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Kenyans suffering due to State's lack of compassion, empathy

 Jubilee Party Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni. [File, Standard]

Kenya is witnessing an unprecedented and weighty spectacle of frustrated and angry young people taking the battle to their government.

Some of these young people voted for this regime because of the lofty promises it made during the campaigns when the candidate, now President William Ruto, presented himself as one of their own, only to turn his back on them once in office.

Well, the regime responded to the children as was expected; with brute force, leading to deaths and injuries. It is my view that we are where we are as a country because of a glaring absence of compassion in government.

Whether it is the chief economic advisor David Ndii rubbing the wounds of Kenyans with steel wool, young Kenya Kwanza MPs displaying opulence in the middle of deep want or the President himself talking dismissively about Kenyans crying for mercy, the common thread that hold the regime together is the lack of compassion and empathy.

The prevailing truth in the country is that business, investment and job creation are not what they should be. But no one in the regime wants to acknowledge this.

Instead, the regime is engaged in quarter measures and ridiculous manoeuvres like taking Kenyans abroad to do menial jobs in Europe and the Middle East. Our children are being asked to willingly carry themselves abroad to do jobs that African slaves did in the 19th century, and we are supposed to applaud. That is how a lack of compassion manifests itself.

Economic advisors like Dr Ndii and all other statisticians can talk about the numbers, the GDP, the strengthening shilling, the debt repayment all they like. But as long as we have people who want work but can't find work, who want to go to university but can’t afford fees, who can’t afford food or medicine, that's a problem for Kenya to solve. Yet the regime thinks that is a problem for the individuals.

Kenya has always had entrepreneurs, farmers and producers who can compete in the world. But the confidence in their ability is waning. It is being chipped away by taxes and layers of rules and regulations.

Entrepreneurs who have been here longer than the key figures in Kenya Kwanza are telling the regime, out of their practical experience and not textbook knowledge, that the economy grows when the tax burden goes down. They are telling us out of practical experience, that the growth we have occasionally seen in this country has been the result of consumer spending and tax deductions.

Kenyans are generally agreed that to encourage growth and job creation, we must lower the tax rates, make our government control its appetite for excessive spending, and make these permanent features of our economy. But because of a general absence of compassion and empathy across the regime, this plea has been ignored for the second year in a row.

An economy grows when entrepreneurs, investors and citizens at large are rewarded for their contributions. In Kenya today, everyone is being hounded by regulations, taxes and needless litigation, and key people in the regime seem to relish this.

An embrace of a simple belief that everyone deserves a chance, that everyone has value, that no one is an idiot about his or her needs and citizens need to be listened to when they talk, is missing across the regime. Yet it would do wonders in helping the leadership make policies that resonate with wananchi.

A regime that claims to have been elected by the people and is acting in the best interests of the people can’t be too clever for its people. Yet Kenya Kwanza is acting like it is too clever for the people to understand it. We have finally ended up with a country ruled by fear, division and growing inequality.

We have ended up with a country with beautiful laws and grand promises on paper. By law, everyone is entitled to an education and best possible healthcare, yet we do not receive these because of government policies that are making them a preserve of the rich. Our young people hear a lot of talk about opportunity and economic growth but see little evidence of opportunity and growth around them.

A compassionate leadership would embrace the need to let families have more money to spend. It would give families more of their own money to spend. Instead, Kenya Kwanza is picking every pocket and relishing the cries of Kenyans. What I find deeply perplexing is how a regime that rode to power on a strong platform of religion, and continues to talk about the religiosity of its key leaders, ended up being so soulless, lacking in compassion and so tone-deaf. 

Where we expected a caring and generous regime going by the declaration of religiosity during campaigns, we have ended up with an indifferent government.

-Mr Kioni is the Secretary General of the Jubilee Party

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