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Don't be fooled, ongoing protests are about the elite not pro-people

Kamotho Waiganjo
 A section of vandalised Expressway, Mlolongo, July, 12, 2023. [Samson Wire, Standard]

To the refrain that the ongoing protests are for sake of suffering Kenyans, I say, give us a break!

This is a fight for elite privilege between those versatile enough to capture an electoral win against those either too lazy or too disorganised to fight for the ultimate prize; ownership of the presidency and the largesse that comes with it.

We have seen it before. In 2007, I was an idealist young man who believed that while the election related violence was triggered by “stolen elections”, it was largely about righting the wrongs of a predatory state that had treated Kenyans shabbily and betrayed their dreams for a better Kenya after independence.

I, like many others, believed that the subsequent Grand Coalition Government, comprised of “reformers” and “progressives” provided an opportunity to fundamentally change the trajectory of Kenya’s development paradigm.

I excitedly joined others in the writing of a progressive Constitution that was joyously promulgated in 2010. Finally, I naively believed, Kenya’s past was behind us.

Since I had the privilege of being in the team mandated to oversee implementation of the Constitution, I had a front row seat that enabled me watch as the elite used the negotiated space in government to pursue personal benefits, Kenyans duly forgotten.

In that Grand Coalition, the partaking of sleaze was non-discriminating. Hitherto fighters “for the people” were busy angling for deals with their former foes. The killing of proposals for progressive laws was pursued by both sides vociferously.

Like the animals in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, I “looked from pig to man and from man to pig again and it was impossible to say which was which”. And to emphasize just how much Kenyans were just pawns in a battle between elites, many Kenyans who lost life, limb and property fighting with or against the major protagonists in that 2007 battle remain uncompensated and forgotten almost two decades later.

In 2017, Kenya was at it again. Many lives were lost, and properties burnt, as citizens were encouraged to fight for electoral justice. Soon thereafter there was an elite handshake, and the fight for electoral justice was forgotten.

Former protagonists now worked together to pursue policies which were anti-people, overextending unnecessary borrowing, inflating project prices and generally engaging in predatory behaviour.

It is said that in that five years more than Sh300 billion were converted to private hands with nary a protest from our latter-day champions of “the people”.

Indeed, many of the economic challenges we face today emanated from wrong policy decisions made in the last administration in which today’s elite warriors were happy participants.

Had the concerns for the people been real, the ongoing protests would have been made in 2021 and 2022 when prices of basic commodities skyrocketed, and people suffered so severely that they rejected the incumbent and those he supported.

If today’s concerns were genuine, there would be alternative revenue raising proposals that consider our realities but offer more pro-people proposals. None exists. So do not be fooled, this is not about improving Kenya and sorting out the cost of living.

If today a truce was called and a fresh handshake processed, the issue of high cost of living would be forgotten. The young men currently risking their lives to demand change would be forgotten as the elite joined together in merrymaking.

I say this knowing there are genuine needs which demand urgent emergency attention. Times are hard and many Kenyans feel unheard and forgotten. Kenya Kwanza has gone into governing mode and forgotten how to maintain a convincing narrative that builds on its winning hustler tagline.

Great proposals like the County Aggregation Parks and their possible impact on reducing Mwananchi’s burden are told in tired prose by shifty politicians and bureaucrats. Requests that some of ostentatious conduct by some in politics be muted are met with belches and “mind your business” yawns. Save for a few lieutenants that seem interested in easing the burden of the country, the President sometimes looks alone in appreciating just how dire the situation is.

I cry for this our dear Nation. But as an avid optimist, I believe it is darkest before dawn. So, I keep hope alive.

The writer is an advocate of the High Court

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