How can our democracy thrive if all citizens embrace blatant lies?

A trader hawking his goods at Kakamega town during Christmas day. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Last Friday, June 9th, was a day of simultaneous disasters for two men who for half a decade imagined they ruled the world: Boris Johnson and Donald Trump.

The latter was issued with a 49-page indictment with 37 charges related to his hoarding of military, nuclear and intelligence secrets in boxes in the bathroom and ballroom of his Florida home.

Johnson, at roughly the same hour, was forced to resign in disgrace as an MP a mere three and a half years after a landslide victory as Prime Minister in British elections.

His most recent crime was to lie to a Commons investigation team concerning his involvement in Downing Street parties during the Covid lockdown. Rather than apologise to the public for his reckless behaviour while thousands were denied the chance to be with their loved ones dying in hospital beds during the global pandemic - Johnson came out denying, claiming this was a "witch-hunt to take revenge for Brexit".

Of course, Brexit has been an unmitigated disaster that cannot be reversed for at least a generation. Johnson may be gone but in the words of Shakespeare, the deeds of evil men still live on. Trump, like his brother has also called his indictment a witch-hunt, but the difference between the two is that while Johnson may have disappeared from public life, Trump as before will use this latest disaster as an opportunity to bolster his campaign to gain the Republican nomination for next year's US presidential election. It is extraordinary that Trump remains a frontrunner in the Republican nomination despite his appalling handling of Covid, his attempted coup after the 2020 election, his numerous sex and tax evasion scandals and his January 6th 2021 insurrection in Washington.

No crime or any bucket-full of lies seem to be an impediment for his ardent supporters. Johnson too lied about Brexit and continued to lie about his Covid parties. The great populist clowns claimed to represent the people's interests but their real appeal was based on racial prejudices that blamed the foreigner, the brown-skinned, for their domestic troubles.

This simplistic and false doctrine appealed to the masses of white-skinned ignorant voters who could not understand what ever happened to the great colonial project and global empire. What is most worrying however is that despite all the lies, deceptions, broken promises and utter contempt for the public's intelligence, these populist characters still survive not only in Britain and America but right around the globe in Hungary, Philippines, India and elsewhere.

In Kenya too we have become accustomed to lies on matters of great public interest and concern. The amendments on the Finance Bill 2023 confirmed that indeed the Housing Levy is just another illegal tax and you cannot recover your payments after seven years, just as the critics had suspected from day one.

For the past one year, the Kenya Kwanza promises list has increased by the day to the extent that we forget what was promised last week when the latest pledges are announced.

Thankfully a website named has been established and records all Kenya Kwanza promises and the status of their implementation. It makes grim reading.

Sample some of this while refreshing your memory: Free NHIF cover by December 2022; State Capture Inquiry - abandoned; cut government spending by Sh300 billion; Plan to increase government salaries by 100 per cent; Cheapest smartphone in the world to be made in Kenya; Galana Dam to be started by March 2023; 6kg gas cylinder to cost Sh300 by June 1st - abandoned, and recruit 35,000 teachers each year. The list is endless and while some promises are in progress the vast majority are just white lies or perhaps big lies. Kenyans have responded to these pledges with cynicism and humour.

In effect, however, it means whatever this government announces and promises is taken with a pinch of salt. Few believe their government anymore because we have become accustomed to lies.

Yet, the lesson is clear that lies must be confronted and challenged. Citizens have a right to the truth and must learn to cherish it even when it is painful.