Let's not tear our country apart due to politics, economic woes


Anti-riot police officers waterspray Azimio la Umoja supporters as they made an entry to the Nairobi CBD during Saba Saba rally on July 7, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Time has come to make deliberate, bold, and intelligent measures for Kenya to become a land of plenty as envisioned in our national anthem.

Opportunity, dignity, and prosperity have been available to many Kenyans since the advent of our Republic. But as we progress on that path of nationhood, we seem to sometimes forget why at independence we declared poverty, ignorance, and disease as our greatest enemies.

As you walk on the streets of Nairobi and through the expanse of this country, you will notice a lot of people nestled into biting poverty in the midst of mind-blowing wealth and prosperity. Young men and women with the drive, the education, and the passion to work are unable to find work and therefore are unable to experience the sunlight of upward social mobility.

A leisurely stroll around City Hall, for example, will bring you face-to-face with work-starved men roaming the streets in search of jobs that really do not exist. In their eyes, like the eyes of many young people in this country, you will witness the fatigue of despair that has embraced so many of them like a jealous mistress.

When you venture into the informal settlements around the city, you will see the officially poor by their millions. Individuals who once hoped they could live in dignity are now stuck in lonely islands of poverty, their hopes blasted and their dreams shattered.

It is against this backdrop that we committed ourselves to nurturing and protecting the well-being, not only of the individual, but also of communities and of the nation in the preamble of the Constitution. If as a country we can act together, faithfully and unselfishly towards this ideal, we would certainly build a shiny city upon a hill. Plenty would indeed abound in our borders.

Nothing could be more tragic if the journey of renewal we began 13 years ago at Uhuru Park with the promulgation of the new Constitution was to come to a grinding halt when faced with momentary scepticism. In the face of each challenge since the advent of our republic, we have emerged a better country, occasional implosion notwithstanding.

We cannot fight poverty and meaningfully enact programmes of social uplift if we remain a country where everyone is at war with everyone. It is not for academic purposes that both the preamble of the Constitution and the national anthem placed emphasis on peace. Peace, which is built on the foundation of justice is precisely the tool through which we would build one indivisible nation under God.

While through street protests we managed to end the single party and rolled back the wall of oppression and fear, we must tell our leaders, especially those in the Opposition, that circumstances have changed and what we are engaged in now is a battle for economic emancipation and the strategy must change.

Liveable income and a good solid job cannot come through disruptive street demos when we have not exhausted other less disruptive measures like judicial action. Decent, affordable housing for the urban poor can only come through reasoned, intelligent legislation and other policy interventions, not chants and street processions atop SUV vehicles.

Our best days as a country are yet to come. For we are the country of the great heroes and heroines. This is the land of Tom Mboya, Miceere Mugo, and Prof Yash Pal Ghai. In moments of every great challenge, we have always bounced back, risen like a phoenix from the ashes in part, because of the optimism and the resilience of our people. We must not tear this nation apart because of the economic challenges of the moment and obstinate political differences.

A genuine unity of purpose, not from a standpoint of naivety, but from a compassionate understanding that a country whose politics does not help it feed the hungry, educate the ignorant, and treat the sick is a country that is doomed to fail. May we find that unity of purpose so that we can build a shining city upon a hill.

Mr Mwaga is a policy and governance analyst. [email protected]