Let's rethink our value system for a more progressive Kenya

President William Ruto at State House, Nairobi. [PCS]

Every New Year is an opportunity for a new beginning or a renewal of dreams unfulfilled in yesteryear. In that spirit, this column wishes to record its hopes for Kenya in 2024.

In 2023, we hoped for a Hustler-friendly economic revival, peace in the North Rift, strengthening of the official opposition and a progressive reform of the education system. We also hoped for a cure for the debilitating Alzheimer’s disease.  Thanks to the indefatigable Prof Kithure Kindiki, there is a ray of hope of peace in the Rift.

We hardly hear of raids, stock theft and death. We pray this endures. The education sector has seen some changes, but it is too early to assess the impact thereof.

As for opposition, they appear lost, with zero strategy beyond the occasional statement of intent to demonstrate. Opiyo Wandayi & Co, the country needs you.

As for the economy, times have been tough. While there have been some extensive economic reforms, the benefits thereof are yet to reach the hustlers. This is understandable in view of the morass we found ourselves in.

Our first hope is that 2024 will be the game changer. We need to reach an economic equilibrium away from the constant shocks of new and enhanced fees, levies and taxes that defined 2023. We trust that as the volume of people coming under the tax bracket expands, the rates of taxation will go lower especially those that affect essential goods and services. We hope that the various policies introduced in the health, housing and agriculture sector will bear fruit.

Secondly, we hope that our standards of national discourse will improve. We have become a country of binaries, dichotomising complex issues in public debate. We herd in politically defined groupings akin to football fans. Once committed, we see the world from our team’s perspective.

Every discourse is approached in George W Bushian terms; those not with us are against us. The days of shades of grey are long gone. Unfortunately, the reality is that there are no absolutes in social economic and political issues. Along with this binarisation of issues is the dearth of thinkers who can disrobe from their politics. Even our institutions of higher learning, hitherto fountains of objective discourse, exhibit the same malaise. This reality is however not just in Kenya.

From the West, East, North and South we now inhabit a polarised world, a confined bubble. Here our partisan views are affirmed through algorithmised social media platforms. My hope is that a few brave souls, particularly those weekly pundits in our radio and TV shows, will escape this prison and help the country move into more objective social discourse on issues that ail us.

My third hope is on the governance front. I hope that government will fully embrace the devolved system. A significant portion of Kenya’s political and social stability is dependent on how well we invest in strong devolved governments.

In a country with such deep schisms, devolution was intended to grow an inclusive nation, even for those who could not achieve the ultimate prize, the Presidency.

Unfortunately, the ten Jubilee years were spent weakening the devolved governments and strengthening the top. No wonder the race for the top is so do or die. For as long as this trend continues and county governments are unable to be engines of economic activity that they were meant to be, there will be threats of instability.

Yes, many county governments have been a disappointment, but that is still a better problem than when Nairobi directed all local activities.

Finally, I pray that we will invest in more software for this dear Nation. We continue to naively believe in more law as the transforming agent for Kenya while what we need is a rethink of our value system.

Our national ailments including corruption, waste, dishonesty, trust deficit, violence in public and private spaces and family breakdown requires not more law or electing a new team but an honest discourse of value renewal. The difference between us and Singapore is not just our per capita differential, it is that they have embraced progressive national values. This is the year we commence the journey of value loading. Happy New Year my readers!  

-The writer is an advocate