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Coast people need solutions, less drama

By Suleiman Shahbal | July 7th 2020

Whenever I am depressed, my mind wanders back to the literature of my childhood and pulls out quotations that best reflect my mood. Perhaps they help me make sense of my current situation. Every time I go back to history and listen to Martin Luther King’s speech “I have a dream”, my spirits soar with hope and inspiration. So, allow me to wear my pain and my fears for all Kenyans to see and perhaps, just listen.

I came back from the Coast yesterday and I don’t like the mood prevailing there. Our politicians are in despair and anger. Angry men rarely talk sense, but they reflect the mood of the people. Our politicians discuss the disruption and despair that SGR has left in its wake and have made this a clarion call for action. But what action?

Nyali MP Mohamed Ali, better known as Jicho Pevu calls for the dismissal of Transport CS James Macharia and Mvita MP Abdulsamad Sharrif Nasser passionately demands that the Government should allow private trucks to share cargos with the SGR. We know Macharia is but a part of the system, and even if he were to go, another one would replace him and the situation would not change. The problems of the Coast did not start with SGR, and that is not the primary cause of our woes. Now they have allowed private trucks to share cargo, will the situation in the coast improve?

I listen to the aspirations of our youth and they cry for the same things that all youth want all over Kenya. They want jobs, chances to show off and develop their talents, equal opportunity and respect. Most important of all, they want hope.

Yet our politicians peddle anger and the language of resistance. That’s a more sophisticated method of complaining. When the cheese has moved, you move with the cheese. It is easy to pose as the “resister in chief.” People love a Robin Hood, a Mandela and they are looking for heroes. When people are angry they desperately look for heroes – or anyone masquerading as a hero. Does it solve their problems?

The heroes we need are people who will work to create jobs and give real hope. The Coast desperately needs a Marshall Plan to help our economy recover. When a man has a job and can provide for his family he already has self-respect. The young men who chase politicians’ cars for handouts would much prefer to be working than chasing those cars. Let’s help them get jobs.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) identified Tangier Port as the best economic opportunity in Africa, followed by Durban, South Africa and third was Dongo Kundu. At the risk of becoming boring, Dongo Kundu Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is the main opportunity available right now. The Mombasa politicians should focus on shouting from the rooftops on this project. This is the Marshall Plan that we need. Yes, SGR has affected us badly, but our economy was already comatose before SGR put us in a death spiral. We need real solutions, not more drama.

Let’s reflect on the leaders who put us in this situation. Who should we blame first? I blame our own coastal politicians who dropped the ball on education, who did not appreciate its empowering capacity. I blame ourselves for voting in incompetent leaders. Most of all I blame the ministers who derailed our key opportunity chasing personal interests. I go back to the South African novel “Cry, My Beloved Country” and recall the words of  Msimangu when he says “Perhaps we should thank God he is corrupt,” said Msimangu solemnly. “For if he were not corrupt, he could plunge this country into bloodshed. He is corrupted by his possessions, and he fears their loss and the loss of the power he already has”.

Tell me Mother Kenya, what do I tell our youth when they cry that Kenya has abandoned them? Does a father comfort his starving children by telling them that the neighbour’s children are also hungry? Yes, our problems are the same across the land, but it doesn’t help us much. Let’s not chase the past but focus on the future. We have to keep pushing for our share of the national cake and ensure we get the resources to promote our economic and social priorities.

The frustrations of our youth are boiling over. Instead of taking advantage of them, let’s find solutions. Bring solutions. Lobby for solutions. If we do not find solutions soon we will soon be reminded of the warning from “Cry My Beloved Country” when Msimangu warns “I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they turn to loving they will find we are turned to hating.” We must never get to this point.


Mr Shahbal is chairman of Gulf Group of Companies. [email protected]

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