaks.

Whether we speak of sporadic terror attacks here and there, land gangs and murders in central Kenya, wanton corruption in government, a police force more known for internal administrative chaos rather than keeping internal security; nobody in our national leadership seems to know how to solve these problems or which way to guide the nation towards peace and prosperity. Homilies will not help. Arrogance will only make things worse. And political hubris will definitely prolong the moment of madness. I rest my case.

The writer is the Senator of Kisumu County