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Promises, truths, pseudo truths and political reality

By XN Iraki | May 31st 2017 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

It is natural for politicians to spin pre-election tales to obscure truth

The electioneering period is punctuated by comedy, outright lies, and half-truths and for this year, fake news. It is about getting an upper hand. Since politicians know we rarely check facts, they will keep bombarding us with all sorts of ideas. They also know we are swayed more by pseudo-truths, half truths than pure truth.

The National Super Alliance (NASA) and Jubilee Party will in the next three months keep haggling over our minds, making promises and digging into the wells of history for dirt, lies and pseudo truths. Spinning is finally here. Both parties know the truth, but that may not get them votes, so spin it. Here are a few contested truths.

The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) is the signature project of Jubilee. NASA says it was started by Kibaki/Raila. The truth is that it has been built and someone must take credit for it. NASA feels Jubilee is taking too much credit for the SGR; dilute it by focusing on cost. Has anyone tried to get the true cost of SGR? Has anyone compared its cost to the ‘Lunatic Express’ built by Britons 100 years ago? Will SGR revolutionise transport? Reality will tell. Did we mortgage our future? Calculate the payback period and tell us.

On subsidised Unga, there is no doubt drought played a role in raising the prices of both unga and milk. But it is easier to blame a Government than weather, an act of God. One could, however, ask loudly why the Government has so much interest in maize and not other crops. If the Government can sustain the 90kg unga, food will cease to be a political factor. The price of milk has gone down by Sh10 a litre; will maize follow? Politically focusing on maize was ingenious.

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Most jobs are created by the informal sector, but such jobs are not seen as jobs. “Real jobs” have an office and a pension. The truth is that technology will keep destroying jobs but creating new ones. The public sector is shrinking, with Huduma centres and other portals, fewer workers are needed in Government. The private sector is shrinking too because of focus on efficiency. Firms will close unprofitable businesses; they are not in charity business.  Blaming someone is easier than technology.

The strike by doctors, nurses, teachers and lecturers reflects the opening up of democratic space. It is also easier to get a salary raise through strikes than working extra hours or becoming more productive. Government fears that putting more money into salaries will  stifle development. Both NASA and Jubilee know that. Could there be an invisible hand behind strikes?

Power connection is a definitely a plus for Government, though initiated by Mwai Kibaki. In fact the negative publicity the Government is enjoying is due to power connections - more people can watch news and access the Internet because of power connections. On power, NASA has been mute; I think this is hard to contest.

Security is a concern in Laikipia, West Pokot and in North Eastern. The monopoly enjoyed by the State on this makes it an easy target for NASA. Where do guns come from? Could there be a third force? On Somalia, may be the reasoning is, “They will fight us at home if we do not fight them away from home.” My hunch tells me it does not matter who wins, Kenya will remain in Somalia.

Corruption has been national government’s soft underbelly, which gets a D+ for fighting back. Looking at the key players in the Government, all Kanu offspring, it seems a matter of sufurias calling pots black.

Finally, laptops have been subsumed by new curriculum and teachers’ strikes. Lots of schools have been connected to power and maybe laptops will follow. Could new issues sway the voters before August 8? 

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