How intellectuals, scholars and writers have failed Kenya

Kenya is at the crossroads both with her economy- an admission from none other than the Treasury Cabinet secretary Henry Rotich himself. Education and leadership right from the county to national level, where corruption has just taken a life of its own and the gerrymandering with the constitution by the ruling class to suit their egocentric insatiable thirst for more power. The Press in Kenya is yet again staring at the abyss we thought we had successfully sidestepped with the promulgation of the new constitution. 

Yet when a country is taking the steep path to failure as it is unfolding with Kenya before our own eyes, it is not only enough to berate the political  leaders but ask what the intellectuals, scholars and  writers are doing about it as Rasna Warah opined about India and Kenya.  They say an intellectual is an extremely rational person; a person who relies on intellect rather than on emotions or feelings in judging and doing things.

But if anybody was to ask if at all Kenya still has intellectuals, academicians and writers of the calibre of Ngungi  Wa thiongo, Micere Mugo, Hillary Ngweno, Margaret Ogolla, Majorey Oludhe  Macgoye the late Oki Ooko Ombaka, and  late Odhiambo Mbai among others, the best answer to that can only be found in the kind of pieces a  once fiery political analysts of great repute Mutuhi Ngunyi, has reduced himself to be putting  forth lately: tribal epithets against a community and its leader (s) camouflaged as an ideology of greatest stature. You will also be reminded that on 2nd October 2015, a group of the so called Kenya’s scholars converged at Strathmore university Nairobi under the forum titled, “the intellectual dialogue forum on the validity of the Rome statute in the aftermath of the trial chambers ruling on rule 68.”

Talking at the forum, a number of the scholars and lawyers urged the government “to destroy the image of the ICC’ without having to think of the trauma the lady whose daughter was raped and  impregnated while she the mother contracted HIV/Aids is  undergoing.

It  is not lost on the common man therefore , that after that charred of intellectual dialogue in which the scholars challenged the government among other things to adopt ‘a bare-knuckled political fight against the ICC to save DP Ruto and his co-accused Joshua arap Sang,’ high octane  prayers cum political rallies ensued from the jubilee politicians, the culmination of which was the  confessions by Moses Kuria of how he helped  ‘fix’ William Ruto and the  ‘Suswa declaration’ where they dared the presiding judge Osuji who a few days before, had  warned politicians to keep off discussing the maters before the court and issuing threats.

It is therefore suffice to say the group at the forum represented the ruling elite thinking on PEV victims’ plight and the cases at the Hague based court. Their pinion cane cutter can now authoritatively say is what formed idea that a packet of sanitary pads should be bought at Sh600 while a bar of soap to be bought at Sh 37,000 in preparation of the el-nino rains, which by the way seem to have decided to keep off at least for some time until we get the prices right!

Just after the 2002 general elections, a robust intellectual discourse somehow went for a sabbatical leave from which it emerged prior to 2007 and completely went to sleep and has never woken up, thus free thinking is today a strange phenomenon in Kenya. Or what do you make of a stars-studded conglomeration of brains that of Kisemei Kutisya, Macharia Munene, Simeon Sungi, Dr. Patrick Maluki, Lawyer Moses Kurgat, and Ken Obura choosing to mouth such baloney as ‘sovereign of the people’ in relation to the ICC cases without taking a minute to mention the plight of IDPS some of whom are still in tents almost nine years down the line?

 What do you make of Adam’s Oloo, a lecturer at the USIU and whose political intellectual inclination tend to lean towards CORD/ODM but who would dare not say anything even as ODM makes a mockery of democracy in the party primaries and internal elections?  Oloo’s reluctance to openly talk against hooliganism in ODM during party elections, the lackadaisical manner with which Prof Peter Kagwanja talks against the runaway corruption in the Jubilee ruling coalition, give credence to the views held by Warah, that ‘Kenyan writers and intellectuals can be as ethnocentric as any Kenyan and are, therefore, reluctant to criticize or question people in power who are from their own ethnic group.’ The few, who still remain to talk against the shortcomings of the establishment like Ndung'u Wainaina, or Maina Kiai, are given such titles as ‘quislings’ or simply ‘moles.’

While bemoaning the demise or the convoluted political dispensation in Western Kenya, you must also pause to ask of whereabouts of the intellectuals sons of the Abandu Bosi like Professor Kisiangani, Igara Kabagi for each electioneering period there is political posturing in the name of all Luhya votes in one basket then suddenly it vanishes as quickly as it started. The cancer in the Luhya political body is not because they lack scholars who can help shape the debate toward a more homogenous political dispensation, they are just missing in action and only appear and disappear like UFOS.

You realize that somehow just after 2002 elections, the hitherto intellectuals and writers-journalists included-having been invited to dip their snouts into the trough and got co-opted into the power system, the rest became history. Then came 2013 elections, many intellectuals the kind I  have mentioned above got mesmerized, and started to obscure over vital issues with regards to the jubilee government policies that had they raised their voices earlier, we would  not,  today be  staring at a spectacular economic failure of the decades after Greece, something even  the South African newspapers alluded to recently. How can you ask the intellectuals, scholar and or writers to come forth and point out the ills of the ruling class when they themselves are doing consultancy and supply businesses with the system now commonly referred to as ‘Tenderpreneurship.’ It is therefore not easy for Mutahi Ngunyi to objectively castigate the theft of millions of shillings from National Youth Service without getting enmeshed in it.

It took the grand mullah himself two years to realize that our justice system is still operating much like the time of Kanu when state machinations and interferences were part of the law. When CORD took its case disputing IEBC’s declaring of Uhuru Kenyatta as president in 2013, the learned fellow had no kind words for Raila and his Cord team. Then the courts were doing the right thing until he came face to face with what many pundits call a travesty of justice in the court corridors just as Knut/Kuppet lawyer in the dispute between the teachers and TSC. And to avoid facing the embarrassment of trying to milk a stone, he decided to step down from representing the teachers.

When parliament or the government cobbles up some strange laws that infringe on the freedom of the press that we thought we achieved in 2010, the best our intellectuals and the academicians can do is to have a thirty minutes discussion on social media and a few tired clichés on TV talk shows and they are done.

Talking of parliament, the house is teeming with professionals and academicians from Senate to the national Assembly, yet each time they open their mouths on national matters you would wish the earth could open up and swallow you, the latest being their clamour for the  re-opening of the Waki report for debate. Kithure Kindi is not just a mere intellectual, he is a lawyer, and so are Senators Kipchumba Murkomen, James Orengo, Kiraitu Murungi and many more. Add to the list are professors led by professor Anyang Nyon’go yet what comes from the two houses are utter nonsense in the name of debates and pronouncements that one would  mistake to be coming from the mouths of primary school children.

When great minds like we find in parliament and outside start pandering to tribal jingoism at the expense of good governance, then you would not expect writers like Ngunjiri Wambugu’s opinion pieces to go beyond ICC and Raila Odinga from January to December, thus Kenya can still afford to fail.