Saturday, December 6, 2008



Independence pledges still unfulfilled, says Warengai

By Isaiah Lucheli

Masinde Werangai still remembers the enthusiasm and hope during the first Independence Day celebrations.

"I have never seen anything like it. The crying, clapping, hugging and dancing were a real expression of national pride," says Werangai, who was among the first post-independence MPs.

The 73-year-old man represented the then Lurambi North constituency from 1963 to 1969. The constituency has since been split to form Lurambi, Malava, Lugari and part of Webuye constituencies.

Masinde Warengai

"Going to Parliament was more out of the sense of serving this country than anything else," he says.

Werangai says almost every Kenyan wanted to be party of history and national building.

"We spend many hours in Parliament and meetings but we did not care much about the pay," he says.

At that time, lawmakers were being paid about Sh300 a month.

"After independence we were driven by one goal; unity. We worked tirelessly to better the lives of our people," he says.

Broken promises

Werangai is disappointed that most of the promises before and soon after independence have been broken.

"It breaks my heart that our nationhood is almost gone," he says.

He says this started years after independence when greed took the better party of some leaders.

"Unfair distribution of resources started dividing people along tribal lines and regions," says the former MP.

Werangai says they had envisioned Kenya would have made big strides in 40 years.

"We thought by this time illiteracy would have been kicked out, there would be piped water for every Kenyan and poverty eradicated," he says.

But as the country celebrates 45 years of self-rule, development hope still remains a dream.

About 65 per cent Kenyans are poor, illiteracy levels stand at 70 per cent and majority of the population cannot access clean water.

Poor leadership

Werangai says leaders have greatly contributed to stagnation.

The leaders, he says, have killed dreams and aspirations of millions of Kenyans.

The former MP says at independence the Constitution was crafted to ensure proper running of the government but several amendments in the 1960s and 1980s messed it up.

"The presidency became too powerful and all the country’s resources were diverted to one region. This has been the trend with subsequent leadership," says Werangai.

He says the people who fought for independence are living in abject poverty after being ignored by successive regimes.

He accuses MPs of failing their constituents by neglecting them once they get elected.

"Political parties were important instruments of development but most politicians have turned them to tools for personal gains," he says.

"Party manifestos are supposed to be a commitment by parties to serve Kenyans, but they are well crafted lies," he says.

Werangai says parties in the Grand Coalition Government have forgotten the promises they made to their voters.

New constitution

"During the campaigns, the presidential aspirants moved around promising better life, free education and other goodies but where are they now?" he poses.

With the soaring cost of living, he says, there is nothing to celebrate.

To get out of the current leadership quagmire, Werangai says, a new Constitution is necessary.

The former MP says Vision 2030 can only be achieved if MPs stop divisive and confrontational politics and put the interest of the country first.

The country has potential to develop but it is the leaders who have failed, he says.