Kenya Kwanza is blundering, but mass protests will hurt our fragile economy

Migori Town residents demonstrate over the high cost of leaving following the call from the Azimio one Kenya leader Raila Odinga. [Caleb Kingwara, Standard]

In his most philosophical statement, the late Professor George Saitoti said 'there comes a time when the nation is more important than any single individual'. Such a moment has come when someone must boldly tell the former Prime Minister that 'Raila is not Kenya, and Kenya is not Raila'.

We are a nation of about 50 million people with equal rights and freedoms under the Constitution. No single individual may appropriate these rights and freedoms to the detriment of the rest of us, regardless of their status in society.

To put this matter into the right context, there is no one who disputes the personal sacrifices Raila has made for us to enjoy the democratic space we have. He has deservedly secured his place in the annals of history.

However, history also teaches us that leaders who rise into eminence are only those able to correctly discern the opportune moment to hang their boots. This appears to be Raila's waterloo. Failure to heed this time-tested wisdom, even once great leaders can easily turn into pariahs in civilized societies.

A good case in point in recent history is the story of former Zimbabwean President, the late Robert Mugambe. As King Solomon, the wisest man to have ever lived observes in the book of Ecclesiastes, everything passes away under the sun. Simply put, everyone and anything created under the sun ultimately has a sell-by date.

For the avoidance of doubt, I hold no brief for the Kenya Kwanza government.

Six months after assuming the instruments of power, there are noticeable indicators that this administration is at best only the other side of the coin of their predecessor. So far, they have offered no credible alternative transformational agenda for the nation.

Instead, they continue to promise anything and everything as if they are waiting for another time to take control of the government.

More tragically, they have squandered the opportunity to address the cost of living that endeared them to the masses in the first place. While we all agree the existing subsidies may have been abused for political expediency as it is now emerging, there definitely were more responsible ways to cushion the most vulnerable citizens.

For instance, it beats any conceivable economic logic how a government can let loose the primary ingredient of production, the cost of energy, and expect the cost of basic goods to come down.

Their priority interventions are equally baffling. The weatherman has clearly indicated that the long rains will be subdued for most parts of the country to bring relief to the ongoing drought and famine.

One then wonders why the prioritized fertilizer subsidies have failed to take into account this risk. While prayers are good, God also uses the wise among his creation's to predict or pre-warn his people on things to come through science.

On the gas subsidies, unless they want to redefine the hustlers on whose platform they campaigned, these folks cook with firewood, charcoal and kerosene. Gas is a luxury many cannot afford for they live a day at a time.

Besides, it is evident that the deputy president meant every ounce of his words when he said theirs is a limited company for its shareholders when it comes to public appointments.

To them, ethnic affiliations, loyalty to the party and the big man trumps meritocracy and the Constitutional threshold of inclusivity. For all practical purposes, this is a reality we will have to live with for the years the hustler nation will be in power.

Therefore, there seems to be a justifiable case for a form of action to call this administration into order. The question now is: What are the legitimate, fair and sustainable means to call out the Kenya Kwanza leaders from their slumber?

The Constitution of Kenya does not harbour any vacuum in the democratic process of establishing a government of the people. Neither does it envision that democracy is when certain individuals or people of a particular kind win an election. It guarantees the exercise of free will through universal suffrage and provides for dispute resolution mechanisms within itself.

All these Constitutional mechanisms were exercised in relation to the 2022 General Election. To that extent, the margin of victory is irrelevant and no conspiracy theories can reverse that. The only other time there will be a presidential election in this country is in August 2027, or in any other circumstances contemplated only by the Constitution itself.

In a major stride in our democracy, the country moved on peacefully for the first time in so many elections. It is thus bewildering what has necessitated the afterthoughts of the Azimio - One Kenya leadership to mobilize their troops for the ill-advised mass action.

The only possible outcomes here are: One, to destroy any semblance of economic recovery after the lengthened campaign period; two, destruction of existing livelihoods and businesses; three, to wipe out any gains into addressing political instability from previous elections; and finally, expose the Azimio leaders as extremely selfish and greedy.

Take for instance the targeted economic weapons they have lined up. According to the Agri-Farming data, there are estimated 32 million birds (chicken) in Kenya. 75 per cent are indigenous and reared mostly in rural households, 24 per cent are layers and broilers and 2 per cent are other birds. Poultry is estimated to be supporting about 3 million smallholder jobs.

The 9th Safaricom Business Sustainability Report places the direct and indirect jobs created by the company at 1,013,728 in 2021. In addition, 74 per cent of the total spending by the company went into supporting local suppliers, up from 67 per cent in 2020.

So, when Hon. Raila calls on their supporters to boycott eggs and use Safaricom services, is he apprised of these facts? In addition, the Kenya Food Security Steering Committee Group estimates that at least 6 million Kenyans are facing extreme starvation.

Faced with this evidence, one wonders what wisdom is there in radicalizing their supporters from earning their daily bread into streets. Thus far, the Azimio coalition has not sponsored any motion or made any visible attempts in Parliament to fight for the retention of subsidies or force the government to address the cost of living.

In the Counties they control, none has passed any motion to respond to the plight of the poor they pretending to fight for. In the circumstances, the only logical conclusion here is that to pretend to be a sacrificial lamb is a first-class deception on the part of the Azimio leader.

If indeed he speaks for those he purports to fight for, let him and his Wiper counterpart: One, forfeit their hefty retirement allowances and benefits; two, persuade those in their camp elected from the same electoral process to resign en masse; and, three recall the nomination of close family members into plum appointments; if indeed the election was a total fraud as they claim.

It is a tragedy of leadership to fashion the poverty of their supporters as the choice weapon to advance one's pursuits for power. Those of us with a conscience would remember how a minority of us cried out for the 'Handshake regime' to decisively address the cost of living to no avail.

What has changed now? Why does it not bother the Azimio leadership what their supporters eat, drink or how they pay school fees for their children if they can easily be mobilized anytime on working days? Who are their employers?