State shouldn't be averse to constructive criticism

National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung'wah addressing the media at Parliament on February 6, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

National Assembly Majority leader Kimani Ichungwa has gone hammer and tongs at ACK Archbishop Josephat Ole Sapit for allegedly using abusive language against the government. Mr Ichungwah, without explicitly stating so, called Sapit and Catholic Bishop Anthony Muheria opposition sympathisers for speaking the truth to the government. Nothing could be further from the truth than this. The legislator took umbrage after Sapit told government officials to stop engaging in political rhetoric and prioritise the welfare of the people.

Particularly, Sapit wanted the government to act to shield citizens from the danger posed by the looming El Nino rains. We do not know exactly why anyone would take offense over such remarks. While there is no doubt that the government is working, there is a general feeling that it is punching below its weight. In fact, many Kenyans feel that nothing much is being done to fulfill Kenya Kwanza's pre-election promises.

At the height of demonstrations called by the Opposition in July to protest the high cost of living, Muheria did not mince words in calling our leadership 'arrogant and imposing', urging it to 'climb down' from its high perch. It cannot be lost on Ichung'wah so soon that Sapit was at Bomas of Kenya when William Ruto was declared winner of the August 2022 presidential election and spoke glowingly about Kenya Kwanza and the promise it held for Kenya. Thus, it is duplicitous for him to turn his guns on the same man for pointing out that that promise has not been fulfilled.

What is more audible to Kenyans from the government is the noise from those charged with changing the fortunes of Kenyans. Some of them are sounding helpless, saying there is little they can do to lower the cost of fuel, while others are scoffing at the hustlers over the high cost of living and even offering them unsolicited advice that they can go ahead and "dig their own oil wells". This, we believe, is what the archbishop means when he talks about engaging in political rhetoric at the expense of serving the people.

Kenyans know that Muheria and Sapit have on several occasions rubbed the government the wrong way by echoing public sentiments when things seemed go the wrong way. In May, for instance, Sapit led Anglican Bishops in cricitising Kenya Kwanza over what they saw as skewed government appointments. "Let all institutions and government agencies be impartial and efficient, and not simply beholden to political influence, but serve all Kenyans with impartiality," Sapit said. Interestingly, that concern had been expressed by many other Kenyans before then.

Ichung'wah's outburst is symptomatic of the malaise in government where, as the latest Auditor General's report points out, the level of wastage is shocking as government urges citizens to tighten their belts. Clerics, on most occasions, speak truth to government. Criticism of the government is part and parcel of democracy. Individuals have the right to speak their minds, whether the government listens to them or not. Muheria and Sapit and other Kenyans will continue criticising the government whether Ichung'wah likes it or not. It is an insult to suggest that the two respected clerics are speaking on behalf of Raila. Ichung'wah and the government must stop sneering at constructive criticism.

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