Kenya Kwanza government's open favouritism with job appointments alienating citizens
The tricky thing about sacking people from communities that did not vote for President William Ruto and thus considered strangers to the government is that when fully implemented, it acts like a fine fish net that catches the Nile Perch and dagaa.
The Nile Perch is the big politician whose political orientation is a matter of public knowledge. The dagaa (omena) is the typical public servant, who approaches his/her duties with the utmost professionalism, diligence and commitment, and pays no attention to partisan politics. Now, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua’s policy on shareholder empowerment, which we tackled in this column last week, will not discriminate. It will sweep away the politician and the hardworking, apolitical civil servant.
What is the mistake that the hardworking civil servant has committed? S/he belongs to a community that voted for Azimio’s Raila Odinga in the presidential election last August 9. S/he belongs to the wrong community. So, the hard-working, diligent public servant becomes collateral damage in a political contest that features two kingpins of the communities.
If it is true what Riggy G, as the DP is popularly known, has been talking about with respect to employment opportunities in the public service is the basis of the latest sackings and appointments, then somebody should urgently alert President Ruto that his government is breaking the law, agitating Kenyans, and setting up the country for potential unrest. I thought these were obvious things or “no-brainers” as Americans would call them.
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If on one hand, the government is urging all Kenyans to pay their equitable share of taxes, and on the other, these very taxpayers are being told publicly that some of them don’t belong, then some things are not adding up here. The common denominator in all this is citizenship.
Citizenship confers specified rights as well as civic duties. The rights of citizens can only be curtailed if their enjoyment of these rights interferes with the rights of other citizens to enjoy their rights. Choosing to belong to a political party, preferring one political ideology over another or voting for a preferred presidential candidate are not some of the reasons that can legally be a basis for curtailing a person’s enjoyment of his or her rights as a citizen, including the right to enjoy public goods without discrimination.
In my view, the only situation where a political establishment can subtly deny a person or category of persons employment within its ranks is where such vacancies are available within a political party. For instance, it would be suicidal for Kenya Kwanza to employ a known Azimio sympathiser as their Secretary General. The argument is that such a person may not believe in the Kenya Kwanza ideology and its manifesto.
A political party is a membership club. There is a common bond among members of a club that binds them on the basis of a common interest or ideology. In the case of a nation, what binds all people within its borders is the fact that they are citizens. As citizens, they must all have unfettered access to public goods without any discrimination whatsoever.
Political competition is never about promoting the rights of this or that community at the expense of other groups.
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When Kenya Kwanza and Azimio came to ask for the citizens’ votes last year, they presented their manifestos. Manifestos are embodiments of the thinking processes of different political formations with regard to management of public affairs on behalf of all citizens.
Each side of the political aisle told citizens how, if given an opportunity to lead, they would enhance the welfare of the people. Neither of the main political parties told Kenyans that upon election they would discriminate against them based on the basis of voting patterns.
What Gachagua is talking about, therefore, amounts to political trickery against Kenyan citizens. He is telling Kenyans that the government is either planning to do or is already doing exactly what they said they would not do.
That touches on the social contract; the relationship between the citizens and their leaders. The Social Contract is based on a framework that is well understood and agreed upon between the citizens and their leaders. It is this agreement and adherence to it that creates legitimacy of the government. In other words, the government enjoys a minimum ethical/moral consent of the citizens for it to lead.
The moment there’s variation or violation of the social contract, then the terms of the original agreement must be reviewed, which means that the leaders must seek a fresh mandate from the citizens. This is the direction to which Riggy G is drifting the country.
The DP appears to be saying that “we got into a social contract with you to behave in a particular way, but we have determined that we want to take a different trajectory.” Naturally, that calls for a fresh mandate from the citizens. As the English keep telling us “you cannot have your cake and eat it.” Either you have the cake or eat it.
There is an even bigger concern for the Kenyan society. Kenya is exalting politics beyond everything else in society. It appears to me that Kenya is getting into a situation where any decision that is made to promote politics or benefit politicians, however costly to the citizens, is supported. It started with politicians being bribed with high salaries and other perquisites to turn them into voting machines and rubber stamps for the executive. Then they were given titles that almost turned them into small deities. The process was crowned by allowing politicians unfettered discretion to oversight every aspect of public life. Now, these small gods walk around believing that they are the best things ever to happen to humanity.
Excessive discretion creates opportunities for rent-seeking. If you listen to CEOs of state corporations share their experiences at the hands of parliamentary committees, you will lose faith in all the talks about integrity in this country.
In other words, the legislature has lost its legitimacy to check the excesses of the executive because they too now require citizen oversight. In the circumstances, Kenya risks having an executive that cannot be tamed. If the executive becomes rogue - many Kenyans hope that it will not - then the views of the citizens will no longer matter.
Then the DP can afford to tell Kenyans, without batting an eyelid, that “if people are lining up for State goodies and we see an opposition sympathiser in the queue, we will remove him and take him to the back to allow shareholders to eat first, then the rest can be considered later.” This dangerous talk needs to be nipped in the bud before it becomes cancerous.
The writer is an Associate Professor of Business Administration and Entrepreneurship
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