Sunday, August 31, 2008



August 31, 2008
Sunday Standard

The euphoric wave that brought to power the National Rainbow Coalition in 2002 came with tidal promises of change in all sectors. After Kanu’s rule, spiced with its own inadequacies and excesses, a new chapter opened up.

The incoming ministers, most of them having been on the sidewalk, merely watching the Kanuists rule, rolled up the sleeves and promised Kenya’s better days were no longer in the morrow. Six years later, the after-taste of Narc’s crumbled dream and eventual return to the life of business as usual still is bitter.

We have learnt the hard way that mere replacement of one class of politicians with another does not automatically guarantee change. That, at least, is what the Anglo Leasing scandals, the continued skewed appointments to key public offices, which largely appear to favour those closer to the presidency, and the unchanged public service delivery system, as well as runaway corruption and unethical practices, teach us.

We have realised euphoria alone is not enough.

We need an attitude change, from the top to the bottom.

When police, like they did last week, throw teargas at residential homes where babies could be sleeping, and could suffocate in the fumes for the ‘sins’ of their parents, something is inherently wrong.

When the same police lob teargas at a handful of lawyers in court corridors, we firmly maintain the face of crude and uncivilised governance. When garrotting, plucking of nails and suspension of suspects from trees through the night becomes the popular means of military suppression of a rag-tag militia in Mt Elgon, we cannot claim to have transformed much.

When politicians preach amnesty for historical crimes without first confessing their sins; we just are going round in circles. It matters not that the economy is growing, not when impunity seems to have ringed us on the neck.

Demand real change

When ministers promise to build bridges where there are no rivers, we must ask where then is the change. That is the feeling you get when a minister tells you his prescription for the traffic gridlock in our capital includes putting up helipads on selected skyscrapers for VIPs to use.

We must be realistic and stop expecting change if we cannot change ourselves.

If we want to jump the queue, bribe our way out of traffic offences, or buy our way into Government jobs, extort from those seeking the service for which we are paid to give, then we could as well embrace the dictum, ‘business as usual’.

If we cannot protect our environment, or even the countryman and woman on our left and right, if we cannot raise our voice when politicians dance with the ghosts of impunity, and when we hold steadfast onto the blinkers of tribalism, then we have not the moral uprightness to demand the best from our ruling class.

But in the same breath, if our leaders promise change, yet in word and deed remain the same voices from our dark past, then we shall have defrauded the motherland of a valuable heritage.

That is the hopelessness you feel when, say, parliamentarians from the Coast call a press conference to demand a meeting with the President to ask that the replacement of Mombasa-based Kenya Ports Authority must come from their region. Utter trash!

Finally, if we can kill in the name of tribe or mob justice, how can we chastise the security forces and politicians for failing us ever so daringly? As they say, it takes two to tango.