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Mjinga” is a Kiswahili noun referring to a fool

By Vivienne Taa | December 19th 2019

As such, “Wajinga nyinyi” simply translates to “You fools,” the title of the latest spoken-word piece released by hip hop artiste Kennedy Ombima, popularly known as King Kaka.

It is common knowledge that corruption is rife in Kenya. It is also true that there are massive gaps in our leadership.

Our economy is not doing well – we are steeped in debt, unemployment is at an all-time high, we are witnessing huge income inequalities, we still have not dealt with historical injustices and still have issues of negative ethnicity and divisive politics. Indeed, we have issues and are facing several challenges, but which society or country does not?

These issues have been highlighted severally and have formed and driven public discourse over the years; they are not new. Sauti Sol released “Tujiangalie,” a song touching on the same issues. Eric Wainaina and Juliani also released similar themed thought-provoking songs.

The fact is, we know the issues that ail our country but have been unable to institute change through the ballot. The question is why? Is it because we are fools? I do not think so, and I refuse to accept the collective “Wajinga Nyinyi” label.

I am not ‘mjinga’

The following are my reasons.

One, Kenyans are intelligent, hardworking people who are excelling in diverse fields. This year alone, we’ve had numerous success stories by Kenyans across several sectors - from Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei in athletics, teacher Peter Tabichi who won the Global Teacher Prize to the Strathmore University law students who beat their Harvard University comrades to win this year’s Global Moot Court competition, and many other examples.

If we truly are “Wajinga”, we would not excel in anything.

Two, “Wajinga Nyinyi” is based on the assumption that we are operating under a foolproof electoral system that gives opportunity to the best candidates to vie while weeding out those who are corrupt or inept and guaranteeing victory for the most popular candidate.

It is also based on the premise that the electorate is well informed on good governance. Let us face it: the country’s systems and institutions are flawed and we are dealing with a much bigger problem than just the people’s choices.

There are loopholes right from vetting and clearance of candidates to vie for public office to the manner in which we conduct civic education. We urgently need electoral reforms to ensure we have an accurate, simple, secure, transparent and reliable system supported by strong, well-funded and independent institutions to oversee our elections.

Flawed system

Free, fair and transparent elections are necessary if we’re to see a change in our leadership, as it has a direct impact on the election outcome. If the electoral system is flawed, what is the guarantee that we, the people, will actually get the best leaders, the ones we want and choose?

Three, our Constitution states that all sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya and shall be exercised only in accordance with the same constitution. As a democracy, we the people exercise our sovereign power through our elected representatives.

It is our democratic right and responsibility to do this and it does not in any way amount to foolishness. If the elected representatives fail to deliver on pre-election promises, is the electorate to blame?

Are we not the same people who euphorically voted in the National Rainbow Coalition government in 2002? We jubilantly chanted “yote yawezekana” (everything is possible) because we believed that we finally had a government that understood our hopes and aspirations, was inclusive, enjoyed massive public goodwill, had the capacity to foster national unity and also slay the dragon of corruption. If it failed to do so, should we be blamed for this failure?

It is one thing to call out corruption, poor governance and bad leadership. It is an entirely different thing to label an entire nation of 47.6 million people as foolish without looking at the underlying issues.

Ms Taa is a fashion designer and Chairperson, ODM Young Women Caucus. [email protected]  Social media: @LadyVivienneTaa

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