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February 19, 2019

Status Quo Is At War

The International arrivals on  fire photo\KARUGA WA NJUGUNA
The International arrivals on fire photo\KARUGA WA NJUGUNA

Something is not quite right in the air. It’s not just the freakish weather, it’s something else. I know you can feel it, sense it, but you just can’t put your finger on it because it seems a little too weird, too strange but also too ludicrous to contemplate. Could it be… no, really? Let me say it, since you’re already thinking it "Status Quo is at war".

 On the morning I woke up to the first phone call about the fire at JKIA, I got on with work as one does. No matter what my issues were, I knew I didn’t want to be Uhuru Kenyatta.

However, later in the day, I did reach out to someone in his team, just to find out how they were coping. He said “we never thought it was going to be easy, but man, can’t we catch a break?” Actually no and I can’t believe it’s taken us this long to accept and vocalise that strange reality that is around us all. Status quo is in uncomfortable, status quo is scared, status quo is at war.

 Walk with me as I take you through the tear in the cosmic fabric that means we are in for turbulence. Let me start with the Cabinet Secretaries.

These strange persons who have no “our people” what do you do with them? They have no party allegiance, tribe is an iffy card, politically we’re not too sure what they care about and if they even relate. Oh yes - I have been to functions where most of them actually exchange notes. Who, what are these people?

 These people are more powerful than they know and they are yet to get to grips with it; however, those who do work for them and have been part of the status quo are aware and the madness is about to kick in. Change is uncomfortable and more so in politics and given the rot we’ve had in government for years – all I can say is “na bado”. Good luck to all of you.

 However allow me to clue you in on what the problem is and has always been about change. What people resist is not change per se, but loss. Change interferes with autonomy and can make people feel that they've lost control over their territory.

 Change feels like walking off a cliff blindfolded. People will often prefer to remain mired in misery than to head toward an unknown.

As the saying goes, "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't know." Ask Madam Serem – a section of the country would rather do away with her altogether than deal with the reality of “things are different around here”

 Let’s borrow from the Americans for a moment. A new mayor of Baltimore gets elected on the promise to clean up the city’s corrupt politics that affect the quality of life in the poor Western district and all over the city. After some initial momentum, the new mayor gets caught up in politics as usual and the new day fades into the status quo.

 By 2011, the gleam had worn off of the Obama presidency as reality set in. The status quo was just too profitable to the rich and powerful interests in the country for them to allow it to change.

Obama and his administration now seem to be either trapped in a stalemate or on the defensive on all their major policy initiatives. Reform of the financial sector that made millionaires of people who drove the economy off the cliff are not materialising. Status quo is at war and it will bury Obama.

 Come back home with me. Let’s move to the judiciary for a moment. I saw in the Corridors Of Power that judges have ignored the CJ’s directive on “vacation”.

I don’t think Kenyans realise that judges have annual leave and the so called vacation – yes, both. Aha! Now you get it. Obviously the long summer vacation was part of our colonial past because it allowed our then British judges to go home and visit their relatives etc.

But pray, why would we still have this on the books? Status quo says it stays even if it robs Kenyans of time and service. Change is meant to bring something different, but how different? We are creatures of habit – we want our colonial vacation just because.

 I hear that Dr Willy Mutunga is cleaning up the registries across Kenya. Making sure that Kenyans don’t have to bribe for court dates. Nkt. Aliambiwa na nani we want smoother operations? The war will come at him from within the Judiciary and from the Bar as well.

 So as part of judicial reforms, he hired more judges to ensure Kenyans can get their cases heard, to fast track the process, clear the backlog and all those things that are music to the ears of the average Kenyan. Blah, blah Dr Mutunga …. More judges means the exclusive club of a few is no longer so. Damn! Floss factor gone! A layer of judges above the guys who thought they were at the top is not too cool either. The idea that I will not be referred to as “my lord” is also not too hot.

 Don’t even get me started on what you have done by equipping most parts of Kenya with judges and magistrates. Ati the circuit is over? The loss in per diems and allowances from clerks to drivers to judges – my friend, brace yourself.

 By definition, change is a departure from the past. Those people associated with the last version — the one that didn't work, or the one that's being superseded — are likely to be defensive about it. When change involves a big shift of strategic direction, the people responsible for the previous direction dread the perception that they must have been wrong.

Dr Mutunga, yes your mandate is judicial reforms, but have you considered how many people feel that change/reforms means they have been doing it wrong for so long? If you bother to find out who stands to lose what and how – therein lies your pocket of resistance.

 Let’s move on to service delivery across government bodies and the cartels that thrive on the fact that processes aren’t so clear in most places.

Everyone knows that the reason we aren’t computerised in most arms of government is that money is made in the chaos and the mess.

A clearer system is supposed to benefit who? Special interests, people who have connections and a way of doing things are not about to let go without a fight. I don’t have enough word count to go into every little item across the spectrum that tells you we’re in for turbulent times – look around you and you can see it. Serem had better refuel and get a rocket launcher – the war has barely begun. God speed Ma’am.

 You see, we all watched as the last parliament attempted to scuttle the constitution. We were shocked. What we didn’t get, is that they understood what would happen if this document was allowed to stand.

But slowly, that document and its effects have trickled out of parliament, across the road to Jogoo House, Nyayo House, the High Court, Ardhi house and everywhere. The rest of us are sitting there waiting for the promise to unfold, oblivious to the fact that status quo is at war.

I wonder whether Uhuru has ever considered that his laptop/tablet (I still insist it should be a tablet) idea is the most scary thing known to the teaching profession.

Teachers and especially primary school teachers are the custodians of knowledge – complete with bad pronunciation and the whole cramming mentality. Uhuru’s tablet threatens that status quo – people will have to upgrade or ship out. The people who have deals with KIE and the Ministry of Education to print those outdated, obsolete books stand to lose a lot - financially. Did I hear a collective gasp? Good. Forget all the gains for our children and the sheer joy parents will have at not being forced to buy a specific book or books because the BOG who have a vested financial interest have decreed it – forget all that. Think about the loss and therein lies your war. What people resist is not change per se, but loss.

 Food for thought: Will Obama leave the White House the hero he went in as? I highly doubt. The reason is, American politics is stuck in a cyclical system where interest groups who have the most to lose financially kill reform – no matter the consequences for the public good. I think we’re on that cliff edge – where the public good be damned. Status quo is at war and coming to a sector near you – brace yourself.

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