State is under heel of government in Kenya

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe when he appeared before the National Assembly Health Committee over KEMSA Covid-19 scandals at Parliament. [File, Standard]

A state is a big group of humans that come together as an organised political entity. A government then runs that entity. Every government serves at the pleasure of the state. It’s easy to see where the power should lie. If the state is the people, then the people should have the power.

‘Should’ being the operative word. But when it comes to wielding power, Kenyans are in a sorry state. Our government, which ‘should’ be serving us, is running us. Treating us how society treats women – like cows that do not need to be consulted.

In this relationship with the government, we are to be subservient. There is an implicit demand from the government that we concede our autonomy, and give up our power.

We are not expected to ask questions. The expectation is that we sit quietly and let the government handle business. We have become the governed, and not the state because we have conceded our stake in statehood. This is why billions of shillings passed through government hands in the name of Covid-19, were waylaid and eventually disappeared completely.

It’s disheartening that our only response was an elaborate display of outrage. We ranted and raved to absolutely no effect. None. The song and dance before the Parliamentary Health Committee was well choreographed for visual effect. Let’s wait and see how far that story goes.

So, yes. ‘We the people’ — the personification of statehood itself — have allowed the worker to take over the home. To call all the shots without so much as a 'by your leave'. It’s the same way that you make decisions without consulting your pet. It never crosses your mind to sit Simba down and ask him how he thinks you should spend your money.

You don’t think about Simba when you’re making choices about what’s best for you and your family. Because at the end of the day, Simba is not human. He doesn’t get a seat at the table. His thoughts, feelings and opinions are irrelevant to the running of your household. That is the same dehumanising lens that many governments around the world view the people they govern.

There’s been a lot of talks recently about the ‘deep state’, sometimes referred to as a ‘state within a state’ or a ‘shadow government’. Government officials have responded to the debate by either dancing around the issue without any conclusive summation or by ridiculing the very idea that a deep state could exist.

Both reactions are curious. The answer to whether there’s a deep state or not ‘should’ be a simple yes, or no. In the absence of an outright denial, one can assume that there is a likelihood that some sort of behind-the-scenes entity does exist. It is not unimaginable.

Because if ‘we the people’ are the state, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that a smaller cabal of persons joined forces to create a ‘state within a state'. There is an even greater possibility of a ‘shadow government’, especially when you hear Cabinet secretaries complaining about ministry cartels that they have no control over. In essence, there is a distinct possibility that there are interests which operate at two levels of subversion. These interests fulfil a similar purpose, which is to control the wealth of a people by deciding who gets to govern, and indeed, how they govern.

The story goes that a mama elephant was crossing a river in the Mara. She was minding her own business trying to get from one side to the other, not really threatened by the passage, or the creatures she would encounter on the way. On that day, a crocodile was lying in wait for any sight of life. The croc was so hungry that it didn’t care which animal came along. It was going to attack regardless. So, when mama elephant stepped into the water, he pounced on her leg and clamped his jaw over it.

Initially, the elephant was unbothered. After all, what is a slithering reptile to a mighty mammal? But the crocodile would not let go, sinking his teeth even deeper into her flesh. Now completely irritated, the mama began to spin around and around, flinging the croc faster and faster through the air.

Eventually, she caused so much disturbance that a whirlpool formed in the river. Folks could see right down to the river bed. In the end, she flung the offending croc off her leg and carried on with her journey. If we view the crocodile as the government, and the elephant as the state, then it can only be a matter of time before the state crosses the river.

Ms Masiga is Peace and Security Editor, The Conversation

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