Sunday, December 21, 2008



By Andrew Kipkemboi

For long, Kenyans have excelled in condoning bad governance and corruption.
The spasm of rage caused by the MPs’ obstinacy to pay tax and the galloping food prices is firing up the anger and feeling that the ruling class does not care. And the charade that were party elections have reinforced the feeling of a self-perpetuating, insular and self-gratifying class.

The spark has been started and the flames are burning.
The eruptions of spontaneous protests that climaxed at the Nyayo National Stadium on Jamhuri Day are an indication of the impending seismic shift in national leadership.

After the savagery of January and the economic meltdown that has pushed many deeper into poverty, the working class — those who pay for the grandiose lifestyle of the ruling elite — is astir. The chickens have come home to roost for the politicians. The push and pull over the Justice Johann Kriegler and Justice Philip Waki reports reinforced the thought that politicians are not keen on breaking the mould.

Once dignified in silence, the petit bourgeois is taking no more because the shortcomings of the ruling class is hurting them most. They no longer just think about money, work and social status. This disenchantment is striking a chord with a re-born breed of activists.

The attempt to get even with the media, for hauling them over the coals for refusing to pay taxes and show better leadership, has displayed their hypocrisy and proclivity for dishonesty.

Leaders, particularly politicians when cornered, like to play the tragic victim of an evil media, despite the hanging ghosts of scandals. They like to wallow in self-pity.

"Look at me, I am a tortured soul, see the scars on my back," they say, expecting the media to sweep their evil monstrosity under the carpet.

Freedom of speech gives the people the confidence to demand their rulers to behave better, and the freedom of information makes it easier to know when they do not.

Even the few politicians who have come forward and offered to have their allowances taxed, to many that is no more than a drop of good intention in a sea of gluttony and sleaze.

The problem with most of the Third World countries is bad governance and corruption. And many look at politicians with a jaundiced eye.

Everyone accepts that corruption is expensive for the poor. That it inconveniences the needy and slows down the economic wheel.

But again, corruption favours the politicians and the poor in a puzzling way. So long as the politicians can dip their fingers in the till, the poor will get handouts when they line up roads in rural villages to receive them. So long as corruption and bad governance thrive, the working class suffer the inconvenience of poor services. Lack of water, unreliable electricity, poor roads and a run-down health system hurt the middle class more because they do not have so much money to sink boreholes, buy generators or buy the expensive four-wheel drives.

Peasants in the villages have a blind devotion for the leaders. The poor do not comprehend or just ignore the connection between their deprivation and bad politics.

Inevitably, the fallibility of the politicians cheered on by their deprived supporters has inflamed class grievance and the working class is seized by a determination to turn the tables on the political class. Is Kenya worse off under President Kibaki? Certainly not, but many Kenyans still struggle to get by. And that tells of the huge potential of Africa. It also reveals what impedes growth and development.

In truth, millions in Kenya languish in poverty spawned by irresponsible and shortsighted leadership and the low road that our politics has taken.