The national dialogue team have concluded their talks and gone on retreat to collate and record their findings.
But while the bipartisan talks may have halted the street protests and brought the opposing parties to the discussion table, they have generated little enthusiasm among the general public. Those discussions have brought relief but few expect any resolution to the crises facing the country currently. Most believe the discussions are just about dividing the spoils and the seats. Of course, many concerned groups brought their proposals to the table, but one sensed they did so out of duty rather than expectation.
Yet, while indifference may be understandable, caution must be exercised as past experience has shown the final resolutions agreed upon may have little connection with what delegations presented at the Bomas talks.
There is much whispering about constitutional matters as if there is a constitutional crisis. Thirteen years after promulgation of the 2010 Katiba may be an appropriate time to begin an inclusive review in an orderly manner. But the proposals surfacing at Bomas are mostly about jobs and seats for the boys right now, nothing to do with Wanjiku.
The only constitutional crisis is the failure to implement it, the contempt for court orders, the growing authoritarianism and the weakening of the Judiciary.
The crises the country faces were mostly avoided by the elitist groups that presented their own partisan memoranda. How little mention have we heard of the depreciating shilling, the exodus of investors, the cost of living, the plight of the poor and the endemic corruption?
Bomas became a place of escape from reality rather than an open, honest dialogue about transforming the social and economic landscape of the country. There were exceptions, however, but they were few.
The most outstanding presentation in that respect came from former Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi, who based his submission on Article 43 of the Constitution with regard to social and economic rights. The economist of cause has a terrific pedigree, being the nephew of the late Mwai Kibaki, and he chided the government for its utter failure to provide every citizen with “the highest attainable standard of health, accessible and affordable housing, quality education and freedom from hunger” as provided for in that article of the Constitution.
Here, he touched on issues that affect every citizen being taxed to the hilt but receive appallingly poor public services in return. He cleverly linked the depreciation of the shilling to the exodus of jobs and investment due to the recent tax legislation.
Besides, he demonstrated how extravagance, corruption and waste in government as well as new loans can further push the country into debt default in 2024 when it is time to repay the Eurobonds. The Bomas talks demonstrated the great disconnect between the political elites and the suffering millions. They live in different worlds with the former pretty much out of touch and clueless as to how to go about transformational change for the latter. Perhaps this was best demonstrated recently when President William Ruto on World Habitat Day announced that in ten years’ time, Kibera will be history as every family will live in decent housing and have a home.
Residents of that settlement probably received the news with as much trepidation as delight. As Rasna Warah recently wrote, the only way Kibera will not exist in ten years from now is if it is bulldozed and its good people forcefully evicted.
Kenya Kwanza continuously reminds the public of its commitment to building 200,000 affordable and accessible housing units. But as experience has shown in Buxton, Mombasa these units end up in the hands of speculators and the rich, while the former tenants are evicted and relocate to the already crowded slums.
The politicians have had their fun, perhaps it is now time to have a people’s assembly when citizens can chart the change that they want and need. Bomas has proven that they cannot depend on politicians to fix the crises in the country.
The writer is a Priest and Executive Director at Haki Yetu.
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