Friday, December 19, 2008



Dismas Mokua

Recent events show people have found new ways to express their displeasure to the President and Prime Minister.

When Raila Odinga had a ‘home-coming’ in Kibera, the message from his constituents was loud and clear: Reduce the cost of living, beginning with the price of unga. That message was again passed to President Kibaki, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Raila on Jamhuri Day. All were booed and embarrassed, live on national TV. The leaders failed to read the mood of the people. Raila’s cry of "We can" was rejected with cries of "Unga". A young man branded ‘Vuka’ expressed his dissatisfaction clearly: Kenyans want bread and butter issues addressed.

Come Monday, Kibaki and Raila took a walk in the streets of Nairobi. They must have been shocked by the deafening silence of people who ordinarily would be singing praises and struggling to see them. What a change from when Raila bought a Hummer and a crowd outside The Stanley waited for hours just to see and listen to him. Or from when he went to a barbershop on Kimathi Street.

In Kisii, the reception was no different. People want MPs to pay taxes. John Cardinal Njue told Kibaki to his face, to the discomfort of State protocol officers and Cabinet members, to lead by example and pay taxes.

The cumulative effect of the recent actions is worrying the State. Wananchi want a political leadership that is sensitive to their needs. If MPs are not going to pay taxes, they need to know why. If prices of commodities cannot fall due to global dynamics or factors outside Government influence, leaders must communicate this right.

People are disappointed and demanding dialogue. They are tired of one-way communication. They want to get involved in decision-making.

The President and PM may find it necessary to hold town-hall meetings and listen to people’s views instead of merely addressing them.

Failure to engage in dialogue is a recipe for disaster. If the masses can’t be heard, they will disrupt national day celebrations — or throw shoes.