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Speak up against injustices now or forever hold your peace

Opinion
 Build a just and equitable society. [iStockphoto]

Jesus told us the poor will always be among us and truly even in the most affluent of societies there are those who fall through the cracks and whose lives are short, harsh and brutal.

We are particularly mindful of their plight at Christmas. But this year we seem to have even more desperate and struggling citizens, judging by the thousands standing long hours in the midday sun hoping to receive food packages from their elected representatives whom one would expect would be better engaged in Parliament passing legislation to make life more bearable for the masses.

What was particularly noticeable this Christmas was that the majority of those in need of food assistance seemed to be in the North Rift, the bread basket of Kenya, at a time when we are informed that there is a bumper harvest and Uasin Gishu received 25 per cent of the subsidised fertiliser. There is something very shameful that 60 years after independence thousands and thousands are reduced to begging from the country’s elected representatives to put food on their tables for their families at Christmas. It is a societal failure.

Yet, when the celebrations wind down, the reality of an economy in crisis and a sprouting authoritarian leadership will dawn on everyone. The increasing expense of education will be a headache for every parent, but the looming crisis in health will bring even more challenges. Universal Health Care remains a slogan rather than a reality as NHIF transforms into SHIF, with no tangible evidence to suggest that it has the capacity or intention to pay its billions of debts to the private hospitals, a large section of whom have now withdrawn their services to NHIF patients.

This transition must not become an excuse to escape from responsibility as health providers will certainly not cooperate with the new scheme until such time as their old bills are paid. More likely still is that citizens will resist the 2.75 per cent monthly salary deductions for services that are not in place, confirmed by the Ministry of Health and UNICEF research that revealed that only 7 per cent of the nation’s hospitals have the facilities and capacity required to implement the new SHIF legislation.

As stated frequently, despite the promises and PR, the Kenya Kwanza government must acknowledge that the vast majority of the public have lost trust in their leadership. Citizens no longer believe what they are told because they have not seen any improvement in their lives since they came to office. The predominant view is that they will bulldoze their way forward, tax you to the hilt but won’t listen to your cries of despair.

Moreover, day by day, the same regime is eroding the powers of the independent commissions that were established to represent the citizens interests. The latest assault is on the National Land Commission that was established to protect public land because successive governments had looted and dished it out to their cronies. Now, the Ministry of Lands wants to restore to itself the powers of public acquisition and compensation, reducing the NLC to a mere feeble department. There is a similar onslaught on the Anti-Corruption Commission as the Secretary to the Cabinet recently convened a meeting to announce that the government is setting up an almost parallel structure to fight corruption.

Few believe that these moves are in the public interest, nor the scheme to disband the National Cohesion and Integration Commission. Put another way, we are seeing a deliberately planned emasculation of the Constitution at every level resulting in a growing authoritarianism, coupled with threats to use the sword against anyone that stands in their way. Unfortunately, the opposition is so compromised and divided that it offers no real vision or alternative.

The new year looks bleak, yet this is a wake-up call to the many stakeholders, patriots and leaders of ability and integrity who may be sitting on the fence and hoping for a miracle. Jesus is not coming back any day soon and the work of Christmas to build a just and equitable society begins on January 1. We are pretty much on our own, so get up, speak up and get down off the fence.

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