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November 20, 2018

Dialogue And Referendum Not A Priority At This Time

EXTREME MARGINALISATION: Poverty in Turkana County. The horrible conditions in which Africans live are a harsh indictment of our governments – past and present. There is not a single African leader who has held a prominent position in the past 50 years who doesn’t bear a great deal of responsibility for the sorry state of affairs.Photo/Hussein Salesa
EXTREME MARGINALISATION: Poverty in Turkana County. The horrible conditions in which Africans live are a harsh indictment of our governments – past and present. There is not a single African leader who has held a prominent position in the past 50 years who doesn’t bear a great deal of responsibility for the sorry state of affairs.Photo/Hussein Salesa

Africa is universally recognised as the cradle of human civilisation and the place where human life began. Ancient Egyptians who were black like me invented script in the late fourth BC, thus setting the stage for human cultural development.

Before the emergence of European civilisations, Africans had already made great advances in science, medicine, architecture, geometry and art.

Yet, despite having pioneered landmark achievements such as the construction of magnificent pyramids in Egypt and The Great Zimbabwe, Africa now largely leads other continents only in scientific, technological, architectural, infrastructural and medical backwardness.

Tens of millions of Africans die every year from diseases that have been controlled and managed successfully in other parts of the world like malaria, polio, typhoid, dysentery and malnutrition.

The horrible conditions in which Africans live are a harsh indictment of our governments – past and present. There is not a single African leader who has held a prominent position in the past 50 years who doesn’t bear a great deal of responsibility for the sorry state of affairs.

With the amount of natural resources Africa has been blessed with, there shouldn’t be any justified excuses why unemployment in virtually every country hovers over 50 per cent.

There is no reason why Nairobi, Johannesburg, Lagos and Luanda are only known for traffic gridlocks, insecurity and inhabitable degrading slums.

Had Successive African governments been fully committed to the substantive improvement of their citizens’ conditions, it would not have taken more than two decades to completely transform the entire continent and turn it into a model place to live and prosper.

In many ways, therefore, Kenya is as enigmatic and mysterious as the continent of Africa. Like Africa, it has been misgoverned for nearly all of its 50-year-flag independence, yet, it stoically defies the allure of the most debilitating illness that has brought most of Africa to its knee; war, civil war and military coup d’états.

But I still love and adore Kenya; a country of more than 42 majestic nations and magnificent scenery. A country blessed with abundant fresh water, arable land, fish, game, oil and precious metals yet steaming with hunger, inequality, inequity and one of the widest gaps between the haves and the have-nots in the world.

We have also had our wars, all right – nearly 50 years of barbarism, of brutal political repression, exploitation, looting, assassinations and extra-judicial killings. We have had a disgraceful history of land-grabbing, forceful civilian dislocations, ethnic cleansings and unequal development between communities and regions.

Our political system has undergone numerous deformities, very few of them positive. Political parties have consistently been formed and used, not as ideological vehicles for the articulation of people-based and pragmatic policies and platforms but as instruments of power and wealth accumulation by megalomaniacs pretending to be champions of change.

Our judiciary, police and bureaucracy are still infested with corruption. Court files continue to mysteriously disappear, judgments are changed and justice is still for sale.

Kenya, therefore, is just a microcosm of Africa – rich in natural and human resources, but forever destined to wallow in the mire of mismanagement, neglect and abuse. But these are neither permanent nor inevitable conditions. Nor have they been caused by any one individual or government.

In my assessment, Kenya’s most intractable problems are inequity, tribalism, corruption and insecurity. These problems can and should be managed. They aren’t inherent in human nature. But their solution cannot lie in simply holding a dialogue or referendum about them.

Merely talking about tribalism, corruption, insecurity and inequity cannot solve them. Nor can voting about them in a referendum be a solution. They have been there before, during and after these self-serving exercises have occurred. That’s self-evident.

Neither dialogue nor a referendum is the magic bullet. On the contrary, the billions we have lost during rallies when thousands of businesses closed so that their owners and customers could attend the rallies, or for fear of chaos could have created jobs and alleviated unemployment, thereby eliminating insecurity.

Tribalism in Kenya is pervasive. It is in both public and private spheres. Despite this, the Jubilee government must ensure that it reflects the face of Kenya in all its departments, starting with the Presidency, Cabinet and within the senior ranks of the bureaucracy. The current lopsided appointments aren’t justified.

The government must also address the issues of corruption and inequities. We need to see high profile arrests, prosecutions and convictions.

It isn’t enough to claim that the police and prosecutorial services are independent. These are public institutions and their accountability falls under the government.

The government has a major role to play in the fight against corruption. Ironically, we haven’t seen or heard anything regarding how to address inequities in our society from both Jubilee and Cord. That speaks volumes about Cord’s rumblings.

However, it needs repeating that these problems have been with us for 50 years. Consequently, both Jubilee and Cord leaders bear equal responsibility for them together with the Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki/Odinga administrations.

When Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi, Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, Moses Wetang'ula and all the other loudmouths demanding dialogue and referendum were serving in the Moi and Kibaki governments, they did absolutely nothing for the unemployed youth, the shanti dwellers, the homeless chokoras and the millions of starving men and women. In fact, Kenya lost more billions in shady deals during the grand coalition government than it had ever lost before.

That’s why I believe that both the government and the opposition fat cats should publicly declare their wealth and join Warren Buffett, Bill and Belinda Gates – together with about 133 other US Dollar billionaires in “The Giving Pledge” aimed at donating between 55 per cent to 99 per cent of their riches to charity before they bamboozle us with silly noises about dialogue and referendum.

Mr. Miguna Miguna is a lawyer and author of Peeling Back the Mask: A Quest for Justice in Kenya and Kidneys for the King: Deforming the Status Quo in Kenya.

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